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November 27, 2021

Your mother was right: Steer clear of dirty money

"Don't put that money in your mouth! You never know where it's been!"

While your mother was likely more concerned about germs on coins, she might have been on to something.

A study published by Swiss researchers a couple of years ago suggested that an infectious virus can survive for three days on bank notes. Sounds like a great argument for using debit cards, particularly when you consider that dingy dollars might affect your behaviour as well.

In fact, handling dollar bills that aren’t crisp and clean could actually tilt you towards the dark side, explains Kevin Lewis in the Boston Globe.

"In a series of experiments, psychologists found that dirty-looking money leads to dirty ethics. People who handled, or read about, dirty bills behaved more selfishly and were less concerned about reciprocity and fairness.

It wasn’t the dirt alone that caused this debasement; handling dirty paper other than money actually made people more ethical. It was the combination of dirt and money that mattered.

The researchers found this was true in the real world as well: After being presented with dirty bills, vendors at a farmer’s market were more likely to cheat customers," Lewis notes.

Do you think the appearance of your cash has any influence on what you do with it?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money





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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...

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...