MODEST MONEY PLEASURES
Money fantasies. Nearly all of us indulge in them from time to time, whatever our position in life. And at times we’re even willing to talk about them. Grand prize in the lottery (a recent survey had eight of ten Americans dreaming about winning the lottery); two longshots in the daily double; an incredible run of luck at a gambling casino – any of these will do, as will other common fantasies, viz. finding a fortune, even stealing one. For some there is the insider’s stock tip just prior to a takeover bid, an exceptionally generous offer on a parcel of property previously bought for a song, the modest business investment suddenly a bonanza; or a work of art purchased at a garage sale, that is later determined to be a valuable original. What about marrying into great wealth, or inheriting a fortune? Each one is plausible, certainly more so than discovering buried treasure; nonetheless, they are unlikely. That’s why they are fantasies. They can happen, but almost always to other people. What then can the rest of us expect? A raise or promotion, an inheritance, all are possible. But far more likely are those occasional money “windfalls” familiar to all of us. Unexpected, limited, involving modest amounts. Still, they provide the sweet satisfactions of small triumphs. Consider the following list culled from a recent informal survey:
- Finding money in the street. Most often coins, now and then cash. The discovery, the furtive glances in all directions, the rapid retrieval, the briefly hopeful search for more – the thrill of it all?! Lord knows how many times you’ve lost money that dropped onto the street. This helps even the score. “Finders keepers” seems entirely fair.
- Surprising change. Loose change generally arouses little interest and easily disappears. It tends to accumulate in pants, jackets and coat pockets; also in dishes and bowls around the house. But make a concerted effort to collect them all, and you may be in for a pleasant surprise. They can actually amount to something – five, ten dollars, or more. Those coins, long overlooked, have been transformed into found money, real money, as good as cash! But, coins are only part of the story. There’s also pocket treasure. It happens mostly to men and with surprising regularity. While putting on a pair of pants their hands enter the pockets to straighten them out. Suddenly fingers make contact with what feels like folded paper. Out it comes. You’ve guessed it – money! (Occasionally washed, laundered, even ironed). When? Why? Who remembers? It’s now yours again, a delightful windfall, a marvelous way to start the day.
- Happy returns. Approached by a friend or a co-worker for a loan of perhaps five or ten dollars – rarely is the amount any more sizable – you agree without hesitation. Assurances are given and accepted about speedy repayment. But then days pass, yet the money is not returned. Accustomed to seeing the individual regularly, you now find the absence of such encounters strange. Is it possible he is trying to avoid you? For ten dollars? When you do meet, all is cordial, but there is no mention of the loan. Could he have forgotten? For you to mention it would be awkward. You’re angry, but essentially helpless and disposed to write it all off. Then, one day, without in any way acknowledging the elapsed time, he hands you ten dollars. You pretend it had slipped your mind entirely and thank him for remembering. In reality, you’re quite relieved, almost elated. Money you never again expected to see has returned.
- Fall and FICA. Alas, take-home pay is usually but a pale reflection of basic salary as deductions play havoc with gross earnings, Among the more consistent salary thinners is FICA, otherwise known as Social Security. Paycheck after paycheck must offer tribute, often substantial from well-paid employees. But there comes a time of year when, for some, its relentless grip is broken. Once FICA is satisfied, usually in the Fall (the first $117,000 of a person’s salary is subject to Social Security levies), take-home pay climbs reflecting this “bonus. The euphoria is, however, of brief duration; one had best not grow accustomed to the inflated figures. For come January 1st, obligations resume and once again FICA takes its toll. Fall will, of course, return, but first one must endure yet another long season of diminished paychecks.
- Great gift. There’s no avoiding it now that you’ve been invited back to their home. They brought you an expensive gift, you can do no less. But in the gift shop you spot an item on sale, a well-known brand normally selling for considerably more than you intended to spend. It’s not damaged, nor is it a discontinued product. What a break. The best of both worlds. And you’re willing to take the chance they don’t shop in the same store!
- Disappearing deficit. You’re struggling with the check book. The figures indicate deficit: gloom rapidly sets in. Insufficient funds – there seems no way out. Desperate, you review the figures in the unlikely event you made an error. Incredibly, there is one. A higher figure was carried over incorrectly. The new calculation erases the deficit. What relief, what joy. For the moment funds are sufficient.
- Return of the refund. You’ve brought back an item and been offered a refund. You’ve purchased a product and are entitled to a rebate. You’ve paid your doctor bill and have submitted the charge to your insurance company. What do they all have in common? You’re getting money back, but you’re going to have to wait for it. Disappointed? Yes, but what choice do you have? Weeks pass. Either you’ve forgotten or decided there’s no point counting on it any longer. And then one day it arrives. By this time it’s found money. You’re clearly ahead of the game.