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CCFB News» March 2024

Downwind"What is Money?"

03/01/2024 @ 8:30 am | By Bob Rohrer, CCFB Manager

When I was growing up on the farm, money seemed to be scarce. Okay – it was scarce. Mom and Dad confirmed that fact with me just the other day. We did not farm money trees. Yet, somehow, Mom and Dad still clothed five kids, kept shoes on our feet (sure I used duct tape to keep the sole on the boot occasionally), and we were well fed from the milk cow, garden, and livestock.

 

The farm somehow provided the essentials despite periodic cashflow difficulties. We weren’t alone but neighbors bartered, shared resources, and helped one another.

 

As kids, we learned that having money, cash, and coins, was not always the norm. In those days, I thought of cash and coins as the definition of “money”.

 

So, what is the definition of money today?

  • Gold and silver?
  • Washingtons, Hamiltons, Jacksons, Grants, and Benjamins?
  • A checkbook?
  • Visa, American Express, Discover?
  • Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, Chime?
  • Cryptocurrency?

The definition may reflect various generations and age demographics.

 

I’m not quite old enough to remember use of doubloons, the Mint Act, the gold standard, nor the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. My “good ole” days were when cash and coins were money. Dollar bills were wonderful at the Ben Franklin dime store. Coins were handy to make a phone call, buy a candy bar, or park the car. Banks issued those newfangled checking books and taught depositors how to fill out the check properly. (My son told me the other day that he doesn’t even remember how to write a check. Gasp!)

 

Today, Inflation is killing the value of money. Washingtons and Hamiltons are so yesterday. 50s are the new 20s. I discovered a new problem. The concept of getting a business to accept a $50 bill is an issue I never dreamed would happen.

 

During the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting and National Convention in Salt Lake City in January, I was shocked to learn that possessing cash to pay for services can present a challenge. Usually on trips, I use a credit card to pay for most items and services. However, I needed tip money because much of the service world accepts and expects tips (cash is still acceptable for this purpose, apparently).

 

Since I’m not quite generous enough to tip the counter guy with the $50 bill for pushing a button on a credit card machine/register, I wanted to break the $50 into smaller units a bit more tip worthy.

 

The counter guy didn’t accept cash payments so I couldn’t break the $50 bill there. I amused myself the rest of the day by stopping at various locations in downtown Salt Lake City to ask, “Can you break a 50?”

  • The coffee shop – nope
  • The gift shop – nope
  • The store at the Utah capital – nope
  • The bartender at the reception event that evening – nope (The bartender did except Venmo tips, whatever that is… How nice and convenient.)

So, what about pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters?

  • Am I the only one who still has a change jar on my dresser? It’s so lonely… There’s hardly anything in my two-gallon glass jar.
  • Can you believe the banks won’t count change anymore? No one wants to fill a two-gallon glass jar with coins and then count it yourself!
  • Piggy bank manufacturers must be going out of business. My grandchildren will not grow up with the joy of receiving a quarter in their birthday card (and appreciate it). They won’t be able to shake the ceramic pig and wonder why it won’t make more noise. They won’t “break the bank” by figuring out how to remove that stopper in the belly of the pig.
  • And what will happen when the grandkids reach “pitching pennies” age? How will they pitch their Zelle?

Reluctantly, I am trying to understand this new world of money (with the exception of cryptocurrency). While I’m not ready to return to growing up poor days on the farm, my soul will always yearn for the return of those days when you could physically touch, count and use coins and dollar bills.

 

P.S. I still pick up a penny when I see one on the ground. Feel free to keep throwing your loose change in the parking lot.

 

 

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