A Dollar for Your Thoughts

Your Money

Cherryl Hanson-Simpson

Thursday, July 11, 2013

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The phrase "a penny for your thoughts" is usually expressed when asking someone to voice an opinion on an issue being discussed, or when trying to discover the ideas which might be occupying the mind of someone lost in deep contemplation.

The earliest recorded use of the idiom is traced back to the 16th century when a United States penny, or one cent, was much more valuable than it is today. Given the current purchasing power of a penny, it might be considered almost disdainful to offer someone a cent for their opinions!

Our falling Jamaican dollar

I recently recalled this old saying when the rate of exchange of the Jamaican dollar to the United States counterpart first traded at about $100 for US$1 in June 2013. Our embattled currency symbol, which now had a value of less than one US penny, had hit a dismal new low.

Many Jamaicans shared their thoughts that the dollar's demise was representative of the overall negative state of the economy. Like the penny, there seemed to no hope of the dollar returning to the glory days of the past, when it symbolised a strong and growing nation.

What can one dollar do?

Today, you can often see discarded dollars at the supermarket counters or on the sidewalks, along with coins of lesser denomination. There almost seems to be a sense of contempt for our lowly dollar; after all, not even the tiniest sweet can be bought for this amount of money.

I have even witnessed beggars refusing to accept donations of a dollar, saying that it was an insult to offer this sum. In some people's viewpoints our dollar is as good as dead; we should just find a good resting place for it, and bury it once and for all.

One-one dollar can fill a basket

Despite all the disappointment and distress that our declining dollar brings, there are some financial principles which indicate why we should not be too eager to write off our little coin. There is still purpose in a little dollar, even the depreciated Jamaican version.

Firstly, if you saved just one dollar per day, at the end of twelve months you would have $365. Although this sum might not buy you much more than lunch at that time, the concept that saving small amounts can eventually amass large sums with the benefit of time, is worthy of note.

A million dollars or a penny?

It's also important not to disregard the cumulative potential of small amounts. Here's a story that illuminates the power of a penny or dollar: A terminally ill father called his two sons to his bedside one day to inform them of how he intended to pass on his fortune when he died.

He gave them a choice between two purses, one filled with one million dollars and the other containing just one penny. If the purse with the penny was chosen, the father's banker would double the contents every day for the next thirty-one days, until the father passed away.

Instant cash vs. delayed gratification

One son eagerly accepted the purse with the million dollars, planning excitedly how he would use his bounty in a month's time. After contemplating for a while, the second son selected the purse with the penny. His brother tried to encourage him to reconsider his foolish choice, to no avail.

The second son checked on his 'penny' purse over the ensuing days. On day two, he saw that he had one more penny, and the next day his purse contained four cents. By the end of the week, he had amassed sixty-four cents, while after two weeks his largesse had grown to a mere $81.92.

By the middle of the third week, the second son had just over $1,300 in his purse; however, by day 28, his purse had amassed over $1.3 million. When his father passed away on day thirty-one, the savvy second son's fortune was in excess of $10.7 million!

Start with what you have

While we may not have money-multiplying machines which can double pennies or dollars into large fortunes, we can all learn from the lesson that the story teaches. It is possible to start with a small amount of resources and by doubling your contribution every day, you can see exponential results.

Even if it's physically impossible to double your money or work effort daily, you can still make small incremental improvements that will increase your rewards over time. Whether you save $100 or earn $1,000 extra income for the week, every little bit contributes towards achieving your goal .

Well, those are some of my varied thoughts about the modest little dollar. There is another saying that is often used after voicing an opinion on a matter — "That's my two cents." However, since I'm living in Jamaica, it might be more appropriate for me to declare, "That's my two dollars!"

Cherryl is a money coach, business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. Her upcoming book, "The 3 Ms of Money" will reveal all the secrets she learned about financial success. Get more advice on money and business matters at www.financiallysmartadvice.com and www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com. Email comments to cherryl@financiallysmartonline.com.

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