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Sunday, September 6, 2009

HOM: Money & Me

I have an odd relationship with money. I guess I don't, I dunno, believe in it or have faith in it. A bank statement that says I have X number of dollars in an account is just as meaningless as a Kleenex, but less useful to me. A fist full of dollars -- or hundreds -- affects me almost the same way. Dollar signs don't give me any satisfaction or feelings of accomplishment or security. Mom always said that money burned a hole in my pocket -- if I had it, I spent it. All I can say in my own defense is that I've usually had something to show for it afterward. I like things. Not ostentatious things, but useful things like tools or books or useful toys like boats or cameras. A paraphrase of the old adage of birds, hands, and bushes fits me, I guess: A dollar's worth of items in my hand is worth two dollars in my bank account. I don't know why I am this way: My folks sure weren't. I know that I picked up some distrust of institutions like banks from listening to the experience of people I grew up around who'd been through the 1929 crash. Vic, for instance, always told me that nothing was more important than land, though the fact that you really only rent your land from the state bothered him. He felt that paying property taxes was like paying rent, because if you get behind you lose your land. Maybe it's just that I have trouble dealing with abstractions. A possession is something concrete that you can hold in your hand and use, while money is just an abstract idea. Even cash has no practical value except as toilet paper or a fire starter. You can't eat it or repair a car with it or trim your toenails with it. My ingrained whatever-it-is about money has sentenced me to a grasshopper existence. I just can't grasp the concept of making or saving money, and there are things I just can't bring myself to do to make it. I will not charge friends for books. I will not turn away a customer empty handed just because they don't have enough money to pay for what they want. (I guess my bottom line is that I'd rather see someone get a book they really want than see myself get the money the book is worth.) I will give a kid a book rather than see him/her go without. I will happily loan or give books to someone who is down on his luck and needs/wants to read. I am a crappy businessman. But I have few regrets, and they only strike when someone I care about needs a financial boost and I can't provide it. TBC (Me) (Home)