Valdosta Daily Times

Business

February 17, 2013

I used to throw pennies in the trash ... Who knew I would be poor?

VALDOSTA — Find a penny, pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck ... Well, luck is about the only thing a penny is good for because if you haven’t noticed, pennies (despite being legal tender) are practically worthless, that is, according to recent media reports.

On Friday, I read an article posted by Clark Howard about whether or not the U.S. should do away with the penny. Apparently, Canada has done away with their penny and the manufacturing cost of a penny far outweighs its value. Plus, when was the last time you saw anything that cost one cent? And if your sentence starts with, “Well, back when I was a young’n,” it doesn’t count.

So what does the disappearing penny act have to do with personal finance? Well, if you’re one of the millions of Americans that hoard change, it might be time to cash in your collection.

My dad hoards an unnecessary amount of change, most of which are pennies. I used to think he was saving for my college education, but now that I’m paying back $60,000 of debt all by my lonesome, I now just think he’s a little insane. Seriously? What purpose does all that change serve if you’re just letting it sit in a jar?

So, here’s my two cents: Every year, cash in your change and deposit it into your savings account. At least then your change will be growing interest instead of growing on your dresser.

Now some of you are reading this and are trying to even remember what a penny looks like. People from my generation (I’m 24) don’t ever carry cash and thus, never have change. It is my opinion that this has caused a mini-generational-epidemic. Because we never visibly see our money, we get it in our head that our bank account is this ever-growing number. Cash isn’t real, it’s conceptualized. When you don’t see a $20 bill turn to a $10 bill, you don’t realize the money you’re spending. This in turn, contributes to a lack of savings accounts among people my age ... Which, of course, is an informal observation based off of my friends and family.

Thus, the disappearing penny has a strong correlation to the lack of monetary responsibility amongst younger generations. While I think my dad is a loon for hoarding thousands upon thousands of coins, and while it would be more beneficial to place that money in an account to accrue interest, it is this obsession that in part makes him better with saving his money.

The penny is just the first step in the disintegration of paper and coin money. With soda machines taking credit cards and more and more purchases being made online, it is only a matter of time before all money becomes as valueless as the penny. And if all money moves to a purely digital format, what does that mean for future generations? Will they be even further disconnected from the concept of money?

Only time will tell and for now, my rambling folds into two pieces of advice. First, cash in your change to give it value, and second, try to come to a realization of the value of money.

If you’re a parent, make sure your kids know the true value of a dollar. What it takes to make a dollar, what it takes to keep it, and what it takes to grow it. I remember when I was little, I was cleaning my room and I began to throw pennies in the trash that I would come across.

Even at the age of 7, I felt that a penny had no value. My mom had to stop me and made me dig out every penny I had thrown away. She explained to me that no matter how little the coin, money is money and you work for every cent.

If you’re an adult, who like me never carries cash, make sure you make a habit out of balancing your account or keeping up with your money on a smart phone app. It is important to visualize your money. Know how much is going in, but more importantly, know how much is going out.

So, whether the penny is done away with or not, it doesn’t really matter, but what is important is what its demise symbolizes. Through all my incessant rambling, my message is this: If you see a penny, despite what Clark Howard says, pick it up. It may not give you good luck, and it may not buy you a cookie, but 100 pennies make a dollar, and even today, a dollar can go a long way.

Well, budgeteers, that’s all I got this week. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BrittanyDenneyMcClure and follow me on Twitter @VDT_Brittany.

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