Teaching Kids that Money = Labor

I have many grandchildren, so many in fact that in moments of confusion I refer to them by number, especially the string of boys all of whom have a name starting with the hard “c” sound.  Number six and I were enjoying “Just Grandpa And Me” dinner at Panera bread and the subject of money came up.

“Do you know how your daddy makes money?” I asked Six.

He paused, sensing a trick question. “He works” was his response.

“That’s right – your daddy works very hard.  As you grow up you work, and people pay you for the work you do”  I replied.  “Anytime we buy something, we trade our work for their work.”

Six was toiling to tear the crusty bread bowl, now emptied of its creamy soup, into manageable chunks.  I continued.  “How much was our dinner?”

Earlier, Six had been looking over the receipt. “About twenty dollars.”

“OK.  So, when you and I placed our order, the nice lady behind the counter wanted us to trade twenty dollars worth of labor for our dinner.  Does that make sense?”

He looked perplexed.

“If Grampa paid you twenty dollars to mow my lawn, and it took you two hours, how much labor would dinner cost you?”

“Labor?” he asked quizzically.

“Yes, labor is work.  When you mow the grass, you are performing work, or labor.”

He thought for a moment.  Six hates to be wrong.  He would rather not answer than not get the question right.  “Remember, you ‘labored’ for two hours and Grandpa paid you twenty bucks.  If you bought dinner, how much labor would it cost you?”

“Two hours?”

“That’s right!  About the time it takes to watch a movie.”

Six smiled, and went back to consuming his bread bowl.  He looked back up to me and I continued the lecture.

“So, how would you prove to the lady that you had really done twenty dollars worth of work and that she should give you twenty dollars worth of her work?”

“She gave us dinner, she didn’t work for us.” he objected.

“Actually, farmers, truckers, bakers and servers all worked to make us dinner.  We are always trading labor for labor.  Without labor wheat isn’t planted, flour isn’t ground, bread isn’t baked and dinner isn’t served.  Does that make sense?”  Six nodded, though not with confidence.

Moving along, I pulled out a twenty dollar bill.  “How long did you have to mow my grass to earn this?” I asked.

“Two hours.”

“So, if I give you this twenty dollar bill, its a way of proving that you performed twenty dollars worth of work, right?”


“So, when the lady asks us to trade dinner with 20 dollars worth of labor, we use this to show her we have done 20 dollars worth of work.  Understand?”

Six nodded assent.  Then he shifted in his seat and said. “But you paid for it with your credit card.”

I smiled, “That’s another discussion, buddy.”

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