The Lady in the Black partners with her 9-year old daughter to craft four stories that hold important financial lessons for kids as well as for adults. As with all fairy tales, our story begins with “once upon a time.”
ONCE UPON A TIME…
…there were four money trees. Their names were Cash, Penny, Benjamin, and Buck.
If you don’t know anything about money trees, you should probably know that money trees look and act and grow like normal trees but grow paper currency instead of leaves.
Cash, Penny, Benjamin, and Buck all grew up together in the nursery orchard until they were big and strong enough to move to a new home. Each tree was planted in a different backyard, at a different home, with a different person taking care of them.
In short, each money tree has a different story.
PENNY and SAM SAVER
Penny was thrilled to be planted at the quaint and cozy cottage of Sam Saver and his wife, Susie.
From the very first day, Penny noticed that the Savers were very special people. The two of them spent many of their days tending the little vegetable garden that sat in the opposite corner of the backyard as Penny. The Savers seemed to enjoy being home together and often had their friends join them for backyard barbecues.
Sam was very tender with Penny and treated her with the utmost amount of respect. He watered her every day. He plunked any weeds that might grow too close to Penny’s trunk and provided her tree food to help her grow. The truly special thing about Sam Saver was that he never picked a currency leaf off of Penny’s branches. Instead, he patiently waited for them to fall to the ground before gathering them up. Sam also thanked Penny for her blessings before took the money to his wife.
One day, a wise old owl paid Penny a visit.
“Who-who is taking such good care of you”, the owl asked. “You look so happy, Penny.”
“I am happy,” smiled Penny. “The Savers are so responsible and caring. It’s a dream come true.”
Owl nodded his agreement. “It’s true. Savers respect money and know that their patience is rewarded in time.”
Penny spent the next several months growing bigger and stronger. The older Penny became the more leaves she dropped to the ground. Penny was happy to share her leaves because it allowed the Savers to build a small addition to their cottage. She knew that room would soon be home to a teeny Saver baby. A wooden swing set soon joined Penny in the backyard.
Just a few months later, Owl flew over a party in the Saver’s backyard. Friends and family were cooing over a small white bundle cradled in Sam Saver’s arms. Susie was resting and chatting happily with a friend under the cool shade of Penny’s canopy.
“Looks like the Savers have their bundle of joy,” hooted the wise old owl. “Those Savers sure appreciate the value of one good Penny.”
BENJAMIN and ISABELLE INVESTOR
Benjamin was planted in the sunniest spot in Isabelle Investor’s amazing backyard garden. Benjamin was one very lucky money tree, indeed. She was famous for making things grow and more than one person in town envied her green thumb. Isabelle was passionate about Benjamin’s care. She provided water, fertilizer, and daily care. She pruned any underperforming branches to allow the other branches to thrive. In short, she gave Benjamin the best conditions in which to grow.
In fact, Isabelle took such good care of Benjamin that he starting to bear golden coins like fruit. Isabelle never picked the currency leaves; she didn’t need to. If Isabelle needed money, she would simply pick a coin or two. Picking these coins didn’t harm Benjamin in any way.
One day, the wise old owl popped by to visit with Benjamin.
“Hello, Owl,” Benjamin said. “See my shiny gold coins? I didn’t know I could do that!”
The owl smiled. “Yes, they are lovely little gifts, aren’t they? You are a very special tree, Benjamin. You can not only grow money, you produce dividends.”
Isabelle continued to care for Benjamin and he continued to grow and produce coins, more and more each season. In fact, Benjamin bore the most fruit in all the land. Years later, the owl flew over the Investor house and was surprised to see not one but TWO money trees in the backyard. Both money trees were ripe with coins.
“What a smart lady,” hooted the wise old owl. “That Investor cared for her Benjamins so well that all their lives are full, flush, and fruitful.”
CASH and SALLY SPENDER
Cash started his life as a money tree just like everyone else. He enjoyed the gentle summer rains and the bright sunshine. He loved the wind in his leaves and his roots in the ground. Cash was planted at the luxurious home of Sally Spender. Sally was a nice girl who lived in a nice home and loved nice things. Nice things made Sally happy–at least for a little while.
Sally Spender did a fine job of taking care of Cash, at first. She watered him and hugged him. Every day, Sally plucked off Cash’s currency leaves to pay for all the nice things she wanted. It hurt Cash to have his leaves removed but it made Sally happy so he didn’t complain.
One day the wise old owl came to visit.
“Hello, Cash. How are you feeling,” asked the owl. “You don’t look too good. Your branches are thin and your leaves are sparse.”
“I’m not feeling well at all,” Cash whined. “I’m so very tired. With so many leaves missing, I can’t gather enough energy.”
The owl looked sad. “I was afraid of that. Ms. Spender is a greedy girl. I don’t think she means you harm but she has taken too much from you, Cash. Money trees need special care.”
Cash knew the owl was right.
In the following weeks, Cash worked hard, very hard, to grow the new currency leaves that would help him feel better. He pushed his roots deeper into the ground and turned his branches toward the sun. But even as one new leaf grew, Sally Spender would come and take it. As Cash offered less money, Sally stopped watering and hugging him. She stopped treasuring him. Cash felt the life slipping from him.
One sad day, the owl flew over the Spender house and saw that Cash had withered and died.
“Poor thing,” the wise old owl hooted. “Spenders who can’t care of their Cash don’t deserve a money tree.”
BUCK and DANNY DONATE
Danny Donate was a friendly man and was thrilled to have his money tree, Buck, in his backyard. Danny made sure to make Buck feel welcome right away.
“I am so thankful for you, Buck, that I plan to share all of your blessings with those in need.”
Once Buck learned that this was the case, he produced more currency leaves than any other money tree in the land. Danny never once picked from the tree. He waited for Buck to drop his leaves. (He’d learned this from his neighbor, Sam Saver.) Only then would Danny collect them. Since Buck dropped so many leaves, Danny had to use a rake to collect all the money.
The wise old owl flew down to visit with Buck.
“Hello, Buck,” stated the owl. “You look good.”
“Thank you, Owl,” replied Buck. “Not only do I look good I am doing good deeds and that makes me feel wonderful.”
“That’s true,” said Owl. “A money tree that gives to others is the wisest and most noble of all the trees. It’s fortunate your man agrees.”
Buck loved watching Danny rake up the leaves and load them to his truck to give away. Danny often returned to share gratitude from those that had received his blessings. Some of the people he had helped got money trees of their very own. Danny Donate was thankful for him everyday. Buck felt such pride for himself and for Danny’s generosity that he produced more money any other money tree in the land.
Years later, the wise old owl flew by the Donate house.
“How huge he has grown,” hooted the wise old owl. “Donate has done such good deeds that he deserves the big Bucks.”
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
While money doesn’t really grow on trees, we should take care of our money so that it can take care of us.
Sure, money trees are things of fairy tales. But the lessons behind them are very real.
How do you feel about money? Is it something that simply flows in and out of your life? Is it something you work for and struggle to get? Or is it a living, growing thing that helps to support you and your dreams?
And how do you take care of your money? Do you find nice places for it to grow? Do you find ways to nurture and care for your money? Do you share its blessings with others?
What do your children know of money? Are you passing on the skills they’ll need to nurture their own money in the future?
Authors Note: This story is a strong collaboration between The Lady in the Black and her 9-year old daughter, The Kid in the Black. Not only did the kid come up with the story concept (money trees) but she gave them their names as well. She also had a firm hand in the art direction of all of the graphics. I’m using her love for art to open conversations about money. I knew to do that because I used my own love of writing to open myself to the financial community 7 months ago.
Comments are love! (Especially since I’ll be sharing them all with The Kid!)