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An eye for an eye, but a fortune for a tooth.

NOT TOO LONG AGO, MY 6-YEAR-OLD SON LOST HIS FIRST TOOTH AND I WAS suddenly thrust into the role of Tooth Fairy for the first time in something like 10 years. The wand was a little rusty, the dress tight, the wings somewhat less gossamery, and my bag of Magic Gifts, as it turns out, not nearly magical enough.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It was as if I had left my Tooth Fairy investment, lo these many years, with Will Hoover, trusting that it had tripled in value only to discover him on his way to jail and my stash inadequate indeed.

Under my son's pillow I left a Sacagawea golden dollar coin because I thought it was special. He informed me, highly disappointed, that most of his classmates "got 20 bucks." I couldn't, of course, explain that there are many Tooth Fairies, but it occurred to me that my father, dealing with me 46 years ago, didn't have to deal with kindergarten economic discussions in quite the same way I have to today.

About a month earlier I was at a trade show in Detroit, visiting with some business associates, when the subject of Tooth Fairy money came up. I was informed--to my horror--that they were giving their children $20 and $30 a tooth, justifying the expense, I suppose, with the smug assurance that the money, or most of it, was going directly into said kid's bank account. Yeah, right. These kids are no fools; they know very well what 20 bucks is and just exactly what it will buy.

There's the rub. When I was 6, in 1958, I got a dime for a lost tooth, and I thought it was wonderful. When I went to the store, I asked "Sy," the candystore owner, how much I could buy. Today's 6-year-olds go online and make price comparisons through eBay auctions; it's a wonder they don't supplement their allowances with day trading.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Just for grins, I called an economist at the University of Denver, Professor Tracy Mott, and asked him, based on the best econometrics he could muster, what a 6-year-old should get today from the Tooth Fairy if a 1958 6-year-old (me) got a dime.

"Ten cents in 1958 would be 65 cents today in equivalent purchasing power in overall price levels based on the CPI (consumer price index)," he informed me.

Suppressing a laugh at the absurdity, I remembered that my sisters got 50 cents an hour for babysitting two children in 1968, and I asked Professor Mott what economic analysis would therefore predict for my daughters today.

"Fifty cents in 1968," he said, "would be $2.73 in 2004." My daughters, by the way, in 2004, get $8 and hour, even $10 an hour, for such duty--tax free--and they are at the ready, through 11th-grade economic discussions I suppose, to point out that they are, compared with some of their friends, underpaid.

I mentioned my Tooth Fairy analysis to a friend from an eastern Colorado farm community. I explained that I was examining how children today have unbelievably inflated economic expectations, and he said I should check back on the price of wheat and see if farmers today get the same price for their grain that they got many years ago.

I checked, and he was, essentially, correct. Farmers got $1.82 a bushel in 1963; 40 years later they were getting $3.35.

Children are getting a far better return from the Tooth Fairy, but one has to wonder if we are creating monsters.

Do 6-year-olds today getting 20 bucks from the Tooth Fairy turn out to be tomorrow's 20-somethings who fully expect Rock Star-, Athlete- or Corporate Execmoney?

Personally, I can only hope that my own son, who might grow up with an unusually high expectation for compensation, might also inflate his sense of generosity. Someone will have to take care of the destitute Tooth Fairy in his old age.

READ JEEF RUNDLES' WEB EXCLUSIVE COLUMN, EXECUTIVE WHEELS, AT COBIZMAG.COM

jrundles@cobizmag.com

JEFF RUNDLES IS A FORMER EDITOR OF COLORADOBIZ AND A RECULAR COLUMNIST.
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Title Annotation:Rundles Wrap-Up
Author:Rundles, Jeff
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:682
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