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Notes and coins will disappear as technology takes over as our preferred form for transactions
Cashless Days Are Ahead screamed a headline in the local Sunday paper recently. With the commodities prices crashing and share prices going south, no prize for guessing that day is coming. Our political masters on either side are throwing enough hints about this prospect. That is why one mob wants to raid our hard-earned superannuation and is positive about ending negative gearing. The other mob floats an idea of states levying income tax on top of the federal impost.
On a personal level, I am in a cashless state most of the time. Making a living from writing and being cashless are like two sides of the same coin. Inseparable. On further reading, I found the article was about a future scenario where cash, notes and coins will cease to be used in financial transactions.
People of my era, unlike Gen X and Y, will sorely miss the colourful pieces of paper and shiny metal coins. They may even suffer from withdrawal symptoms having been addicted all their lives to fingering crisp dollar bills or even greasy rupee notes. I don’t mean greasy in the sense they are used to ‘grease’ the palms of authorities to get favours. According to a recent survey, a rupee note changes hands a few dozen times, along the way acquiring some grime, making Mahatma’s smiling face invisible. In a way it is appropriate that he doesn’t see those transactions where piles of rupee notes are passed under the table.
Before the EFTPOS era, pay day – usually Thursday – was eagerly looked upon as the paymaster disbursed everyone’s salary neatly ensconced in specially printed palm-size envelopes. The sensory delight of handling crisp notes has no equal; electronic transfers are less electrifying and edifying.
The Sunday article forecasting the demise of cash was published marking the 50th anniversary of Australia switching to decimal currency. It took a year-long educational campaign costing millions. India went metric a decade earlier with less fanfare. The old pie and anna coins (anyone remember them?) gave way to naye paise which even the semi-literate street vendors adopted with aplomb. Students liked it too since they didn’t need to remember 12 pies made one anna and 16 annas made one rupee.
Compared with paper currency, coins have a longer history. India, besides China, was the earliest to issue coins as far back as the sixth century BC. During the Maurya period, gold, silver and copper coins were in use. It was Mohammed-bin-Tughlaq, in a quirky move to save the ailing economy, who replaced metal coins with leather ones. Every one cobbled their own coins and clobbered the economy.
Paper money came into vogue in India during the British rule in the 1770s, some hundred years after Sweden, the first country in Europe to introduce the currency. Ironically, it is where the cash will exit first. The kroner will be a goner by 2030. But a Westpac report claims our dollar bills may die earlier, by 2022. Only six years folks, before we all go cashless.
This trend has been evident for some decades with plastic cards becoming dominant – used 297 times against every ten transactions with cash. But plastic fantastic is predicted to go out the window thanks to Windows and similar programs. All future transactions will be done through mobile phones that will hold all your financial details. This may lead to interesting scenarios.
Printing fewer or no greenbacks will lead to a greener environment. But the loss of jingling coins may cause less demand for metals and a further fall in commodity prices. So printing and mining jobs will get the chop.
With your cell phones holding all your money, no need for bank buildings. They are boarded up in most country towns anyway. Even in my inner city suburb all the four major banks, branded as the four pillars of our economy, have closed their branches. With no bank buildings there won’t be any bank robbers or bank managers. Can’t tell the difference between them these days! ATMs too, are predicted to disappear.
To survive the cashless era, churches in Sweden and Denmark have installed card readers. Rich in their imagination, beggars will discard their bowls and thrust a cell phone at you so you can seamlessly transfer your generosity.
Being old fashioned, I am mortally afraid of modern technology. I have been its worst victim more than once. I stored some sixty of my articles on a USB stick and one day, to my horror, found it totally blank. When my digital camera was stolen at an overseas airport, I lost some 400 pictures of my first grandchild taken during her first two years. I dread to think what will happen if and when my mobile phone, with all my savings, gets lost or stolen. My head spins.
Ah, You Gen Y guys, when the battery runs out in your Blackberry, you will run out of juice. Would love to see that!