Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Money-mindedness should know its place

In one of our very earliest posts (click here to read it), we reported opening a bank account so that cash gifts from friends or relatives that are meant for Sonny could be hoarded. Thing is, we used an account in our own names. It seemed fairer that Sonny get an account of his very own - so today, Pa toddled over to the bank.

Of course, it'll be years before the little fella will grasp the concepts that underlie the banking system. Or savings. Or, indeed, money itself. He's operating for now on the ultimate in socialised living: All of his needs are provided without anything being demanded of him in return. Still, the conventional advice we receive is to get our young 'un hooked on saving as soon as possible, so he begins to appreciate the value of dollars and cents at the earliest possible juncture.

One wonders, however, whether this risks creating a monster of sorts. It might be argued that, even more central to life than always husbanding your resources and making sure you're not expending them needlessly should be an instinct to give selflessly of yourself. That is to say, shouldn't we be geared towards helping others without thought of reward, rather than learn to help only within the prior context of a 'prudence' that teeters towards becoming a calculating meanness? Embedding an awareness of 'dollar value' too early on would seem the ideal route towards distorting the wellsprings of generosity.

None of this, it ought to go without saying, is to denigrate the importance of spending within one's means, being sensible financially and so forth. What is at issue is only the relative importance of such concepts within a young child's core understanding of how the world works, and ought to work. It is widely accepted that, for most people, what we imbibe when very young becomes the deepest part of who we are.

So we're not going to ply Sonny with messages, subtle, crude or subliminal, to save and be cost-conscious just yet. In a society so utterly money-driven, there'll be plenty of time for such lessons.