I don’t know if kids these days even have piggy banks anymore, but I can still recall many delightful moments during my childhood centred around saving copious amounts of pennies in the vain hope that one day they’d be enough to buy something, anything. But with the announcement from the Canadian Mint that it will no longer be producing our little copper friend, it looks like it’ll be a pastime my own children will never get to enjoy.
But as I wax nostalgic about the penny the reality is that it has, for much of my life, been nothing but dead weight in my wallet, a worthless bit of currency that I’ve found more annoying than helpful, so in light of this announcement, I can’t help but wonder what positive impact the abolishment of the ubiquitous penny will have on our society.
Aside from the fact that saying goodbye to our small copper friend will save our country $11 million annually, saying nothing about the $150 million in costs Canadian businesses to account for our smallest currency denomination, the disappearance of the penny speaks volumes to the direction of the global economy as a whole, the start of a paradigm shift away from cash based transactions to an entirely cashless society and the true start to the mobile payment revolution.
While certainly some will see the abolishment of the Canadian penny as simply one way to trim the fat off a painfully austere budget, particularly given the fact the Finance Minister said his government had no further plans to abolish any other coins, I can’t help but see this relatively benign event as the humble beginning of a radical paradigm shift in the way the world does business.
One certainly doesn’t have to look far to see the impact technology has had on our respective economies. The way we do business, the way we interact with customers, the way we execute transaction, the way we make money, technology has already changed it all, so it really should come as no surprise that governments around the world are starting to realize that cash-based economies are quickly becoming antiquated, relics of a bygone era.
In fact, while Canada is leading the charge on this side of the pond, many countries across the globe have already started to evolve into cashless societies, particularly in Europe, with countries like Sweden recently making headlines for establishing cashless buses and church offertories among others, all a sign of a future where transactions will happen with the swipe of a NFC-equipped mobile device.
For many, though, I would guess that such a transition would not be welcome, as cash has become an intrinsic part of our cultural identity, part of who we are and how we do things. Of course that cultural identity can (and frequently does) change, just think of how the mobile phone has radically changed how we live, and perhaps it’s about time it did change.
So, despite the fact that I have no great love for unbridled technological advancement, in this case I can’t help but be excited about a cashless society; one where transactions are safe and secure, where our finances are less prone to thievery, and where my pockets are no longer weighed down will scads of copper pennies.