Aquatic Bovine, Silos and Retirement


It started with this guy in prison, named Joe. Not only was Joe a dreamer himself, he also had a gift to understand and interpret dreams. Another part of this story involves a great King, Ramsey II - river god, and king of all Egypt. Turns out this pharaoh had a problem. He had a dream that no one could understand or  interpret. It came to pharaoh's attention that there was this prisoner Joe, being held in on trumped up charges of molestation and attempted rape.  Joe had the ability to interpret dreams. Perhaps this Joseph fellow might be able to help. So the Nile-river-god sent for Joseph. When Joe arrived at the royal court he was told about the king's dream. A most unusual dream indeed. In this dream seven robust aquatic bovine walked out of the Nile river. 
The Karabaw are a domesticated water buffalo native to the Philippine Islands 

After a time, seven pretty pathetic scrawny looking cows appeared and walked out of the river.  Then in a most unnatural way something bizarre, yet so characteristic of dream, happened. These seven scrawny aquatic vegans became cannibalistic carnivores, and devoured the seven fat cows in one sitting. So Ramsey II turns to Joseph and says: "What’s up with that?  I know there’s a really important message here, but I have no idea what it is".  Joe said: "No worries Ramsey my good man, I gotcha. Here is the meaning of your strange nocturnal vision."

"The seven fat cows represents a time of great plenty for you and all in the land of Egypt. They will be seven years of unbelievable prosperity and abundance. Following this time they will be seven years of terrible famine in the land. There will be no food because there will be no rain and all the crops will fail. I know this is not an extremely good report, certainly not what you were hoping to hear. But that’s the interpretation of your dream. Kill me if you must."

Turns out this pharaoh was a smart guy. He determined to do something with this interpreted message. Armed with the knowledge that there was going to be a time of abundance followed by a time and of great poverty, he said: "I need a man to take charge, to prepare and make my people ready for those coming lean times ahead.
Turns out Joe had a pretty good resume, and the king of the Nile hired him on the spot.  Joseph became the second most powerful person in the land, subject only to the great pharaoh himself. 

[For those of you who think this completely unrealistic, reflect for a moment on this.  When I arrived in the USA from South Africa as a teen in 1984, Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner on Robin Island. Ten years later on May 10th, 1994, Mr. Mandela became my President!]

Joseph took his new andmistative job pretty seriously. And, contrary to public opinion of the day, he started a massive building program. He built silos, huge grain storage facilities and barns.


With his newfound and pharoah-ordained political-power Joseph had the farmers extend their farming enterprises. In the seven years of plentiful rainfall and prosperity Joseph had the farmers producing more than they had ever produced before. Word on the street at that time was the new leader, this foreign VP was a nut-job. Grain prices were falling and yet he’s having them produce more and more. The whole thing seemed like such pointless exercise in futility. "We have more than enough!" they cried. "There is such an abundance of grain right now; life is good. Everyone is prospering like never before. All this excess labor seems very foolish". Yet our friend Joe was undeterred. Silo production continued and all over the countryside large warehouses and barns appeared. Each year when it was time to harvest, people were only allowed to take what they needed; Joseph stored the rest. He filled the barnes, warehouses and the silos to capacity. 

Then as the seven years of plenty came to an end Joseph standing side-by-side with Pharaoh and looked out over the kingdom of Egypt, the breadbasket of the ancient world. The following year, the poop hit the proverbial propeller. The rains did not come and the crops planted in that eighth year began to fail. The people turned to Joe and said: "we need food, and we need it now!".  In his calm and regal way Joseph replied: "I know you need food.  Our reserves need to last us all a long time. We are going to be particularly careful with our prudent reserves. There will be enough to go around. There will be enough for you and all your families!" 

In a measured and wise fashion Joseph carefully dispensed their massive reserves. Turns out Joe had done such a good job of amassing Egyptian food supplies, there was also enough food in Egypt to support people from neighboring countries as well. Foreigners would travel to Egypt to buy food. And despite the famine and the lack of new produce, Egypt prospered. 

So why is this crazy tale from this ancient Masoretic text so meaningful to me?
My (and your) working career is a time of plenty. The paycheck comes in and life is good. I have everything I need and most of my wants; so do you.  All this abundance is derived from the paycheck. My job and my paycheck are the engine driving my financial train. Nothing will do more for my financial security than my job. It is my greatest source of income.


It is very easy to fall into lifestyle creep and to become complacent. To be absolutely content in the moment with this unbelievable abundance of resources and material possessions. However, there is more to life than simply living in the moment. While that too is important, it is not the only thing. Planning for the future is and essential and critical component to life. 

At some point you and I will retire. Then what? What happens when there is no longer a paycheck coming in regularly. You will have to live on something.  You will need to depend upon a reservoir of reserves. I believe it is imperative to build proverbial silos and barns for grain now. To open retirement vehicles like individual retirement accounts and Roth IRAs; funding 403(b)s and 401(k)s. Building many retirement vehicles, now while resources are abundant. Taking full advantage of and maxing out 457’s and HSA’s.


We have the time and the resources during our working career is to be provident for the future. Human prudence dictates that we take full advantage of the incredible economic prosperity that we enjoy now, during our working years, and to plan for and prepare for retirement. Pharaoh's dream indeed is significant. If nothing else it teaches us to plan and make ready. At some point the money spigot will shut off. Are you ready? Have you built silos, and are they full or at least filling up?  Mine are!

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