What Happened to Money?

I used to think my husband was the last of the Luddites. He still likes to get his paycheck and deposit it in his bank instead of having it deposited by his company. He prefers to pay by check for everything, or cash. He has a credit card but I don’t believe he’s ever paid for anything online that I haven’t done for him. And he never, ever takes up the offer for monthly withdrawals for the rent, parking, storage… nothing.

It’s been an endearing trait and one I tease him about but quietly honor. It’s his careful attention to financial detail that will ensure we have a solid base for retirement, and it’s his caution that kept us fine when the recession hit.

Still, I can’t believe I’m starting to move over to the dark side myself and it all has to do with this one question: What happened to money? I mean cash, change, the stuff we take out of our pockets at night, MONEY. Why is no-one using it anymore? And have I turned into a version of my careful, cautious husband?

I’m certainly beginning to understand his frustration. At the drugstore the other day, my total for the products I purchased was an odd sum, something like $10.22. I really do hate a lot of change in my wallet so I gave the cashier $20.22. Easy peasy, I thought. Just hand me $10 back. Well, you’d think I’d asked her to solve the Pythagorean theorem. She was completely taken aback by the extra change and stared at it for minutes until she remembered she could punch it into the machine and get an answer. Unfortunately, she still seemed at a loss when the machine told her to give me $10. She put it back in, checked the display, took it out again, and then very hesitantly gave it to me. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is the generation that’s being told how to find a place by punching in the address and blindly following it (see my blog below).

She’s not alone, though. If you’ve taken any kind of trip through the toll booths on the highways, you’ve had to notice that the EZ Pass lanes are prominent and plentiful. They’re in the middle of the road, easy to get to, and there are always at least five lanes open. Then there’s the Cash lane. Rarely more than one, one is almost always down, it’s waaaay over on the RH or LH edge of the toll booth area, and you have to cross several lanes of highway to get to it since they’re ALWAYS on just one side of the EZ Pass lanes. Is that a call to arms or what? Even the damn roadways want us to stop using cash.

And please, don’t get me started on how challenging it is to insist on payment by check for your rent, your parking, and everything else that requires a monthly payment. They’re making it extremely difficult to do anything but give in to the system of automatic withdrawal from your bank account. And here’s where I draw the line and join my husband in his mediaeval mansion: No-one is getting access on a regular basis to the account that holds a good portion of my life savings. “It’s safer than a check,” they say. “It makes it less expensive for you,” they insist.

Well, you know what I say back? Tell me once and for all that you’ve figured out how to make that all safe. Tell those of us impacted by the hack of Anthem, who have had to purchase identity protection, that you can definitively keep our information private. Tell me without a shadow of a doubt that there is no one on earth who knows how to get into my accounts, and then do it for at least five years so I can trust that information. Tell those who are living in trailers because they’ve had their lives turned upside down that you can do what no-one else has been able to do. Until then, I’m actually going to use cash more often than I did before, and maybe even stash a bit in my bed. Oops. Did I say that? Don’t worry, thieves and hackers. I’m a Luddite but I’m far from stupid. The money’s in my sock drawer. Huh!