By ROSIE WATERLAND
I broke a few people’s brains when I wrote about how confused I got at the post office last month. If you were one of those people, it’s probably best you bow out of this article now. (You have been warned).
I realised yesterday that there is another vital part of life that I’ve made it to 27-years-old without understanding.
I have no freaking clue how banks work. I honestly just assumed that I put my money in the bank and it stayed there until I needed it. In a setting not unlike a vault at Gringott’s or Scrooge McDuck’s basement.
It’s just one of those things I never really thought about. Until I thought about it. I’ve just taken for granted that it all works and the rest of the details are none of my concern. Like how cows turn into burgers.
Anyway, last week someone I know (who is embarrassed and has requested to remain anonymous), kicked off my newfound interest in the financial sector, when she asked the following:
“When you transfer money online, who physically transfers it? Are there truck drivers or something?”
This immediately made me look up from my desk. Good freaking question. Obviously I understand that the money isn’t shipped around in trucks every time you pay an online bill (sorry, anonymous friend – even I knew that much), but when you transfer money online, where does it go?
Does online money even exist? Guess what? APPARENTLY IT DOESN’T.
Upon being informed of this I proceeded to lose my mind in a ‘if a tree falls in the forest/existential crisis/where does space end’ kind of way. Here’s how the conversation went down:
Rosie: So hold up, hold up. Is there a physical piece of money for every online piece of money that gets exchanged online?
Jamila: (*the editor who is now questioning my employment) You mean like an actual piece of plastic with a number on it that one person hands to another person who hands it to the business you’re buying something from? No.
Rosie: But I spend most of my money online. How could it not be real?
Jamila: Well, you’re thinking about cash money as if it’s something that has inherent worth. It doesn’t.
Money is simply a metal or plastic symbol of value. It’s a construct that allows us to measure the worth of various goods in comparison to other goods, for the purpose of exchange.
Nowadays western society tends to use electronic funds. So, yes, there is a finite amount of physical money in circulation but there is no requirement to actually have that sitting in a little box somewhere with your name on it.