As a youngster growing up on the west side of Council Bluffs, Iowa, I was very aware of the junkyard just a few blocks from my home. My young mind, fueled by television shows such as the Hardy Boys, could only imagine the treasures hidden behind the junkyard’s high, metal walls.
Imagine, then, my disappointment when, as a young paper carrier, I finally got a glimpse behind those walls and saw … well, junk. Piles and piles of nondescript auto parts, appliances and other discarded remnants of the burgeoning post-World War II economy.
Then someone told me that the junkyard’s owner, Harry Yates, was a millionaire. I didn’t get it. Millionaires were hoity-toity sorts who were careful not to spill their martinis, not burly junkyard guys with grease-stained faces who wiped their brows with grimy rags they kept at the ready in their hip pockets.
To this day, when I think of millionaires, I see Harry Yates. This young paper carrier who made 11 cents a week from each customer on his route saw hope in that vision of Harry. While my parents had already done a good job of teaching me and my brothers the value of a dollar (a sum rarely accumulated by any of us in those days, I might add), thrift was a habit easily developed as we increasingly took responsibility for our saving and spending habits.
Thrift is apparently a habit in short supply these days. The savings rate in the United States is at its lowest since at least World War II while credit card debt is soaring in these difficult times. With the stunning changes that will accompany the jarring transition to a post-carbon economy, our heirs especially will bear the burdens of those changes.
I believe there are lessons in our own family histories that can help them. Make certain that you pass on the lessons about money that you have learned from your parents and grandparents, particularly those who survived the depression. They may come in handy.
Flickr photo courtesy of cupcakes for clara.