Lately we have been allowing Evie to have money. She thinks it is fun and collectable and she loves to feel grown-up. One day I took her to the store and she selected a doll (She was adamant from the time that we left the house that she wanted an Anna doll), and then we wheeled up to a check-out manned by a young man. Evie began taking her coins out one by one and lining them up in groups by coin type (don't worry there wasn't anyone else behind us to annoy!) and you could almost see the attendant panicking. He got so far as to say "Maybe it would be easier if you gave your mom..." before he saw sense and stopped himself. He then tried to add up the coins and got lost, so I quickly counted them up for him (for the majority they were toonies and loonies) and we checked out, but the experience really got me thinking.
How often do you carry cash? Not that often right? You understand money is a tangible and finite thing, and that your debit or credit card is just a representative of that object. However what about our kids? All they see is us sticking a piece of plastic in a machine and walking away. What a difficult thing to grasp without a physical object to see. No wonder we have such a problem with Credit Card debt as a society! It is magic money! You don't need to have anything in your hand when you pay, and you seem to walk away with exactly what you approached with, but with a new shiny toy!
How poorly this reflects on our younger generation! No longer do they see money as something they can add up piece by piece, but just a final tally on a bank report, and sometimes that is a negative total, though they care not! I was raised on the cusp of the plastic generation, but it is nothing compared to the utter lack of tangible money, that this generation has to comprehend. What a great handicap we have given them as an inheritance. Not only can they not perceive money, their ability to count money has atrophied to a glacial pace, when it can be added up at all! Though it is taught in school, the credit card generation has no occasion to flex these muscles.
I dont pretend that Evie is anywhere near old enough to understand money. But we are trying to take baby steps in that direction. Evie now understands that if she wants to take home a toy or book, she has to leave behind her money. The first few times we let her pay she assumed the cashier was going to return her money, and it was a hard lesson to learn. But she now knows that she cannot get something for nothing, and you must have the money to purchase something.
So is this something we can remedy. I certainly would never advocate for the removal of the digital money exchange systems, I think we also need to support the physical monetary system for the good of comprehension of the realities of spending and the awareness of the final nature of ones finances.