Money-Smart Kids/Is buying flowers an investment?
While traveling in the car with my kids this weekend, I decided to kill some time and ask them if they knew what an investment was. One of them chimed in that "it's a place you put your money." Great! They were then stumped when I asked the question, "In making an investment, when you get your money back, do you get the same amount back, more, or less?" I had to prod a little on this one and they were eventually able to grasp that a good investment meant they got more money than they contributed back, while a bad investment might mean they get less back. Truth be told, this concept didn't come easy.
When I returned home, I decided to go on www.dictionary.com to get the real definition. For some reason, this didn't help. It said:
1. the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value.
2. a particular instance or mode of investing.
3. a thing invested in, as a business, a quantity of shares of stock, etc.
4. something that is invested; sum invested.
5. the act or fact of investing or state of being invested, as with a garment.
This was possibly one of the more useless definitions of a word I have ever come across. After digging a little more, I came up with:
1. To commit (money or capital) in order to gain a financial return;
2. To spend or devote for future advantage or benefit.
I then asked them to give me an example of an investment. My younger child blurted out "flowers." I was going to gently tell them "no" but hesitated. After thinking about it more, I realized I might be wrong. No, not might be wrong, actually. I am wrong. For those of you who know me well, I'm sure you're cutting out this article and pasting it to the refrigerator with the public admission that I might actually be wrong about something.
As the kids and I talked it through, it turned out that you might be able to make the case that flowers are an investment. In a creative way of thinking, flowers given as a present might be an investment in people. Let's use my wife as an example. Historically, I wouldn't say that I am a frequent purchaser of flowers as I get off the train at the Westport station every evening. Walking by that nice smiling woman certainly gives me plenty of daily guilt, especially when I see the other spouses stopping to buy their loveys some flowers. If you think more about it, buying flowers -- or many other types of gifts -- are an investment in people. While there are certainly many other types of non-material investments in people -- whew, that phrase just spared me a bunch of nasty emails telling me what a materialistic person I am to think that the only way to invest in people is to buy things -- when it comes to monetary investing, those flowers mean something. They could mean:
I love you.
I appreciate you
The list goes on and on.
My kids were right that flowers could be considered a great investment. If they make the person receiving the gift feel special, unique and loved, I can't imagine what better investment there could be, as I am sure that caring nature would be returned, in excess of the investment, sometime in the future.
Tom Henske is a Westport resident and partner with Lenox Advisors, a wealth management firm with offices in New York and Stamford. His "Money-Smart Kids" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.