Real Money, Real Families: Piggy banks: childhood dream guardians

By Luke Erickson

When my son was younger he asked me why I had to leave and go to work. I told him it was because I had to “bring home the bacon.”

Months later my wife was driving him and his little friend through town. His friend pointed to a real estate office and said that his dad worked there and sold houses. He then asked my son what I did for a living. My son replied proudly, “My dad makes bacon!”

I’m actually a finance professor, but the title of “Bacon Maker” is equally noble in my opinion. Bacon makes life so much better, doesn’t it? And it’s not just bacon; let’s not forget sausage in a spicy burrito, fried pork chops, a seasoned grilled pork loin, or the ever delectable holiday ham. I haven’t even mentioned the dog yet, as in hot- and corn-, and their bigger, juicer cousin, the brat. These are symbols of ballgames and summertime grilling. I mean, it’s almost patriotic to eat hot dogs on the Fourth of July, am I right? Yes, dogs…FROM PIGS! And that’s what makes the pig a truly a magical animal, my friends.

Indeed, we love the pig….when it’s dinnertime, but I’m a little worried that our portly pink pal doesn’t always get the respect he deserves. You see, before the pig is diced up and grilled, he’s commonly referred to in derogatory ways and serves as a symbol of stank, sloth, and gluttony.

“You eat like a pig!”

“This place looks like a pig-sty!”

“Dude, you’re hoggin’ all the bacon!”

Oh, the irony of it all. Let’s just admit that we’re jealous that the pig can get away with such egregious manners and still manage to be invited to most of our most celebrated occasions…albeit on a plate.

But never fear. There is one area of our society that reveres the uncooked pig as it should, and that is in finance. Yes, for years the piggy has served as the quintessential symbol of financial responsibility. I guess the “lazy,” “stinky,” “gluttonous” pig also happens to be very financially sensible. Who knew? And yet imagine a world without piggy banks – those noble guardians of our wildest hopes and dreams since childhood. Every time you drop another found nickel into its vast abdomen and hear that familiar clank, you know you are one step closer to that glorious financial goal of yours. It feels like nothing can stop you and your faithful piggy from conquering the world. And perhaps best of all, it helps youngsters build a habit of saving, which is at the foundation of all financial success.

In deference to the power of the magical, financially responsible piggy, each year the Idaho Financial Coalition sponsors the Piggy Bank Beauty Contest. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition is a state chapter of the National JumpStart Coalition that promotes financial literacy nationwide. In short, the contest is for any child in Idaho in grades 3-6. It can be completed individually or as part of a classroom activity.

The piggy bank cannot be larger than a square foot, but that’s pretty much where the limitations end. And just like the pig can transform into a variety of different things like bacon, ham, and even a pigskin (football), the piggy bank doesn’t actually have to be a pig. It can be anything your child’s mind can imagine. The more creative the better.

The banks are due February 22-26 (America Saves Week) and can be dropped off at any Mountain America Credit Union branch. College savings scholarships of $75 will be awarded by IDeal 529 to the winners of each of the following four categories: 1 – funniest, 2 – prettiest, 3 – most creative, and 4 – celebrity look-alike. Each year the winners are also invited to the Governor’s ceremonial office where the students are presented with their awards.

With so many children doing some, or all, of their schoolwork from home, or teachers struggling to find fun, educational “distance” activities, the Piggy Bank Beauty Contest can be a fun, hands-on, educational learning activity for individual families or classes. All the details about the contest can be found at the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition website: http://www.idahoflc.org/piggy-bank-about/

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go explain to my children that I do not actually “bring home the bacon” by making bacon. I just write articles…about bacon.

On second thought…I’ll just grab some bacon on my way home. It’s easier to just own it.

Luke Erickson, Ph.D., AFC®, is an associate professor of personal finance for the University of Idaho. He lives and works in the Treasure Valley. Luke and his wife Rachel have been married for 15 years and live in Meridian, Idaho with their four energetic children. Got questions or comments about kids and money? Email them to erickson@uidaho.edu, and he’ll respond in future articles.

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