Aug 15, 2013

Musings of a $100 Bill: Grumblings on inflation, credit and money maturity

This is the latest in a series of posts by a Guest Blogger, our friend Benjamin Franklin.  We'll get to take a look at money written from the perspective of a $100 bill.  Don't hesitate to share ideas or thoughts.  Also, feel free to chime in, argue a little or ask questions of old Ben.  He's an inanimate object and you can't hurt his feelings. If you missed the previous posts you can catch them here. Here it goes...
As I age, I feel more useless every day. That’s not just the cynic in me speaking; I literally can’t do as much as I could back then. I have been around for less than 20 years but I remember early on I was special. When a human would get paid they would place me in the back pocket of the wallet or in an envelope in a top drawer or on top of the fridge. They’d save a pile of us Benjamins until they had enough to make that big purchase. Times are changing and we big bills aren’t as special anymore. I haven’t been saved in a coffee can in I can’t tell you how long. Why the change? Well, I can give you three reasons. 
Bills have lost their value. You see, seventeen years ago when I was printed all of the things you humans need cost less. You could buy a cart load of groceries for less than a Benjamin. Now it takes a handful of big bills to pay for the same groceries. I’m still used for big expenses but instead of going at it alone I’m usually accompanied by a mountain of hundreds. Everything takes real money these days. I get used more and more at gas stations and donut shops. It felt good when I made a difference, when I could help someone purchase something they had worked so hard for. It’s less exciting when I pay for one meal and a doggy bag is all the family has to show for it.  Inflation, like old age, is getting the best of me. 
Bills are being replaced. I mentioned previously that we are being replaced by the credit cards. Yes we bills are a dying breed. In the old days folks would cling so tightly. Since the credit cards have taken the stage folks don’t think quite as much about their spending. They don’t have to give anything up. When you pay with cash, especially a Benjamin, you can feel pain. After the purchase your wallet is physically thinner and you have the feeling that you actually spent money. Credit cards aren’t the same. There is no pain. Your wallet never changes. It really is getting bad. I don’t mean to go on a tangent here but I can’t help but say a bit more because the situation is worsening a bit every day. 
When the little plastic minions first came on the scene they were a pain for the humans to use. Many companies didn’t accept them. You had to hand the card to the cashier. They took it from you and gave it back. Today you need not hand your card to an attendant. They have shifted control to the user and allow you to swipe your own card. Although subtle, this change further reduces the pain of credit card spending. You are the master and remain in control of your little plastic slave at all times without any cost whatsoever… until the statement arrives announcing that the roles have been reversed. 
The rewards are seemingly endless: airline miles, free gifts, and cash back. Why wouldn’t you own a credit card? The benefits are touted but the cost is great. Credit is out to destroy cash but it won’t stop there. Credit is out to destroy financial education, it is out to destroy the family and it has and will be the death of many nations. 
Bills are no longer used for education. When I was printed I learned how the world worked by hearing the stories of other bills and watching the humans. I have shared a bit on this before. Children learn in the same way. When they watch their parents work hard to earn a buck, save their money, and then spend their hard earned bills, education happens. I can tell you that my interaction with the family has decreased almost completely in the last 17 years. Children would watch their parents and they would follow suit, learning to save and spend wisely. They would watch as parents placed cash in the offering plate or wrote out a check to an organization they cared about and children would learn to give. This great credit card revolution has created an aversion to cash. Instead of clinging to bills, families now spread hand sanitizer after touching currency. I have watched the people grow more and more distant from bills and at the same time more distant from reality of how money works. The vast amount of money transactions are now invisible and unknowingly, many parents have left children sanitized not just from germs but from financial literacy.  
This conversation seems crazy to most. We can both agree that I am becoming obsolete. Inflation, debt spending, and the lack of education have diluted my effectiveness. I am completely aware of my future. I am too tattered to be worthy of collecting. Eventually I’ll be shredded. The fate of the humans is less certain. 
I hope my commentary will open their eyes to these dangers. Any transaction could be my last. I wish I could speak out. I wear a face each day but I have no voice. If I could speak out I would call each person who held me to action. I would warn them about the dangers of inflation, debt and overspending.
What questions do you have for old Ben? Post your curiosities in the comments below or email here.
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