Does Make-believe Money Matter?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Questions are raised all the time about the illusory nature of wealth, and it seems we are caught up in a shell game, robbing Peter to pay Paul, shopping “sales,” charging gift cards. In the next few weeks our folly will be pretty obvious as we open our Christmas season credit card bills. This morning I discovered there are people who had a solution: they paid for everything in cash. Not in real cash made by the federal government; but in faux cash made in someone’s back room or barn. This story is breaking in eastern New Mexico, not very far from the race track where cartel money was found to be “laundered” through horse purchases last year.


It seems that the authorities are on top of these illicit operations, but I still am worried about the ripple effects on our kids. I have a young grandchild who visits that area regularly. Since last summer she has occasionally made paper dollars with designated amounts and pictures in the corners. She has left a bunch of these bills here, and I am looking at them now wondering where she got the idea. Perhaps it is the game Monopoly that started it. She may have been through a play supermarket at a children’s museum. There are schools that give “classroom dollars” to rewards students for doing especially well. Are these legitimate steps toward learning about economics and personal finance? Am I worrying needlessly?


Yet, there’s more. In September, our little grand-girl started making I.D. cards for new friends at school. She carries an official state I.D. in her wallet, and the story she brought home the first time is that one these kids wanted one too. She spent a lot of time (after homework was done) putting his name on the paper cut to size, and looking for the ad for Angry Birds she had seen in her National Geographic kids’ magazine. That was her choice of official emblem. The next afternoon, she came home with orders for two more.


Some piece of information is missing here. How does an eight-year-old come to believe that money and identification cards officially issued by the government can be replicated at will? Even if the child knows they are not real, what is the motivation behind it all? And what do we say to her?


Any ideas? Please leave them in the “comments” box below.

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