By Qin Sun Stubis
Its earthly value has charmed us all, including ancient kings who hid mountains of it in secret vaults, and farmers who buried their precious petty savings in anticipation of lean times to come. These days, interest groups and lobbyists use it to steer politics, while not-for-profits don’t have enough of it to carry out their rescue missions.
It is traded in paper, gold, and credit cards, or shown as numeric symbols on bank and stock accounts. More than ever, we’ve been working hard to earn it, and worry that lack of it will make our lives miserable and our economy crumble.
Yes, I’m talking about money. Whether in hard plastic or spiffy paper printed with green ink, money is our lifeline, a necessity to trade for the things we need, or want. During the prosperous years when it was plentiful, we indulged ourselves on shopping frenzies, dream vacations, and whimsical odds and ends that made us happy. Money was magical then: It was always there when we needed it.
Spending was fun until we discovered a hole in our pocket called debt. Through the years, as we nurtured our spending habits, that hole grew. Now, we find ourselves face-to-face with a vicious monster rising from a deep, dark bottomless pit. It sucks every penny from our possession and threatens to derail our entire national economy.
Conquering debt is tedious and difficult, and we’re paying dearly for our past indulgences. Retired seniors worry if our government has enough to pay out the benefits they depend upon to live, while the unemployed hunt desperately for ways to provide for their families.
Some even explore shortcuts to prosperity. When a Lotto jackpot hit an all-time high late last year, people dashed across state lines and queued up in front of gas stations and convenience stores with small bills and big dreams. Others developed an aversion towards any form of spending, whether on infrastructure and education, or a new shirt and sweater, worrying that any new purchase could sink us deeper into debt.
Metaphorically, money is the blood flowing through the veins of our economy. Cutting out spending indiscriminately could seriously harm our already weakened country, much like yanking the feeding tube from a sick person. As we curb unnecessary spending, we also need to carefully inject fresh “blood” to promote our economy’s health.
Money, a seemingly ordinary daily necessity, has given us lots of headaches. We feel like little kids being fooled, watching coins coming out of our ears only to have them disappear again into the hands of a magician. We want to learn from our mishaps and be more educated on the importance of safeguarding our money.
As we work on new habits about the value of proper spending, we shouldn’t forget to focus on the valuable things that money cannot buy, such as family activities, making time for the kids, or volunteering in our communities. Our bank account numbers may rise or dwindle, and house values fluctuate, but the actions that are the real coin of our worth and happiness are independent of the money we have. If we remember this in good times and bad, we will always feel rich.
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