We are so obsessed with our bank account balance being positive that we forget it is a very crude measure of our value in a society. Three persons with a net worth of $0 could have this balance for very different reasons:
- one person may have borrowed $1M many years ago and have just finished paying it back;
- one person may have just opened an account with no deposited money, nor borrowed money.
- one person may have borrowed 100 times $1,000 and paid each time back.
Same balance, but very different levels of value and risk contributed.
On how to improve the account balance, there is a lot we can learn from exchanges not based on bank money, such as time banks, bartering networks or gift circles.
The San Francisco Time Bank for instance shows the balance, but also the hours received and given:
The sharing Web site Neighborhood goods accounts for the money you saved your friends by allowing to borrow your goods (and, I believe, until recently the money your friends saved you).