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Investing in the Future

I feel terrible. Two weeks ago in a Harbus article I jokingly suggested that children were more expensive than MBAs. My son must have taken the comment to heart because over the weekend he took monetary matters into his own hands. There are many euphemistic ways to describe what happened – I’ve been telling everyone that my husband and I “diversified our portfolio” – but, to be blunt, our son swallowed a quarter. It is now safely invested at body temperature and a pH of 5.

Once again, this got me thinking and while the majority of us are in no position to think about savings (as can happen when money goes out and there’s nothing coming in) there are some lessons to be drawn from the “my child is now a piggybank” experience.

Investing in start-ups
My son can be compared with a start-up: he is small, has made little or no impact in the market place but great things are expected of him. In this way one could say that we now have money in a start-up (or should it be “up-start?”). As with most investments in start-ups I’m not so much looking for a “return on investment” rather the “return of our investment.” (I am still trying to find the small print in the marriage contract that says I should be the one looking for that return – it’s an ugly job and I appreciate the necessity, but why me?)

Interest
Would we get better returns if we had put our quarter in the bank? No, probably not. Interest rates are so low they might as well not be there. In my son’s case there is no interest accruing though I will say that there is a lot of interest in him. Two hours at A and E and people were showing a lot of interest.

Does small change charge?
Recently the Economist had an article about how the new Euro coinage, when held in a sweaty hand, could cause skin diseases such as eczema. The two types of nickel were reacting with sweat to create a mini battery.

The stomach has a much higher pH than sweat and I’m pretty sure American quarters are nickel alloys as well. Could this explain my son’s new-found energy – is he now powered by currency? Is he a small human Duracell Bunny? Keeps going… and going… and going…

Is it illegal to willfully destroy coinage in the US?
In my small commonwealth country, if you destroy something with the Queen’s head on it it’s just not cricket. However, I’m loath to start recirculating any coin that has gone where no coin has gone before. I’ll have to get legal advice before I’m clear on this. In the meantime, if you’re in the service industry, best you don’t accept a tip from me for a while.

Bankruptcy as a final measure
Say this quarter still hasn’t surfaced in a week. If we declare my son bankrupt will he be forced to give us back our quarter? I’ve had a read through Chapter 11 of the US Code (as have most telecommunications businesses in the past few months) and I’m no closer to understanding the truth. (For those of you interested Chapter 11: Bankruptcy is nestled in between Armed Forces and Banks. Talk about a rock and a hard place. Simply the placement of this chapter should have been enough to scare most businesses into behaving.)

In summary:
At the end of the day, my son’s foray into the world of economics has taught me some valuable lessons:

 Your money isn’t safe anywhere, particularly if it is lower than four feet off the ground.
 We should be investing more in the future generations. It is infinitely more practical than allowing them to invest in themselves.
 And lastly, never assume that the change in your back pocket is clean.

October 15, 2002
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