Monday, 30 August 2010

Put your money where your piggy bank is.


Zack has a fascination with money. In part I mean the common or garden lure of the lucre that affects most of us to some extent, but what I'm actually getting at is his fascination with the physical thing that is money.

I'm not talking about a budding student of numismatology either. Zack just likes to feel his pocket money. He revels in the counting of it and the poring over it and the recounting of it. He liked to collect different types of one pound coins for a while until he settled on the one with the Forth Road bridge on the back. Now, whenever he gets near my wallet he insists I produce any Forth Road bridge ones for him to exchange.

Every now and again, Hannah or I will come across a little pile of coins, maybe on the floor of the living room, maybe on a sofa where Zack has temporarily finished counting his riches and then left them wherever he happened to be sitting. This is usually followed by an exhortation for Zack to put his money away, maybe even put it in his piggy bank. Maybe even keep it there until he happens to need it. Serious conversations follow about the shortcomings of leaving money lying around with even the possible consequence of said money being mistaken as somebody else's and gleefully pocketed. And this is followed by Zack scampering upstairs, either to put his money in one of his numerous piggy banks or, more likely, to dump it in another pile somewhere in his bedroom.

I guess the point of pocket money is to inculcate the idea of responsibility when it comes to financial matters. What Rachel and Zack choose to spend their pocket money on is, at least in principle, entirely up to them. Zack has, needless to say, explored the issues arising from debauching himself and spending it all on chocolate and, needless to say, we have gently pushed him back on this idea.

But I still think that they don't really get this money thing. For instance at a recent, not-to-be-repeated, family camping trip to Brixham, we happened across one of those irresistibly tacky penny arcades that become magnets for all families with children at the age ours are. Especially when it's raining. I recall with enormous fondness the hours I spent in such places during each of the many Hart family holidays to Pontins (which, by the way, my parents somehow managed to convey was the posh alternative to Butlins). Like penny arcades everywhere, this place had one of those pushing/in-out drawer 2p machines where you pile in the coppers, convinced that the next one will cause that cleverly stacked overhanging pile of riches to topple down the chute and into your pocket. Oh yes. Many years may have passed since the days I spent at the Pontins Camber Sands camp but I still maintain the absurd fiction that maybe this time that overhang of coins will come a'tumbling down. Anyhow, these machines are like heroin for Rachel and Zack. And so, I changed pound coins into satisfyingly copious handfuls of 2p's which were duly doled out.

The ecstasy commenced.

Now here's the point. Zack was provided with around 30p to "invest" in this, ummm, business venture. All good fun, of course, but there's no harm in pointing out the meaning of "venture capitalism" to an 8 year old boy on a soggy summer afternoon in a penny arcade in a town that, from my youth I recalled with fondness as being a sunny, happy and welcoming place, but which, in the intervening 35 years appears to have become a chav-infested, down-at-heel, seagull-shit-spattered dump. But I digress. Back to Zack's 30p. Well, to his credit, the boy hit a run of good luck and came out, after his travails at the arcade, with something totalling around 28p in his pocket . Who said these things were for losers? Well, in the vein of trying to explain how money works, I pointed out to him that, you know, maybe I could have what was left of my 30p back. Well, this was outrageous. Didn't I realise that he had just won that 28p with his guile and perspicacity? I may be putting words into his mouth at this point. But his point was clear. This 28p was his and all this "venture capitalism" business was stuff and nonsense. And, to be fair, with an attitude like that, maybe he'll go far.