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
That experience was an early lesson about the
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
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.
Please share your thoughts, reflections, or money stories.