The Cost of Money

David Krueger MD

I snagged my first official job – paid in real money – at age 8. On hot summer days I chopped cotton for my Dad, earning a whopping ten cents a row. (Family farms were under the radar of Child Labor Laws). The work was hot, hard, and dirty.
When school started and I saw my classmates enjoying the sodas and candies they purchased, I joined them. But after my treats were quickly gone, questions lingered. “Was that candy worth one-half a row of cotton?” and “Is this soft drink worth one row of cotton chopping?” I soon answered, “No” to both questions.
That experience was an early lesson about the cost of money. Not its value – I knew exactly how much candy a nickel would buy. The cost of money cost was the personal price I had to pay to get my hands on it. I learned that you don’t only buy things with money; you also have to buy the money.
The next money lesson came in an unlikely way. At age 10, I entered into a joint venture with my Dad. My first business! I fed all of his pigs in return for free food for my pig, Stubby. When the day came for me to sell my pig, my Dad had to console me while I cried at giving up Stubby.
That was an early lesson about how every money exchange involves two prices: financial and emotional. And that internal dialogues have many dialects. “Gifted” money: no problem; cotton chopping money: serious purchases; “Stubby” money: a survivor of all kinds of emergencies.
I developed a cost reference for bigger ticket items. In the fifth grade, when I wanted a motor scooter, it would cost one “Stubby” for a used Cushman scooter. I was one little guy who didn’t spend much money.
By age 13, I graduated to raising cattle – a small herd of registered Herefords. No pleading looks from them, because I didn’t have to sell them.
By age 16, my Dad gave me ten acres of land to grow cotton in return for doing work for him. I can officially tell you that there is no way to get emotionally involved with a cotton stalk.
I learned much later that everyone has internal and external conversations about money. We have dialogues in our minds before making a decision to exchange our money – our time and energy – for something else. When we really listen to those conversations, we can discern cost vs. value, and spending vs. earning comparisons.
Please share your thoughts, reflections, or money stories.