Does this sound like anybody you know?
“These are the people with ridiculously sleek wallets that have no compartments for cash or coin…they are the people frantically looking for a nearby ATM when they accidentally stumble into a cash-only restaurant…”
That’s how a 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco describes a group it calls the “cash-averse”—people who never carry or spend cash. (Unless, of course, they find themselves in the wrong burger joint.)
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Though still a relatively small part of the general population—about 9%—the cash-averse are disproportionately represented among the millennial generation. Some 62% of them are under age 35, the report notes.
So, while futurists have been predicting a cashless society for decades now, it may be millennials who finally make it happen.
And yet they won’t be the first. As with so many other important trends in modern life, we have celebrities to thank for showing us the way.
In fact, here are 10 famous folks (entry No. 3 counts as two) whose attitudes toward pocket money were generations ahead of their time.
“I never carry any money with me,” the Wizard of Oz star once told an interviewer, explaining her rather chaotic personal finances. “I just write off checks and then forget about them.”
Even before he became the world’s most famous germophobe, the eccentric billionaire gave up carrying cash, apparently for fear of being robbed.
John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy
(1917–1963 and 1925–1968)
The Kennedy brothers shared a reputation for never carrying money and borrowing from anybody in the vicinity when they needed some. Biographer Evan Thomas tells of a friend helpfully tossing a dollar into a church collection plate on Bobby’s behalf. His supposed response: “Don’t you think I’d be more generous than that?”
The late Beatle had plenty to say and sing about money but seems to have rarely kept any on him. Biographer Philip Norman noted that “he discovered the strange truth that the richer one becomes the less obligation there seems to pay for anything. Clubs he visited pressed free drinks on him, restaurants automatically waived bills, guitar makers sent him their choicest new models simply for the glory of his patronage.”
Though he made plenty of it in his too-brief career, contemporaries say the rambunctious Doors singer never carried cash (and was even known to set checks on fire). He probably didn’t have room for a wallet in those skintight leather pants of his anyway.
When Italian resistance fighters hung the freshly executed fascist dictator’s body upside down in a Milan plaza, it’s unlikely that lire fell from of his pockets. Mussolini reportedly didn’t carry any.
Richard Nixon and his nemesis John F. Kennedy may have had little else in common, but like JFK, Nixon seems to have rarely carried cash. Attending a Billy Graham “Crusade” in 1970, he had to borrow $5 from the evangelist himself to make contribution.
Not only did the King rarely, if ever, carry cash, he seems not to have carried much of anything. Associates said he had his clothes custom-made without pockets. He did, however, have a credit card or two. A long-expired one sold for $41,000 at a 1994 auction.
The Queen of England
Elizabeth II is one of a long line of British royals reputed not to carry cash. If you’re important enough have your face on your nation’s currency, who’s to argue with you?