Billy Pratt Shares His $5 Story


In our ⭐100th ⭐ episode of “The Heart of Your Money” podcast, guest Billy Pratt shares his inspiring “$5 Story” experiment. In this experiment…

💌 He sent $5 bills to 43 people with no restrictions on how to use it.
💌 Recipients used the money for self-care, charity, and helping others, showing the power of small acts of kindness.

The project emphasized the importance of giving with intention and sparked transformational experiences. This led to our announcement of our new podcast, “For the Love of Kindness,” celebrating and spreading the message of kindness and its positive impact on communities.

Unlock the power of mindful money decisions – Listen now!🎧💡

Show Notes:

Zena: Hey there! Welcome to the Heart of Your Money. This is episode 100, and I have a special guest with me to celebrate a hundred episodes. I want to welcome Bill Pratt, president of Leadership by Pratt, which is a charity leadership consulting. Bill, thank you for joining me.

Bill: Oh, you’re most welcome, especially extra happy to be here on episode 100. That is amazing. Well done to you for putting a hundred in the bag.

Zena: Thank you. You can’t see it, but my hands are shaking in the air, and I’m like, “What have I talked about for a hundred episodes?” I should be apologizing to people when I don’t have guests. I don’t know. But thank you. I thought it was perfect to have you on here. Bill, I want to ask you a question, and then I’m going to ask you to share. Do you think $5 can change the world?

Bill: It can, and it does, little by little.

Zena: Okay, so that was my introduction into sharing with me your $5 money story because I absolutely love it when we chatted, and I want everybody to hear about it today.

Bill: Excellent. Happy to share the story of the $5 story and what that is. It was about, I guess, about a year and a half ago. I had this idea thinking, I wonder what would happen if I sent people I know or random strangers $5 and see what happens. And I thought, okay, well, I’m going to do this. So what I did is I wrote a letter and in the letter, I put a $5 bill and I mailed it to my colleagues. It all went by mail. There were no e-transfers or anything like that, so people received it in the mail or I handed it to them in person if I knew them and they were here in the city. In the letter, I just said, “I invite you to be part of the $5 story, and there are only two rules. You can do whatever you want with the $5, and when you’re done, please take a survey.” That was it. There was no influencing, saying you have to spend it on this, whatever. You can do whatever you want. So I sent that to, I think it was about 40. It was actually 43 people that got it.

Zena: That is incredible because I’m very curious. I want you to share with us what are some of the things that people spent the $5 on. So in your follow-up, what are some examples of what people did with it?

Bill: Yeah, there were, in its biggest buckets, a lot went to someone else. Some used it for what we call self-care. They bought themselves a milkshake or a hamburger because they’d had a busy day. Somebody said, “I had a really hard day, so I bought myself a coffee,” and specifically, we saw them buying Tim Hortons smile cookies, so they must have had them out at that time. There were five or six people who said they bought smile cookies for somebody. People who worked in a healthcare setting or an institution that has a cafeteria bought a coffee for someone else. In most cases, it was actually for a healthcare worker because we were still coming out of the pandemic. So there was still that kind of feeling in the air. Some donated it to a charity, and some opted to add money to it and gave it to a charity. There were also some people who said that they just gave it to somebody who showed up at their windshield when they stopped at an intersection or they put it in the donation box of the museum. I think it was a museum they went through, and they put it in the donation box there.

Zena: Do you think they were surprised to get your letter and to receive $5? Did you give them a heads up before you did it, or was when they opened up the envelope and read that the first that they’d heard of it?

Bill: It was the first they’d heard of it. And what was really interesting, I can’t… I wasn’t sitting there when they opened it. So I’m going to give you an answer based on what they’ve told me and what they answered in their survey. There was some surprise, but it went beyond that. There was a little bit of, “I feel honored, I feel special, I feel privileged to receive this.” So I think that’s a whole other study waiting to be investigated because it’s not because I’m somebody special, but just because of the relationship we have. There was definitely a sense of feeling honored to be chosen to be part of this. And perhaps there’s a little bit of that because of who’s giving it, and it could also have been the amount because it wasn’t a loony, it wasn’t a toony, it was $5. And for a lot of people, $5 may not be a lot, but for others, it’s significant, you know, it can make a real big difference that day. If you have nothing and you get $5, that’s a big win. But $5 is different. It just would’ve been different with 20. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think $5 seemed to be just an odd amount, and it made people feel special to be part of this.

Zena: Yeah, they probably felt acknowledged, right? That you chose them to be a part of that generosity because there is a feeling of generosity. I know you said that $5 doesn’t seem like a lot to some, but you’re right, it’s that in-between amount where you don’t feel guilty. Like, “Oh, he gave 40 people $20. Boy, that sure added up.” It was this acknowledgement of the, it does seem like the right amount. And what I will say is, there’s no amount too big or too small because especially right now, and so some of the conversation I’ve heard, whether it’s right or wrong, has been, “I’ve cut back a little bit on my $5 lattes at Starbucks,” right? So people are actually acknowledging that it can mean, it adds up, the value of money. And so I think that’s pretty interesting. What was the overall, so in the responses that you got, you gave some examples of how they spent it, but was there anything more in their responses that added some emotion to that money that sparked something more than just the transaction that they did with it?


Bill: Yes, very much so. There was, uh, transformational is a big word, and it, you know, and it’s a, it’s a big leap from transactional. So I don’t know if I can say they were transformational experiences. However, there were ones that were getting pretty darn close to it. And I think of what it was, you know, there was one they said, you know, I got it and I sat down with my husband and my two children, and we had a family conversation about it. They had a conversation about $5. What should we do with the $5? And which, and speaking with this person who’s very accomplished professionally and you know, all kinds of things and money is not a concern and yet this sparked this family conversation, which they said they felt very fortunate and there’s a lot of gratitude for that opportunity to have that conversation. Somebody else. And, he, he plays on a rec hockey team and he took the $5 to the practice and he told his guys he plays hockey with, he said, here’s what’s going on. Tell me your story of something you’ve done that’s hasn’t, that has been selfless. You know, how you’ve helped somebody else, and I’ll give the $5 to the best story. And so one of the guys on the hockey team who, he, who know, of course, they’ve been playing hockey together for years and you know, they, but, they never had a really in depth conversation. Well, he proceeded to tell a story that it was just mind blowing in terms of how he interacted with this young person and it’s literally, changed this person’s life and all this which, He would never have got, he said, I probably would never have gotten that story if I hadn’t had the opportunity with the $5. And so to, to your question about was there something more than just, smile cookies? There was, there was a lot going on and, you know, some people were very thoughtful in their asking. They said, you know, my, our child has such and such disease, so we decide to. Multiply that $5 by 10 and make a donation to that charity. It was, and the word that came out very often for most people was they were very intentional about what they did. It made them pause and then be intentional about how they spent that $5. 

Zena: So that question I asked is, you know, can you change the world with $5? And you said little bit by little bit. Yes. And it’s not necessarily about the compounding value of interest, right? We’re talking about something bigger than that. That’s so I, it really resonates with me because it’s more than the actual dollar value. It’s the, joy and purpose and the intention. You use that word intention with our money. And that has been my entire, you know, in, in trying to help people with financial planning and money, it’s always about being intentional and matching with your values. And so it’s, it really sparked, that I think that $5 story it opened up, and it’s about. Putting your money where your heart is and all the different things that you can do with it behind that. So what did you learn the most? What surprised you the most about, following up on, on everything and the responses. So what did you expect going into it? And then what surprised you and what did you learn after? 

Bill: Okay, so, what, maybe surprised me was the amount of genuine appreciation from the recipients to, of the people who got the $5 for being included in this. It was just, I actually, you know, I felt this like, wow, that’s like, it was, it was, I didn’t do it for anyone to say, well, that’s a really nice singer. That’s a great idea. I just had this idea now that I wanna s I wanna see what happens. But the, I think the appreciation for me, that came back to me, which was not expected, not planned for. And you know me well enough that I don’t live my life looking, walking around going, notice me. Right? It’s just, I wanna help. And that, that surprised me, how significant that was. And I think, I think the other, so he asked me what surprised me? What did I learn or, yeah, I think what I learned from it is, maybe there are two parts to it. One was a, Underscored again, how valuable it is to give, you know, the things that, and it’s not simply because of what the person receives is what we, as the giver received, and then nobody got a tax receipt for this.

Nobody’s pension plan increased or RSP increased. Nothing. You know, there, there is nothing I. Tangible that you could touch that came back to you from this other than something inside of you that made you feel, you know, and I can say 40 or to 40 felt good, whether they gave it to themselves as self-care or. In most cases, in almost all cases to somebody else, they felt good about it. And really what the other thing that came out of it was, I think it just showed there’s more kindness in the world than we’d see on a day-to-day basis. You know, here’s 40 people who went out and, you know, none of, none of the 40 people came back and said, wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever helped somebody. Or, you know, and, and I know these people help people, but just for a moment, we had 40 people went out and sat into the universe this ripple. That impacted others so easily. And I think there’s more of that going on than we actually see and it’s just because the world we live in, so polarized and everybody’s, I’m right, you’re wrong. And never the train shall meet. Right. And I think for me it was just, I dunno. I just, it reminded me, you know what, there’s kindness in the world and there’s a lot of good people and there’s a lot of people that want to do well. And when you help people pause, that’s the thing. Right. That’s, and maybe that’s the last thing I’ll say about that, you know that last, is if we can find a way to help people pause for a moment in this daily routine of what all we all have going on. It’s amazing what we see, what we can do, what we think, what we feel. And it’s not about, you know, sitting, I’m not sitting here saying, you know, everybody needs to take 20 minutes and meditate. You know, just break. Which is fine, that’s all good thing. Those are all good things. It’s just, it’s more of, you know, here’s something that’s a little different that’s gonna make you just pause for a moment. See what you’re gonna do. And what you get out of that then is like, all these people I know, they had an experience, did it change their life? No. You know, but you have enough of these $5 experiences, whatever those experiences may be, you add ’em up, my gosh, three years later, it’s a whole different world, you know, if you’ve been doing right.

Zena: Bringing intention to it all. And then it’s also that ripple effect that, that. And, and then it warms the heart, you know, and it, and it doesn’t. This, what we’re talking about isn’t the actual dollar value that was given, or it was, you know, all the emotions that surround the actual physical money. It’s not the actual amount. And I think that that’s, a lesson that goes with our everyday finances. That’s everything that I’ve, I truly believe in is that we can put our, our money in all the right places, and it’s more than just currency. Right. 

Bill: Yeah. The $5 story did not drive the economic performance of any community. However, it did probably have a little bump in the , in the social fabric of those communities, just for a moment. Yep and that’s, that’s pretty special and that’s pretty cool. 

Zena: Aw, thank you Bill for sharing that story with us. So once again, you always inspire me, totally creative and courageous leadership that I have always admired and I am always happy to learn from. So thank you for sharing that today on the hundredth episode.

Can I ask you, can we share a project that you and I have up our sleeve coming soon? Can it, can I let it out? 

Bill: Open the gates and let it rip It’s time. 

Zena: Okay, so Bill and I have, started another podcast and it so leans into this theme, and I didn’t even plan this I know nobody will believe this, right? But that’s just everything we talk about revolves around kindness. Now, share with us, tell the listeners what is our project. 

Bill: You and I, bill and Zena have created a podcast called For the Love of Kindness. And this podcast we’ve come together to celebrate and amplify kindness in our communities and because we, kindness is such a special thing. And you know, you and I have talked about it and on our podcast we get deep into it about why kindness matters all the time and every time, and it’s such a, Simple concept. And when you execute it and you deliberate, deliver on it, and you talk about it and you reinforce it, it spreads. And that’s why we have, for the love of kindness, because we wanna celebrate and amplify kindness because it matters every time, all the time. 

Zena: It makes total sense because every time we get together, we’re talking , and recording. There’s always, this peace in there, and it’s always about human kindness. So I’m excited that we’ve got, we’re launching this and I’ll share more with our listeners, and of course I’ll share links and get everyone out there, all the information they need. 

But stay tuned because we’ve got some amazing things coming down the pipeline with that as well. 

Thank you Bill, for sharing today your $5 story and celebrating my hundredth episode, and I’m sure we’ll be having you back on the heart of money. And listeners, stay tuned for the love of kindness coming soon.