I have been doing a lot of walking lately as part of reaching my goal of a healthy body at a healthy weight. I aspire to walk 10,000 steps, on average, each day over every seven-day period. Some days I walk as many as 14,000 steps, while on other days I log only about 6,000 steps. It really depends on work, the weather, and the day of the week. The weekends usually bring big walking and hiking opportunities. On many of my walks I find coins lying on the ground—sometimes nickels, dimes, and quarters, but by far the most common coins I spot are pennies. Each time I see one, I think about Abby, whom I discovered last year from her website, and had a chance to meet in person with her husband.
I blatantly borrowed Abby’s graphic from her website.
Camping at the Lake Pleasant State Park last week, I picked up nearly a dollar in change from the streets, parking lots, and campsite areas where we stayed. It got me thinking about the whole concept of taking the time to find pennies and actually stopping to bend down and pick them up.
How rich or out of shape does one have to be to not pick up money from the ground? On a karmic level, what kind of message are you sending out to the universe if you don’t grab money freely offered to you?
For me, it means I have to stop, bend my 6-foot-plus body, and snatch up the coin. Is it really worth it?
Banks don’t want your money (what those fat cats on Wall Street won’t tell you)
I don’t know why, but I like to sneak in the phrase “those fat cats on Wall Street” whenever I can. Heck it’s my blog and as you can see the writing does tend to go in many different directions. However, I digress…
Yes that’s right, banks don’t want your loose change. They have no problem taking a couple dollars in coins, however if you walk into a branch with a five-gallon water bottle or bucket of loose change, forget it! They will kindly offer to provide you coin wrappers so that you can count the coins into their respective rolls, and then write your name, address, phone number, and account number on the wrapper just in case you cheat them out of a penny. They need to know who to send the goons after to collect their shortage.
But wait, other options are even worse. You can take your coins into the local supermarket to a vending machine that will gobble all those loose coins and give you a credit. You can get a credit on today’s groceries or apply it to various gift cards with retailers. All they want is a small nine to ten percent of your “hard-earned bending over to reach the ground” money. Yep, the price of convenience is nine to ten percent if we use that method of redemption.
It seems nobody wants our money. I am refusing on principle to have ten percent of my pennies taken off the top of my stash. Nobody in retail wants me to count out hundreds of pennies at the counter, and I am too lazy to roll them myself. Today I am using up the nickels, dimes, and quarters as quickly as I can for small purchases by providing exact change.
I think that, as a social experiment, I will give a huge bag of pennies to a homeless person asking for money at a street corner to see his or her reaction to the gift. I may actually drive to a spot where I can observe from a distance to determine what the individual will do with the money. Will he refuse the money and consider it an insult? Will he take the time to roll the pennies into coin wrappers and take them to the bank? Would the banks even accept the pennies if the person doesn’t have an account with them? (ARB needs to weigh in here to explain these banking rules.)
Is it really worth the time to pick up pennies?
The number crunching part of my personality is coming out. Is there an ROI on picking up pennies? I will spare you the math and simply answer, “YES.” You need to make a salary of $106,975 to break even on picking up a penny. This is assuming you pay 30% in tax on your 1.4 cents per minute rate, netting you one penny per second take home pay.
I am making a big assumption that it takes only one second to reach down and pick up a penny. For the slower and less experienced “penny pinching picker-uppers” (PPPu’s) out there: your actual results may vary. This means that you are gaining no incremental benefit of income by picking up pennies when you make over $106,975—assuming you can work more hours and receive additional pay from your employer.
If you can’t work more hours for more pay and you happen to be walking on a break from work, then that is purely found money, and it’s tax free!
Maybe you are so stinking rich that you can’t waste precious moments thinking about the task of picking up money. You could be dreaming up the next Dot Bomb business that will make you millions at the IPO. I wonder if Warren Buffet picks up pennies?
Is it really worth the strain on the body to pick up pennies?
It depends on your age, health, and motivation.
From a perspective of exercise, for me it’s worthwhile. I am walking along, day dreaming, looking at the scenery when suddenly a shiny object on the ground catches my eye. (BTW, I am not actually walking heads down all the time looking for money.)
I quickly approach the item in question (lest someone gets there first), identify it is a coin, stop, do a quick stretch to the ground, breaking up the cadence of my walk to be rewarded with currency. How many gym rats, weight lifters, or yoga practitioners have found money while exercising? To me this is a quick diversion to stretch my muscles differently, and then continue on my walk. Cross-training, if you will.
Is it bad juju or karma to refuse to pick up pennies?
What are we telling the universe when we don’t take the time to pick up money from the ground? Are we saying that mere pennies are not worth our time?
If you believe in karma, you may believe that not picking up pennies has karmic repercussions. When a person doesn’t pick up pennies, it sends a message to the universe: the person couldn’t care less about money. In response, the universe may not provide the opportunity to pick up the $100 bill that might be around the corner. Heck, the universe may resolve that a pre-IPO company is going to fail since the founder who can’t pick up change is obviously not interested in money, even in the smallest penny form.
We could be messing around with “The Law of Attraction.”
What is the Law of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction can be understood by understanding that ‘like attracts like.’ What this means is that whether we realize it or not, we are responsible for bringing both positive and negative influences into our lives. A key part of the Law of Attraction is understanding that where you place your focus can have an intense impact on what happens to you. – http://www.thelawofattraction.com/
Say or believe what you want about this “law,” I have found that the more open I am, and when I apply myself in a particular area of interest, things begin to manifest in ways I would have never expected.
Perhaps, from a Law of Attraction perspective, picking up pennies will draw more money to you in the future? Think about how reading FI and FIRE websites—putting energy toward improving your finances, budgeting, saving, and investing—has attracted like-minded people to you. Perhaps you are now engaging in regular discussions about finances and sharing your dreams of financial independence and early retirement.
My picking-up-pennies practice
I pick up pennies from the perspective of stretching my body and announcing to the universe that I will not turn down money. Having money helps me achieve my financial goals and gives me a sense of security.
Walking 10,000 steps a day works out to about five miles of fresh air. I don’t spend my time actively looking for spare change; I would rather enjoy the walking experience. Hiking on the trails for five years in Sedona, I have found a total of about fifty cents. The bulk of my cash haul is from walking along streets, sidewalks, and parking lots.
I have to admit I did go through a snobbish period several years back when we first became FI. I felt it wasn’t worth the time or energy to bend over for money. I have since changed my perspective, not wanting to mess with karma or the Law of Attraction, and using the idea of stretching to the ground as an added exercise benefit. For some strange reason, the pennies keep finding their way to my path. Go figure!