Do you remember how you learned about money? Were you given coins as a child? Was money a toy or a tool? Did you hear grownups talking about it with worried voices? Were you instructed in “the value of money?”
Laurie: As a 10-year-old, I remember watching the grownups at an extended family gathering confuse my 2-year-old brother about money with a coin exchange game. They used US coins: a copper penny is larger than a silver colored dime that is worth 10 pennies. A silver colored nickel, worth 5 pennies, is larger than a penny.
The grownups knew the relative values of the coins. The 2-year-old was much more interested in the size, color and quantity of the coins. He was quite happy to be the center of attention and play the exchange game with them.
Someone offered him a dime, which he happily accepted. Then someone else offered to exchange the dime for a larger, but less valuable nickel. He liked the bigger coin and took it, and everyone laughed at a joke he did not understand.
Then someone else offered to exchange two coins, pennies, that had still less value for the nickel. Again, he happily accepted the new coins and the grownups laughed uproariously. This time he seemed confused by the laughter.
I am not sure if this event had any particular impact on him, but I know he struggled with managing money throughout most of his life.
Willem: The amount of pocket money for the children in my family depended on age: If you were older, you got more. I remember being very proud when I became ten years old, because I finally got 25 cents of a Dutch guilder every week.
Strangely enough this pattern has been repeated by society. Until I retired, I earned more money every year in my jobs and in my business.
My parents were very clear that I had to save money. I was allowed to freely spend half of what I got, and I had to save the other half for bigger wishes. Gifts came only on birthdays and from Santa Claus, but if we wanted something during the year, we had to save for it from our pocket money.
Later I learned that I could earn money by doing something for it, like delivering newspapers or working in a factory during the summer holidays. I’ve continued this pattern. I’ve always saved a pretty big part of my income, and I have never had to borrow any money, apart from a mortgage for a house.
Laurie: My personal experience was much like Willem’s. I, too, had to save, especially once I started to earn money as a teenager, and that money was earmarked for my education. I learned early to use credit wisely and pay off my credit card debts each month.
My husband learned different lessons. He was permitted to spend whatever he earned. Our children struggled to integrate the different money messages they received, as they grew into adulthood.
It is no wonder that we have so many different answers to the question “Just what is money anyhow, and what am I supposed to do with it?”
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