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A new philosophy of money for the modern age

A new philosophy of money for the modern age

The kids were shocked when I told them that if they had been born in the olden days, they would have to hunt for their food. "But we don't even know where burgers live," said one.

"They live in caves," I explained. "In America. And they have claws."

Modern parents must teach children that everything has a cost in money or effort. To do this, I share cash-related stories from the newspaper. Recent example: A sneaky jeweller who wanted to hide his sales from the taxman sold six million euros worth of jewellery for cash. The buyers took the jewellery and left him with a suitcase full of Monopoly money.

The kids couldn't see the problem. A suitcase full of Monopoly money had to be way better than boring bits of jewellery. The guy would win every Monopoly game he played for the rest of his life. Good point.

I bought that particular board game after seeing an article on Investopedia on life lessons you could learn from Monopoly, such as "keep cash on hand" and "be patient". Like most articles on the Internet, it was garbage, beginning to end.

Monopoly teaches you five things. 1) Be a vicious, merciless landlord. 2) If you get the card which says "Bank error in your favour", forget ethics, keep the money. 3) Only pay income tax if forced to. 4) Business people end up in jail sometimes, no big deal. 5) The ultimate purpose of life is to bankrupt everyone else and end up with all the cash.

Who created this game? Li Ka-shing? Rupert Murdoch? Donald Trump?

Nobody on earth would accept these as good life lessons, except perhaps for everyone in Asia, America, Europe, Russia, Africa, Australia, Latin America and the like.

But looking for educational finance items in the paper left me more baffled than the kids. Consider these two. 1) A New York dealer in modern art pleaded guilty to selling worthless items for millions of dollars. That's illegal now? I thought that was the normal business model for modern art. 2) A businessman set up a fake university in Hong Kong which would give you a no-studying honorary degree if you just gave them money. Wait. That's what real universities do too.

Readers who regularly contribute to this column pointed out that most individuals have their own deeply-held philosophies of money. This is true, and it's not difficult to work them out.

My boss: "You cannot buy respect. Not with your salary, anyway." My boss's wife: "Money doesn't matter. As long as you're rich." My daughters: "Money can't buy happiness, so that's why we went shopping and spent it all." My son: "Money can't buy love but it can buy the important stuff, video games, black t-shirts and burgers." My wife: "Money is made of paper. That means, technically, it grows on trees."

The good news is that all this thinking about the philosophy of cash eventually left me with a practical plan for the future. Everyone agrees that love is worth more than money, right? At the end of this month, I am going to give my landlord a hug.

(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller)

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