Ellen and Jerry have been retired for some time. Jerry can still do some odd jobs for other seniors for cash. They get by. Near the end of the month they count on Pierce County Meal Sites where they can get a meal for $2.50 to $3.00. Sometimes they have to count their change to afford the meals. They don’t have credit cards. They get cash from the bank where their social security checks are sent.
Billy and Dale camp out in the wild . . . but not as far away as you would think. They are always prepared to move their gear. One stays at their camp, while the other visits friends or holds a sign near a busy intersection. They get enough from people who roll down their windows and offer loose change. Billy and Dale don’t trust the government and live under the radar and off the grid.
Babysitting and simple chores are Madison’s road to freedom. She’s been saving since she was eight and watching her younger sisters until her mom got home. She’s about to launch her own business offering special made clothing for young teenage girls. She’s got the price points down where she feels comfortable, so she can make a profit and still offer a bargain.
Ready money. Cash and coins mean the world to these people and many others in similar circumstances. Their dreams and struggles could be shaken up sooner than they could believe. Currently, the United States is number five in the trend towards a cashless society. Our neighbor to the north, Canada is number one. Is this a good path to follow, or not?
Sweden was the first European country to issue paper money and may be the first to ditch it. The Swedish banks have already removed over 500 ATMs. 95% of Swedish retail store transactions are done by credit card. The benefits for banks and retailers? Clerks don’t have to make change and robbers can’t demand cash from the tills. Soon Swedish banks could start charging a fee if you want actual cash. Before that happens, people would probably start hoarding money, so what might happen is a movement to government-backed digital currency . . . it’s like going off the gold standard . . . almost.
I remember a number of times standing in line to attend a Rotary meeting. The portable credit card reader wasn’t working. Those who had cash could just pull out a few bills and walk in. Twenty years ago I used to walk around with a wad of cash in my pocket. Buying art, jewelry, or even a used car is easier with cash in hand. Showing a seller that you could buy if the price is right is an excellent argument for making a good deal . . . right now. Waving a credit card, doesn’t tell anyone whether you can afford to buy or to show that you are ready to purchase . . . maybe. It just loses something in the translation.
What happens to children? As a child, I would take both my milk money and my allowance and spend it on penny candy. My wife and her sister would pool their pennies to buy a comic book. As a parent then as a grandparent we would give the kids money to buy a toy or something when we went shopping. That’s how children learn to budget. Are youngsters going to be issued electronic, digital, candy and toy funds?
Even more insidious is the feeling that Big Brother would be constantly watching over your shoulder to see what, where, and when you buy. That data sounds perfect for hacking. Even worse than that for me is the fear that my wife could see what stupid things I do with my current allowance and milk money.
Ellen, Jerry, Billy, Dale, and Madison aren’t real, but their predicaments are. People living on the edge . . . people without trust in the government, and the lack of incentive can all slow the change over to a cashless society, but it’s probably going to happen. Some of us just have to find that pot of cashless currency at the end of the rainbow to survive.