I was recycling and shredding the junk mail a few days ago, and my three year old son was sitting with me while I sorted it. I had him open the envelopes for me and then I would sort the things inside into “shred” (things with our name on them) and “recycle” piles. Among the junk mail was a credit card offer from American Express for a card called Blue Sky, and when my son opened that, he got very excited, for there was a fake plastic credit card inside. He was thrilled with the “card” and he showed me excitedly that he had a card and he wanted to keep it.
I thought back to my own childhood, and how I used to create my own checks with scrap pieces of paper, and then tell my mom I was going to pay for things with them. Times haven’t changed all that much, after all. Now instead of checks, I use a debit card, and my son sees me pay for things that way. Obviously, a credit card and a debit card are two different things, but my three year old doesn’t know the difference, and I wouldn’t expect him to. To him, a “card” is what mommy and daddy use, and it makes him feel like a little grown-up to imitate us, as it did for me when I imitated my parents and created my own checks.
Cash itself is just a symbol too, after all. Those green pieces of paper and metal coins are symbols and placeholders for things we have and things we can get. Back a long time ago, if you wanted a cow you’d figure out what you had you could trade for it. If you did work for others you’d be paid with what they had that you needed. Now we just use currency as the go-between.
I explained to my son that when mommy and daddy used their cards to pay for things, they have to have money in the bank to pay for it, money that they get from working. He understands working, in part, he’s seen where my spouse works and he sees me work at the computer in our office. I don’t expect him to understand everything today, or even a whole lot, but he did ask me to give him a bank for his money. Heh. And the financial education of my preschooler continues.
When you were a child, did you make your own money? If you have kids, have they made their own money in some form or rescued fake credit cards from junk mail?