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Smith: Taking a dip in the money pool a great, if not new, concept

Something popped into my head, and I was quite excited because I perceived it to be an original idea for bringing people a needed infusion of money.

Turns out it wasn't remotely original. It's an idea that's been practiced for centuries. Still, it's a good one.

My thought process was that people are always pooling money for one reason or another: The college basketball tournament. A coffee club. A lottery-ticket pool.

So, what if a group of folks kicked in, say, 100 bucks a month, and every month a different member received all that money? With say, 12 members, everyone would receive a $1,200 payout once a year.

For people who are well off, or fairly so, that might amount to just a bit of mad money. But for many, that $1,200 could be invested in a small enterprise or used for dental work or new tires or some other essential.

The idea was still bounding around between my eyes when I read a book, "One Spoon On This Earth" by Hyun Ki Young. He was part of the delegation from Santa Rosa's sister city of Jeju who came in February for the Sonoma County Museum's exhibit of art inspired by a post-World War II massacre on the South Korean island.

On Page 232, he notes that his late mother "did not trust banks, so she relied on kye, a traditional way of pooling money together, taking turns in collecting a lump sum, created by relatives."

Then I heard, on NPR's "Morning Edition," a story about the popularity of such pools, or fundraising clubs, or lending circles, among Latinos and others all around the world.

If one year a member collects the lump sum early, then for the rest of the year or he or she pays off a no-interest loan to the others. If you don't collect the kitty until late in the year, then your earlier payments are no-interest loans to the others.

It seems Koreans have looked to kye for pooling money and producing significant wads of cash since the 1600s.

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