Where is my money? Have you seen it? I used to have a bank account with money in it and now I see it’s like a leaky bucket with money dripping out the bottom one automatic payment at a time. Remember when you had to lay down some paper to buy something? You had to pull out some cash or write a check. Back in the day when checks were a thing. Back when we paid our bills by writing words on paper and putting the paper in an envelope with a stamp and mailing it. Those were the horse and buggy days of money.
Today money is written in the invisible ink of digital commerce. To find my money I made a list of all the automatic payments that are charged to my credit card. The list is longer than I thought it would be and it’s embarrassing. I feel a little naked sharing it with you, like a chicken without feathers. There’s an old saying, “Pluck a chicken one feather at a time and no one notices.” Here’s my list: Amazon Prime, Audible, iBooks, Apple Music, Verizon, NY Times, Bridgeliner, Wikipedia, Netflix, Ezpass, GoodToGo, PayPal, Godaddy, Pandora, Microsoft, Geico, Akismet, iCloud, Dropbox, and Jetpack, plus all those stops at the coffee shop and restaurants and the grocery store, where I dip some plastic in a machine and I am painlessly drained of my money. I’ve been plucked!
Shopping channels on television show you some cool merch and chat you up about how good it will feel to buy it, and how you can definitely afford it because you only have to pay $19.99 a month for three months or six months or a year, and who can’t afford $19.99 a month? Automatically charged to your credit card, your new stuff arrives at your front door and you feel like it belongs to you because you have it in your hand. It’s already in your house, and you haven’t even paid for it yet. The dopamine rush of new stuff plugs your ears to the giant sucking sound of financial resilience being siphoned out of your life. You just wake up one day and you are in debt up to your eyeballs. You are being plucked.
I got my first bank account when I was a child, a passbook savings account where I deposited the dollar bills I got each year in my birthday cards and my Christmas stocking, and then later my babysitting money. My mom taught me about how interest worked and when the teller stamped my passbook with my balance, I could see the money I earned on my savings. When was the last time you earned money on your savings? Savings account interest today is near zero. Banks don’t use interest to encourage us to save money anymore because they would prefer that we sign up for their credit card instead. Banks want us to be in debt because there’s a lot more money to be made from our debt than our savings. Do you know the interest rate you are paying on your credit card debt? It’s probably 15 to 20 percent. Have you added it to the $19.99 to see what you’re really paying for that thing? Probably not. This is how we get plucked.