Why no one has a piggy bank any more

Easy come, easy go is what it's all about, and to hell with saving for a rainy day
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The Independent Online

An artistic friend who collects pre-Raphaelite lemon squeezers and keeps unaesthetic items such as car keys hidden in bowls of potpourri took me upstairs to see her new dado rail, and on the second landing I almost fell over a giant plastic Coca-Cola bottle that was propping open the playroom door. Since Stella's children are not permitted to wear synthetic fibres, eat junk food or play with anything other than hand-painted wooden toys, I was momentarily stunned by this apparent breach of taste, and said as much.

An artistic friend who collects pre-Raphaelite lemon squeezers and keeps unaesthetic items such as car keys hidden in bowls of potpourri took me upstairs to see her new dado rail, and on the second landing I almost fell over a giant plastic Coca-Cola bottle that was propping open the playroom door. Since Stella's children are not permitted to wear synthetic fibres, eat junk food or play with anything other than hand-painted wooden toys, I was momentarily stunned by this apparent breach of taste, and said as much.

Stella agreed that the doorstop was hideous. It was actually a money box, she explained, a Christmas present from the children's godfather who had told them that if they filled it to the top with £1 coins it would hold £2,000, enough to take the family to Disneyland in Florida. I need hardly say that Uncle Walt's temple to leisure, synthetic fibres and junk food is a no-go area as far as Stella is concerned, but if you're looking for an example of two wrongs making a right this is it. Aesthetics apart, my friend admitted the godfather's scheme encouraged the children to save, which was a good thing, especially since, by way of incentive, he had promised to match every pound they put in with one from his own pocket.

What I personally feel about taking children to Disneyland is irrelevant. I mention this only because a survey just published shows that modern children have no idea what saving money means, and in any case don't have money boxes to save it in. They are spending, borrowing and getting into debt just like their parents. My first reaction was sadness. I can still remember with a certain nostalgia the NatWest piggy money boxes, the musical money boxes, and, best of all, the Sheikh Yamani money boxes the children used to have on their mantelpieces and the discussions over supper as to how they would spend their carefully garnered wealth.

The girls, of course, wanted clothes and boots. The boys - ah now, there's the rub. The boys being younger confirm what the new survey has revealed. They don't save, and frankly I don't blame them because what is the point of being a wise virgin with oil in your lamp if, after years of virtuous husbandry, the oil turns out to be not the super premier high octane five-star unleaded you thought but agricultural diesel?

Yes, you've guessed I have a pension with Equitable Life which I foolishly supposed would keep me if not exactly in luxury in my declining years then at least in fish fingers. At the rate things are going I'll be lucky if it covers the bus fare to my nearest soup kitchen. Every time I hear another depressing report about Equitable Life and telephone EL to find out exactly how my pension stands, I get fobbed off with a list of impossible technical questions.

Is my pension a with-profits endowment or unit trust/FTSE indexed linked or are there guaranteed dependant benefits? I don't know, I say feebly. I can't remember - it was a long time ago. And then they send me a brochure not much smaller than the Argos catalogue which they say will explain everything but it doesn't.

Everything has changed - work patterns, saving schemes, property prices and, most important of all, expectations. We expect to be able to get what we want when we want it and when we want it is now. People used to save up to get married. Now they take out a bank loan and are still repaying the monthly instalments when the divorce comes through.

I belong to a Neanderthal generation that knew nothing about gap years and student loans. We had piggy banks and student grants and went straight into nine-to-five jobs with pensions. Enough said. My student son has just booked a holiday on the internet to Slovenia with his girlfriend which he is paying for with the £500 plus tips he earned as a waiter at Queens during the Stella Artois tennis tournament. Easy come, easy go is what it's all about and to hell with saving for a rainy day which gets you nowhere fast and possibly points to anal retentive complexes that could only be the result of psychological trauma in childhood.

My daughter has a friend, not yet 20, who does voiceovers for commercials. For her last ad she had to say three words - "Get out there" - for which she was paid £25,000. She is on holiday in Mexico at the moment and I am prepared to bet that not for one single second has she considered whether a with-profits index-linked endowment pension might have been more sensible than an Upper Class Virgin Airlines return ticket to Puerto Vallarta. If you have got it, spend it.

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