Money Physics

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I wrote in an article way back when that I find money lying on the street quite often. The largest amount of money I have ever found was about $2,000. I still find money on the street even to this day.

It doesn’t matter to me if it’s even a penny, or a receipt that I can use as a tax deduction, I pick it up and keep it. Why? Well, I like to call it Money Physics. It may seem a bit strange to most folks — it certainly does to all of my friends and my wife — but I believe that any amount of money that is found on the street is actually worth twice face value.

How does that work? Well, suppose I pick up a dollar on the street. Most people would consider that money to be worth one dollar. Not me. I believe that that money is worth two dollars. Nonsense! You say?

Consider this: I have a dollar in my wallet. My wife tells me to go and buy a dollar’s worth of groceries. On my way to the store, I find a dollar on the street. I then proceed to the store to buy the groceries. When I return home, I have the one dollar’s worth of groceries as well as the one dollar still remaining in my wallet. The way I see it, that’s a two dollar turn-around. I have both the one dollar worth of commodities and still have the other dollar to spend on something else.

Let’s say we are at a basketball game. Our team is about to score. The center slam-dunks the ball, but by some strange twist of fate, the ball goes in and then out. The other team grabs the ball and scores. Is that a two point turn-around or a four point turn-around? Four points, right?

I have written a few articles recently about the sorry condition of the American Welfare State. One of the main problems I can see by the many e-mails I received is the collapse of the American work ethic. I personally know people who were quite wealthy a few years ago but are now broke and claim that they cannot find a job. I believe it when they say they are broke (I also find it amusing that these are the same people who think President George is the second coming of Christ). But I do not believe it when they say they cannot find a job.

What I gather that they mean when they say, “I cannot find a job” is that they actually want to say “I cannot find a job that pays me huge amounts of money like before.” (Of course you’ll notice that I did not once mention that these people were making huge amounts of money when Bill Clinton was president).

This point is where there lies a huge difference in the Japanese and American work ethic. In Japan, it is considered quite a shameful thing to accept welfare when you are able-bodied. Of course, for senior citizens and the handicapped, the story is different. In America, it seems, it’s not a problem to collect welfare — it’s more of a problem to have an acquaintance see you flipping burgers. Heaven forbid! I know it wasn’t this way even 40 years ago.


78-year-old farmer

You can walk around Tokyo and see 70 + year old men and women working as restaurant staff, greeting staff, security staff, and other menial labor jobs. Why is this? Do they need to work so much? Are they broke? These are good questions.

But I think the best answer to the above questions lie in the difference between Japanese and American society and the way people think. In Japan, even a former high-ranking company executive will take a job working part-time at a photo-shop or a restaurant at low pay after his retirement. Americans would think, “Why do they do this?”

From a Japanese perspective, there is an obvious answer to this question: To work, to have something to do, to get out; to exercise their minds and their bodies. Japanese people think that even if the job is very low pay, it’s better than doing nothing. Because, to the Japanese, not working is shameful. And this is where my idea of Money Physics comes back into play: Even at minimum wage, if you are at work, you are not sitting around at home and spending money. So that money you receive has an exponential value.

This lady is 83 and she runs a bar

Nobody likes to sit around the house and do absolutely nothing. And the Japanese are no different. The difference is that the Japanese do not consider it beneath their dignity to take a low paying job and get out of the house and do something — do anything. Americans, on the other hand, think nothing of taking a welfare check instead of taking that minimum wage job at the local fast food restaurant. Americans (especially former Bubble ex-executives) wouldn’t be caught dead seen washing cars or waiting tables. So what if it’s not a plush job sitting at a huge desk? So what if it’s minimum wage? At least you’re doing something that gets your body and mind at least mildly active. And it has to beat taking another mortgage out on your house.

When I first came to Tokyo, I took a job that paid about $2,000 a month. Not a lot in the most expensive city in the world. But it beat sitting around waiting for the cushy job. Like I said, while I was at work, I wasn’t spending money. So that money I received was worth far more than its face value. In fact from that job, I made some good connections with people who worked in the TV industry.

This is the difference between today’s Japanese and American work ethic. Of course there are many Americans who are working two or three jobs. These are the folks who deserve help. But you former White-collar workers who lost your butt on the Dot.com bubble burst and you are broke now — yet you refuse to go take a minimum wage job — but will willingly accept welfare checks, you guys don’t deserve a red-cent.

My 75-year-old father just accepted a minimum wage job at a department store. I’m proud of him. So what if it’s minimum wage? At least he’s out doing something, rather than just sitting around, watching TV and waiting to die. I reckon that taking this job will also extend his life by a few years because it will help him to meet new people and make new friends — Could this be one of the reasons that the Japanese out-live Americans by an average of 6 years?

While my dad’s at work, he’s not spending money — he is receiving money. The benefits of the job are much more than just the cash. He is exercising his mind, body, making new friends, and making a few more good reasons for living.

Now that’s what I call Money Physics.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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