If you have been reading this column for very long, you know that I’m an editor who likes the idea of getting rid of the penny and the one-dollar bill.
“Put Lincoln’s solemn mug on some other coin,” I’ve said, “or just tell him he’s going to have to be happy with the $5 bill.”
“Same for George Washington – or bump him to a new $3 bill,” I’ve written.
Not any longer.
As I stood in line last week to cash in a summer’s jar full of change, the two men in front of me were cashing their paychecks. They were receiving a number of large bills for their week’s work and I thought – this is just crazy.
Not crazy that I was changing in change and they were on the receiving end of hundreds of dollars – although the thought did cross my mind – but that all the customers in the bank that day were really just wasting our time. In a cashless country, we would not have to worry about such time-wasting matters.
When you think about it, we are not that far from a cashless country now.
My wife, who works for a school district, has her paycheck directly deposited. She uses a debit card for most transactions and a credit card for a few others. While we are not too crazy about having a lot of our bills automatically deducted from our bank account – seems like a limit on the number of folks dipping into my bank account is a good idea – we have only a few bills we have to pay every month.
Cash is still king, but going cashless is not far off. In fact, according to a Federal Reserve report in the Wall Street Journal, Americans used cash in only 32% of its transactions in 2015, down from 40% in 2010. Debit cards accounted for about 29% and credit cards accounted for about 20% of all transactions.
Check writing? It is still done – although I can’t remember the last time I stood behind someone at the store and watched them write a check – and it accounts for less than 8% of all transactions.
Certainly there are pros and cons to curbing cash – it would certainly crimp criminal activity, however, it would also negatively impact those who depend on cash for legal activities – including the pair of construction men I saw in the bank who, for whatever reason, don’t have bank accounts.
Some might argue that going cashless would be a logistical nightmare, but I think if it is done over a period of 5-10 years, Americans would adapt quickly.
First of all, the treasury could get rid of the blessed penny as well as denominations over $50. That practice alone would cut a lot of black market and criminal activities – as well as save the treasury plenty of money in minting and printing costs alone.
The share of cash transactions by category includes: Food and personal care supplies, 51%; Auto and vehicle related 16%; Gifts 11%; General merchandise 9%; Entertainment 4%; all other transactions 3% or less.
While a number of economists will argue the potential rise for inflation and other economic happenings if the government rids itself of cash, I will bet that the U.S. economy will droop, then sputter, then happily continue to make longterm progress – as it has my entire lifetime.
The difficulty in going cashless is the amount of education required for those who don’t have bank accounts to utilize them properly. I am always astounded when bankers – local bankers – tell me the low percentage of Mid-Missouri residents estimated to use bank accounts. However, I think that will change in the years to come as our current high school students learn more about personal finance in a class which is required in order to graduate in Missouri.
What is wrong with the idea of being cashless in 10-20 years?
I just know there will always be some who like the idea of having some emergency money stashed under the mattress.
The idea of going cashless won’t likely happen in my lifetime. But the idea will become a reality in my grandson’s lifetime.
I wonder if that means all those state quarters stuffed in a cardboard display case somewhere in my basement will be worth more…..or less for that grandson 50-years from now?