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Senior Correspondent

Scarcity: The Game of Winners and Losers

Financial Freedom

Scarcity: The Game of Winners and Losers

“Grab a seat, Suzie. Quick, grab any seat!” shouted little Suzie’s mother.

And soon would come Suzie’s first lesson in scarcity.

How did it start?

Suzie was all excited about going to her very first birthday party. She had on her new blue dress, along with her black Mary Janes. She was going to be with all her friends from preschool, at a party with clowns and games. There might even be some new kids to play with, her mother said.

At the party, she asked if her mother was staying with her. “Of course, honey. I’ll be here. Just go and play with your friends.”

Off Suzie went to run around, chasing her friends in a game of tag. Suzie knew her mother was somewhere in the distance, keeping an eye on her. She was careful not to scuff her shoes too badly, but, oh, this was so much fun.

Suddenly Mrs. Turner announced that it was time to play some games. They all gathered under the covered area closer to the house where a string of chairs were all lined up, some facing one way, some facing the other. “Skip around the chairs, children, all in one direction, until the music stops, and then sit in the closest chair.”

So off they went, skipping happily to the music. And when it stopped, Susie saw a chair and sat down. Others scampered around, looking for a chair to sit in. When the commotion was over, Andy was still standing. Mrs. Turner said, “Okay, Andy, you’re out of the game.”

Out of the game?

And the music started again.

This time Suzie didn’t want to get too far from a chair facing her way, skipping along but searching for the next available chair. Again the music stopped and she was safe; she had a chair. But Jessica didn’t, so she was “out of the game” too.

This went on for awhile, with the pressure mounting as there were fewer and fewer children, and even fewer chairs.

And suddenly there were just two other children … and two chairs.

The music started and Suzie could hear her mother chanting, “Grab a seat, Suzie. Quick, grab a seat!”

The music stopped and Suzie was left standing. She had tried to get into a chair, but Petey had pushed her aside. She looked over to her mother for a clue of what to do or how to react. All she could see was either disappointment or disinterest. She didn’t know which, but it didn’t feel like good news. She hadn’t been fast enough.

Moments later, Petey would almost knock Missy to the ground as he twisted his body onto the last chair … and claim the prize. Petey was the winner. Suzie and all the others were the losers.


Whenever I ask women where they got their notions and negative emotions about money, I always hear things like “Oh, I don’t remember. But I know I had a really normal, happy childhood. I didn’t get any negative messages from my parents. So I don’t know where I might have picked up this habit of buying things on impulse …”

Yet from the day we start interacting with another human being, usually starting with our mothers, we are gathering messages in our still-forming brains. Up to age six or so, we are functioning in our subconscious brains, until our conscious brains kick in with a growing ability to judge right from wrong, true from false.

Yet in this undiscerning phase, each of those messages registers in our brains as “truth” unless and until something comes along to disprove it later. The majority of the messages were not meant as they seemed; most came from adults unaware of the impact they were having, with just a gesture or a comment … or a tone of voice.

If you’re wondering why you have certain money behaviors that don’t seem to have any rational source, you might want to spend a little time thinking back to beliefs that are sitting quietly in your brain, just waiting to be disproved or dismissed.

The first one is the belief that everything in life is based in scarcity, and now you know where it may have come from.

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