Memories All Round

Dennis Friedman

MY WIFE AND I ARE traveling to the U.K. This will be my first time in England, Wales and Scotland. We’ll spend a week in London before taking a train to Cambridge, where we’ll rent a car for the balance of the vacation.

My wife planned the trip, doing an enormous amount of research. It took her a couple of months to put this adventure together. I thought we’d be staying mostly in major cities with well-known attractions. But my wife has us visiting a lot of small towns I’ve never heard of.

She insists each of these small towns will provide us with a memorable experience. For instance, my wife points out that the Porch House in Stow-on-the-Wold is the oldest inn in England, dating back more than a millennium, to the year 947.

But I also know there’s another reason she wants to visit these small, beautiful towns. It’s the bare wall behind our living room couch. My wife wants to take a gorgeous photo that she can hang on that wall. She thinks one of these small towns will give her that opportunity.

I’m really excited about our upcoming trip. But I’m not the only one. No, I’m not talking about my wife. It’s Michael, our 14-year-old neighbor. He’s excited because we hired him to water our plants and get our mail while we’re gone. It’ll be his first job.

Of course, I asked his mother first. She was on board with the idea. I think Michael’s father—who is quiet and reserved—is, too. The other day, he gave me a rare smile, as if he was telling me it was a good idea.

We’ll be gone for five weeks. My wife and I decided $50 a week would be a fair wage for Michael. I thought I would pay him $125 before we left. That way, he doesn’t have to wait until we return to get all his money.

I remember my first job. I delivered newspapers. It was a good money experience for me. I was confronted for the first time with the question: What should I do with the money I earned? Should I save it or spend it? I decided to spend it all.

I spent my earnings on a small television and record player for my bedroom. I bought comic books and junk food at the neighborhood market. I walked away broke from that job—just the way I started it.

Who knew years later I would become a saver who lived well below his means? Maybe my old paper route taught me an important lesson about money, after all. Hopefully, Michael will learn some lessons about money from his first job. At the very least, he’ll have to answer the same question I did: What should I do with the money I earn, spend it or save it?

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