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Emily Cohn

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Let's Not Forget About George...

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 12:00 am

I first met George in the elementary school playground. He was unique -- not like anyone else I had come across in my 10-year lifespan. George had real character. He wanted us to get to know him and to ask questions. He wanted to tell us about where he had been and how he had gotten there.

George was a first for me. He opened up my eyes and exposed me to ideas I had never had to grapple with before. This George -- a crumpled up bill that was one of three dollars I had been given for my weekly allowance -- had a note on it: "See where I've been! Track where I will go next! Enter my serial number at www.wheresgeorge.com."

Wheresgeorge.com -- a currency tracking website that launched in 1998 -- really got me thinking about the meaning of money.

As a child, I had trouble conceptualizing the value of paper bills. The website grounded an otherwise abstract concept. This dollar I was holding in the schoolyard had come to me by way of Nevada where it had been won at a casino. Before that it was used at a McDonalds in Tennessee. And before that, someone had found the bill on the ground at a rodeo in Texas.

The bill had a tangible value. It was being used to buy and sell things on the Upper West Side of New York City, just as it was in Las Vegas, Nashville and El Paso. If and when I spent this dollar, it would be on its way, embarking on a new leg of its journey.

As I got older, conceptualizing the value of money became harder to do. Bearing witness to the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 and the even more calamitous housing collapse in 2008 complicated my -- and others' -- ability to understand money.

My idealistic view of money as a tangible thing was trampled. Money, I realized, is a force -- something lost and gained, traded and inflated without bills ever exchanging hands.

Today, we see our paychecks automatically appear in our bank accounts every month and lose sight of what's earned, deducted and put away for later. We can pay for our morning coffee with our cell phones with little regard for how much we're spending.

We buy on credit what we shouldn't necessarily be entitled to. We purchased homes and cars with the help of large, robotic institutions that we trusted, before we asked ourselves the most fundamental question: Can I afford this?

Sure, money is much more complex than I had originally perceived it to be in the school yard. But what if we got back to the basics? With the global economy in the process of getting back on its feet, there's no better time than now to break down conventional wisdom regarding personal finance and retool our approach.

HuffPost Money will turn traditional personal finance news on its head. We'll analyze how what's happening in the financial world will impact you and the money in your wallet. We'll put everything in simple terms that you don't need to be a banker to understand. And we'll make it interesting... we hope.

HuffPost Money is a place for you to come to vent your frustrations: Have you fallen victim to a fraudulent debt collector? Are you considering filing for bankruptcy? Are you being overcharged?

What's your number one financial concern?

We're a forum for sharing advice and tips: Everyone's looking for a way to save. Contribute your ideas for our ongoing "A Dollar A Day" feature, which will provide you with creative and quirky ways to save on your every day expenses. And in the coming weeks, look for our new platform for sharing your favorite daily deals and coupons.

Let's get back to basics and attempt to understand what's going on here. Every aspect of our lives -- from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear -- is impacted by money. So let's take it seriously, and most importantly, have fun.

The Money editors can be reached at money@huffingtonpost.com

 

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