BOSTON – Marty Rudoy of Aurora, Mo., used to hear at least three times a day from his cab-driver father how "Money talks." According to the Weekly World News, Rudoy discovered recently that his father was right.
Rudoy, a collegiate engineering student, studied up on extracting sound vibrations from inanimate objects and, lo and behold, learned that money really does talk. Using a toy stethoscope and hooking it into amplifiers and then into a computer voice synthesizer, Rudoy says, "I've been listening to coins for more than two months."
Alas, according to the coverage in the Weekly World News, coins are pretty boring.
Rudoy described a few conversations, which amounted to a quarter saying, "You're going to spend me on that?" and a nickel complaining "Stop banging me against the other coins in your pocket!"
The Weekly World News, of course, is the supermarket tabloid best known for its accounts of space aliens, supernatural phenomenon, and the adventures of Bat Boy, but its personal finance coverage is always fun and enlightening. (I read it so that you don't have to.)
Obviously, I don't take the account of Rudoy's adventure seriously, but I have always believed that money does, indeed, talk.
The problem is that people only think money talks in the purchase of things, and I believe many people would be better off if they would listen to their money at the point of purchase, rather than having the cash send a message based only on what it brings home.
I don't think money gets into the range of silliness suggested by Rudoy -- who found a jealous dime arguing that its holder likes "the quarter better than me, don't you?" -- but I do think it has a few common messages.
If, indeed, money is wise to its own ways -- most people believe "It takes money to make money" -- then I believe that if you listened closely, money would sound like a lot of different people you know, and it would say things like:
'Do You Really Need That?'
Money sounds just a bit like your own conscience (or perhaps your spouse), questioning the advisability of any given purchase.
It's a good question to ask, because many people (myself included) have cleaned out closets and found all kinds of stuff that, for any number of reasons, was not a smart purchase. Money would want you to avoid buyer's remorse.
'If you can't afford to buy this now, what makes you sure you'll be able to afford it when the bill arrives?'
Money sounds a bit like your parents, back when they tried to educate you about credit. Or maybe it sounds like your parents wish they had sounded.
Creeping debt is a bit like the guy who is embezzling funds from the company petty-cash drawer. It starts with just a few bucks borrowed, and the intent to pay it back. And then there is more need or want, and still no complete payback.
Getting into debt in this fashion is no crime, but it's a problem. Money would want to talk you out of that.
'Do You Need This More Than You Need Me?'
Sometimes, money sounds like a jilted boyfriend or girlfriend. It would understand its own value and want to make sure you were not giving it up just for the next thing to come along.
'What Else Could You Get for Me?'
Money sounds like the best player on a sports franchise, hoping to be traded and talking to the general manager about the possibilities.
Money represents more than buying power; it is a manifestation of your work and savings and more.
When you think about it that way -- that you are trading a half-hour's worth of work time rather than X dollars -- it sometimes makes you realize just what a poor value you are getting.
I once asked one of my daughters: "If that family had offered you the chance to baby-sit for an hour and said that instead of money they'd pay you with four candy bars, would you do it?" She said that she would not accept the deal because it "would be a rip-off," and yet she was prepared, essentially, to make that exact deal by blowing an hour's worth of time on candy bars.
Money would want you to remember just how hard you worked to get it.
'When Will I See You Again, And How Will You Get by Without Me?'
Money can sound a bit like a lover, anxious to be with you and to share the future.
And since you don't want to be without cash for long, this is a question that should be answered before you let money go. If the answer is that you and money will be parted for "too long," then you need to find a way to keep it close.
'And What Happens in an Emergency?'
Money might sound a bit like your grandparents, reminding you that there will be rainy days ahead, and you'll want an umbrella so you can stay dry.
If buying something puts you into a position where you have no flexibility in case of emergency, or where your only recourse in case of disaster is to go into debt, you're your spending too much money, no matter what it is you are purchasing.
'What Does Your Heart Truly Desire?'
Money should sound a bit like a genie, because it is capable of granting your fondest wishes if you have it in your possession.
Having money itself is not so much the goal; it's what money can achieve that you want. Getting to where you possess money in the quantities to make your dreams come true is the tough part.
If money could talk, it might remind you to keep your eyes on the prize, and to let you know that unnecessary spending makes it harder for you to acquire the financial magic to make your dreams come true.