Monday, July 18, 2011

Money Troubles

GoofBoy is an awesome kid with endless virtues. But it does not appear that one of them is financial acumen. His only effort to make money was inspired when Carpool Buddy got into some sort of financial difficulty. This was a few years ago and I have no idea what kind of dire straits a seven year old could possibly have gotten into. But GoofBoy and Carpool Buddy’s discussions made it sound as though some fourth graders might break his kneecaps with whiffle ball bats

It speaks volumes about my son that he was really worried about Carpool Buddy’s precarious financial position. They discussed it endlessly in carpool, examining different options. Could Carpool Buddy assume a different identity until middle school? They discussed the mechanics of disguise – perhaps a fake moustache would allow him to slide through elementary school unnoticed?

GoofBoy didn’t discuss it directly with us, but he kept asking us if he could get an allowance and he had trouble sleeping. When we demanded an explanation, it all came out. Carpool Buddy owed someone big money. GoofBoy’s explanation was not completely clear, the “who, what, where, when, why & how” were vague. The nature of the debt may have been a lost library book, but it could have been a bad bet on the Vancouver Canucks, or he might have killed a guy and had to pay restitution. The amount involved was also unclear, but it appeared that it might have been the massive sum of $15. GoofBoy in fact had a $20 bill in his possession, but $15 required at least two separate bills (possibly three) and the acquisition of this many notes flummoxed him.

Finally, the consequences weren’t clear. Did this debt go on Carpool Buddy’s permanent record and mean that he might not be allowed to leave elementary school. Regardless, we tried to comfort GoofBoy and told him that Carpool Buddy had his own parents and that this was their problem. This only made things worse, since apparently Carpool Buddy didn’t want to tell his parents how much trouble he was in. I did not point out that there was no secret, since they had been discussing this predicament in carpool for weeks quite loudly (as though little boys can discuss things in any other way).

Somehow we calmed him down and sent him to bed and hoped that was the end of the matter. But a few days later the issue re-surfaced. GoofBoy and yet another of his friends were so concerned about Carpool Buddy’s fate that they went into business to raise money and bail him out. The problem was that their business model was poorly conceived. They were drawing hockey cards and planned to sell them from the front of our house. We live in the suburbs and our street doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic – and I did not want a pair of seven year olds flagging down cars. Also, while a fitting gesture for Carpool Buddy (who is Canadian) we aren’t a hockey heavy community.

I tried to point out these flaws, but they boys responded by pointing and waving every time someone walked down our street. I should have let them go ahead, since failure is the best teacher, but instead I ordered them inside.

Financial Genes or Genius
I’ve always felt that the ability to “get” money (not just acquire it, but understand how it works and how one gets a hold of a great deal of it) is genetic. At one point I thought it had to do with hard work, but my brother seems to get it and he is my match in sloth.

As a teenager, my brother had his allowance cut off for some infraction. As the weeks went by, he never asked to have it re-instated. But he always had money. Finally, my parents asked where his funds were coming from. He attended a Quaker Friends School where everyone participated in daily meetings. Non-denominational, these meetings were an opportunity to discuss moral and spiritual issues – which of course is exactly what teenagers love to do. So the sullen “friends” would sit in a circle and glare at each other. But someone had to talk, or the meeting wouldn’t end.

My brother was staying flush by running a ring betting on who would talk first. Clever. Cleverer was that he made certain arrangements so he had a pretty good idea of who would be speaking first. Most clever, was that he really made his money on the vig…

Based on his first foray into business, I am betting GoofBoy doesn’t have this aptitude. Fortunately he is cute, that’s almost as good.

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