« Ok, ok, we'll hire a property manager | Main | Self employment carries hidden costs »

November 06, 2021

How do you explain 'invisible' money to kids these days?

For someone in their 20s, it’s weird to play the Walter Matthau/Jack Lemmon-“You know, back when I was a kid …” card on things already.

But man, back when I was a kid …

Over the past ten years – especially the last five or so – the methods in which we deal with money have largely unhinged themselves from the way past centuries did.

Money was always a tactile thing. I want something, I give you something. If you went to the store, you physically gave a retailer cash.

At the very least, you carried change. Grandfathers who still clang down the street pay homage to this wheezing custom every day.

Yet, with that, there’s an interesting issue here going forward: how do parents, in a world where cash – literally, the material manifestation of a dollar – will become less and less, teach their children the values of money?

Back when I was a kid, we used to have a toy cash register. It would lock itself after it closed so I knew, after I had put something in, whatever had gone inside was important. Worth holding onto.

Now, how are toddlers supposed to grasp money? To them, a strange swipe of plastic magically produces whatever is desired. To them, it’s like a free, all-access pass to the world.

So, how will this translate to them when they’re older?

This question is a ki nd of rhetorical for now because, frankly, I don’t have an answer to give you. The hypothetical was asked over at the Consumerist too, and rational conclusions could only trickle in. People simply don’t know how this will play out yet.

Some Consumerist readers suggested using cash more so their kids could see money physic ally change hands, but is it plausible – in 2009 – to abandon the convenience of plastic?

How are young parents handling this now? How would you explain “invisible” money to your children?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...