Monday, May 31, 2021

Found Money

A month or so ago, I was walking into a restaurant to pick up some takeout, and I saw a dime on the ground. It was early in the morning, and the sun made the dime shine brightly, like some precious stone. I paused, to confirm: yes, 10 cents, right there on the ground. I hurried into the restaurant, leaving the dime where I found it.

The dime didn't leave my thoughts however. I remember as a kid how precious spare change was. A dime could get you a piece of Bazooka gum. If you added up those dimes, you could convert them to quarters, and a quarter was good for one game at the stand-up arcade machine at the grocery.

It's perhaps some measure of time or maturity that a dime is fairly meaningless to me now. I remember a conversation with someone fretting about some purchase. He wanted to get it right because he could afford a $100 mistake, but not a $1000 mistake. I remembered that conversational snippet, thinking that I could safely afford to leave ten cents on the ground.

And yet the dime stayed on my mind when I got home. It would have been found money if I had picked it up, and put it into our coin jar, the one that we empty into the Coinstar every few months. A penny saved is a penny earned. Spending is quick, savings is slow. Save for a rainy day. It takes money to make money. You know the sayings.

My mother told me recently about how banks in the 1970s used to offer Christmas Clubs. These were short-term savings accounts to which you could direct some money on a weekly basis. This account would earn a little interest. When the holidays arrived, you had extra spending money. Seeing how she saved helped shape my attitude.

Later, after college, I was fortunate to attend a financial planning presentation conducted by the father of a co-worker. It was eye-opening, and it led me to fully appreciate mutual funds, stocks, 401(k) plans, and dollar-cost averaging. My money attitude became more refined. On top of "own, save, avoid debt", I added "make money work."

Some time around seeing that dime on the ground, my wife and I were cleaning out a drawer and found a gift card. We had bought something a while back, and received a $100 gift card reward. We got excited, thinking about some free takeout. However, when we checked online, the gift card had expired! "Oh well," we said. A $100 mistake. Maybe I should have picked up that dime.

Photo Credit: Paul Albertella