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The Land of Amoneyka

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Money is funny, isn’t it? Who would have thought it would get to be so important.

I wonder if this is going on everywhere, but the United States lately seems to be obsessed with the topic of money. Sometimes it feels as though we live in the land of Amoneyka. Sounds kind of Russian and autocratic, doesn’t it? But maybe money has become our ruthless dictator.

The topic is up almost everywhere you turn: falling gas prices, state and federal budget issues, tax issues, the rising cost of college, wealth disparity, the shrinking size of the middle class and our income, the high cost of healthcare, the debate on the minimum wage, the budget for welfare programs, and the usual daily preoccupation with the stock market. And just think of the professionals in finance all over the country who think about money, all day long every day.

One of the latter is managing my retirement funds. The gentleman has put me on a budget to ensure that I can live to be about 100–heaven forbid–without being a problem to anyone, at least not a financial problem.

So now that I have a death-factoring budget, I think a lot more about money than I ever have before. My Social Security check, cost of living increase included, will be deposited to my checking account today. I actually sat down and figured out the exact annual amount of the increase and know the “fun” thing I will do with the little boost.

This is new to me, because I have never been interested in money for its own sake. For example, I always found “Monopoly,” the best-selling board game in history, boring. You get rich and win by bankrupting the other players, which doesn’t seem like fun to me. I wonder if this is rather characteristic of the feminine.

But the truth is that women haven’t, in the history of civilization, had a lot of experience with lucre, filthy or otherwise.

The patriarchy was established about 4,500 years ago, and men have had the upper hand financially ever since. Women have always been able to inherit wealth, to marry it, to marry a man with the potential to become wealthy, and more recently to divorce advantageously. But the interest and ability of women to actually make a bundle is new and not very common. After all, we’ve really only had significant job income since about the middle of the last century.

As I said, my new budget has inspired me to pay more attention to financial issues. However, because I am female, I think I tend to look at them from a greater distance. Now take my Social Security benefit for instance. I find it amazing that all I have to do to keep receiving this is to continue breathing. It is further amazing that it will presumably continue to be adjusted as the cost of living goes up, although I have no idea how the latter is determined. And it is even more amazing how much I will eventually receive from the system with respect to how much I actually put in.

One would like to think that the government has invested very well, but of course we know that benefits depend on an adequate population of people with nice salaries bankrolling retirees. That makes the shape of our economy look a little different, doesn’t it?

With declining birth rates and a shrinking middle class, the word is that there will be enough funds by 2035 to pay out only 75% of benefits. Oh, dear. There goes my theory. If I do live to age 90, I will, in fact, be a problem for the Social Security System and for all the employed. All retirees will be actually, and women will be a bigger problem than men. We typically live to be 81 years old when men make it to only 76. The bottom line is that, to keep this retirement plan going, we need a lot more people doing a lot better financially than they are right now. We need to, like, ramp up prosperity.

The Landlord's Game

The Landlord’s Game

And now back to the game of Monopoly. Ironically, the original version was created by a woman in 1904. She was a game aficionado, a Quaker named Elizabeth J. Magie.  The story is that she designed “The Landlord’s Game” to teach people how to stay out of the poor house. It became a best-seller when it morphed into Monopoly where the object was to put all all the other players into the poor house.

My observation is that guys typically love Monopoly, and it seems that making a huge amount of money is the basic, real-life game among the moguls of capitalism. Every year publications like Forbes and The New York Times come out with scores in terms of net worth and CEO compensation. For those on the winner track, the numbers are never big enough.

With all these money issues floating around, maybe we should resurrect Elizabeth’s version of the board game to see how she thought economics should work. Maybe it has to do with values; and maybe feminine values, if they are less shaped by that money-specialized sector of the brain, could make a contribution to the well-being of the collective.

Just a thought and one I will pursue shortly.

 

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