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Dos And Don'ts For Talking To Kids About Money

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Dos And Don'ts For Talking To Kids About Money

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Dos And Don'ts For Talking To Kids About Money

Dos And Don'ts For Talking To Kids About Money

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136468139/136468131" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Guests

M. Gary Neuman, psychotherapist and ordained rabbi
Michelle Singletary, writes "The Color Of Money" syndicated column

A poll conducted by a financial education non-profit found 70% of teens said their parents were the most important influence on their spending habits. But fewer than half thought their parents were telling them enough. Tell us: How do you teach your kids about money?

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Jennifer Ludden in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

All this week, NPR's MORNING EDITION has been exploring the relationship between young people and money. One poll by a financial education nonprofit group found 70 percent of teens said their parents were the most important influence on their spending habits, but two-thirds thought their parents weren't telling them enough.

What are you teaching your kids about money? What did your parents teach you? And what things did you have to learn the hard way? How has the economic downturn forced you to change the conversation you have with your kids about money?

Our number is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the hour, the red-crested tree rat is rediscovered after it waltzed right up to two researchers. But first, joining me from his home in the Catskills in New York is M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist, rabbi and bestselling author of seven books, including "In Good Times and Bad: Strengthening Your Relationship When the Going Gets Tough, and the Money Gets Tight." Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. M. GARY NEUMAN (Author, "In Good Times and Bad): Thank you for having me.

LUDDEN: Also with me here in Studio 3A, Michelle Singletary. Her Washington Post column, "The Color Of Money," is syndicated in more than 100 papers, and she is the author of four books, most recently "The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom." Thanks for coming back.

Ms. MICHELLE SINGLETARY (Author, "The Power to Prosper"): Oh, my pleasure as always.

LUDDEN: And let's kick off here with a caller. We have Langston(ph) on the line from Pawleys Island, South Carolina. Hi there.

LANGSTON (Caller): Well, good afternoon.

LUDDEN: I understand you have three daughters, and they've got three different attitudes toward money. Tell us about it.

LANGSTON: That's right. I have a tale of three daughters. I think all of us are shaped, to some degree, by our life experience. My daughters are 28, 25 and 19. When they were 21, 18 and 12, I basically went broke. I was in U.S. textiles and cotton, and all that's gone overseas.

LUDDEN: Tough industry.

LANGSTON: So we went from a period of great affluence to much tighter budgets. And the interesting thing has been that although I have told them things, their own adjustment has varied according to the length of time they experienced affluence.

The 28-year-old seems to think that we'll be going back to Europe any day now for vacation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LANGSTON: The 25-year-old, upon graduation from college, immediately got a job and pronounced to me: I don't - you don't pay my bills, I pay my bills.

LUDDEN: And you're like: Okay, fine.

LANGSTON: Yeah, and the 19-year-old doesn't ask for much, even though she's in college in New Orleans, and I'm sure that there's a great call on money there. She's (unintelligible) this summer working, rather than volunteering or traveling, which I would prefer her to be able to do, because she wants to make some money, and she wants to make her own money.

LUDDEN: Now did you - did this experience change your actions or the way you talked to your children? Had you had - did you have to have conversations you didn't plan on having?

LANGSTON: I have told them, and they understand that, but the degree to which they have absorbed that has varied a bit depending on their experience. I've been very open with them about what's gone on.

LUDDEN: That is interesting.

Mr. NEUMAN: Yeah, what were the primary changes that happened back then? Like, how much did their lifestyle really shift for each of them? Was it very dramatic? Did you have to move homes? Did you...

LANGSTON: We had to sell our house, moved into a townhouse. We only have two cars among the four of us who live at home now, one being married and away. And we don't take vacations.

Mr. NEUMAN: It almost - I'm sorry.

LUDDEN: No, that's all right, go ahead. I'm sorry.

Mr. NEUMAN: No, I was going to say it almost always dictates, when there's a great shift like that psychologically, it's going to change how children are. And it's very common, by the way, when you have a first and second child, and they're the same sex, and they're close in age, almost always however the first one acts, the second one is going to be different. That's almost always about anything.

So if the first one is going to be very spending, the next one is going to be very responsible or vice versa...

LUDDEN: Regardless of whether there's hardship in the house.

Mr. NEUMAN: Correct, correct. They just are different. It goes as well, if one's going to be - the first one's going to be scholastic, the second one is going to be more athletic. You know, it's kind of like: I need my place in the family, and if the oldest one already chose that place, I can't just redo the same thing. So that's a very common thing that you would be dealing with no matter what.

And your younger one, it's interesting...

LANGSTON: So it's not so much birth order as it is I've got to carve out my own space, and it's not going to be the one she's already taken.

Mr. NEUMAN: Exactly. The third one gets to choose more, right. She's now younger, and so she has more of a choice, although there's no doubt that the impact of money and what different ages and stages is going to impact them.

Surely a 12-year-old who's impacted, now she's grown up half her life with much less money and has had to manage and deal with that, as opposed to the older one, who was already past a lot of her development and had money most of her life. So it would be, you know, complicated for her, once reaching adulthood, to adjust.

Children do adjust well. Like we're talking about, if we're clear with them and help them understand what's coming, and they don't have that anxiety and fear of not knowing because that's the number one mistake I always find parents make is not telling their kids what's going on because they're afraid of scaring them.

But they scare them more because they hear all about it. They hear all that anxiety, but they don't know what to do with it because no one's telling them what's happening next.

Ms. SINGLETARY: And I think the lesson that you - his story is really great because the lesson for people who are listening, who may still be doing well, is that as you're raising your children, you don't want them to feel as if they're over-privileged.

And so, you know, my husband and I are very careful about denying them a whole lot of stuff, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: So that they can - when, - you know, they can live in good times and bad times. I think that's the lesson from this recession, as well. You know, it's easy to pull back when times are bad. It's more difficult when times are good because they're good.

And so if you're listening, and you haven't been crushed by this recession, you know, it's really important that you put in some safeguards for your children so that they dont feel as if they're, you know, overly rich because they're only rich when it's your money.

LUDDEN: Let me just pause and say: Langston, thanks so much for sharing your story. We appreciate it.

LANGSTON: Let me say I'd like to second what you asserted. I feel very confident about the future success of the child who grew up with less because the children are always proudest of what they do for themselves. Thank you.

Ms. SINGLETARY: Interesting. Thank you.

LUDDEN: Thank you so much. Now, Michelle Singletary, when you say deny them a lot, you know, I do, and I get the: Why?

Ms. SINGLETARY: Oh, you know, I know...

LUDDEN: Why can't I have more baseball cards? Only because you have 200 at home. What are you - how far do you go in explaining why you're not going to give whatever it is?

Ms. SINGLETARY: Well because I have younger children, I have a two-word answer: college fund.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: Because here at my house - and I encourage everybody, you know, I have this saying that every penny ought to have a purpose. And so I don't think it does your kids justice to say I'm broke, or we don't have the money. I think you have to have a plan for your finances.

And if you want to send your children to college as one of those values in your family, that's the answer that you give them. We don't do a whole bunch of stuff. You don't have a lot of video games. You know, we don't stretch ourselves because I want to send you to college without any debt.

And you can get attitude if you want to. You can roll your eyes if you want to. I don't care. Where you going to live?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NEUMAN: I think...

LUDDEN: Go ahead, Gary Neuman.

Mr. NEUMAN: I think that's wonderful. I think - and I would agree with it. For most people, they've gotten so far ahead of themselves. And the real question I ask Michelle is what the parents are doing. So you sound like a parent who lives and models what she's saying.

For most parents, they're spending a lot - and we as adults, we love the goodies, too. We love to walk into stores, and we think we're rich if we don't have to worry about what it costs and stuff, and we present that to our kids.

Ms. SINGLETARY: Well, and it does feel nice to give your children something.

Mr. NEUMAN: Yes, it feels great.

Ms. SINGLETARY: But you do them a disjustice by giving them too much. You know, I was raised with not a lot. So I was raised low-income. And my grandmother, even when she could, she says: I don't want you to have it better than me.

I would say: You know, don't you want me to have it better than you? She said: No, I don't because I want you to work for what you want. And I think, you know, as Gary was saying, that's the fault that parents have. You don't have those conversations, and you also don't have a plan because kids follow plans.

Kids love structure. Even though we think they don't, they like limits. Well, they don't tell you they like them, but eventually when they grow up and have their own stuff, they come back and go: Thank you, Mommy.

So you don't get your glory while they're growing up. You get the rolling of the eyes. But that's...

Mr. NEUMAN: And it gives them value.

LUDDEN: Let's bring another caller in here. Ron(ph) is in Miami. Hi, Ron.

RON (Caller): Hi, there, how are you?

LUDDEN: Good, go ahead.

RON: Thanks for taking my call. I - there's so much to say about this. I'll try to make it short. My wife and I raised seven children in Brazil. I was a missionary there for a long time.

We came back to the States in 2005, when our youngest daughter was 17. Today she's almost 23. The oldest is 31.

I discovered, here, through my own experience, how dangerous credit cards can be. And my kids have discovered that firsthand, too, because, of course, a lot of times they won't listen to your advice and you can't really twist their arm when they're older. So they have to go through their own experience which sometimes can be painful.

I was fortunate enough to read some books by an author named Dave Ramsey that helped me a lot along this line, and I've since ordered books on Amazon and read them, about finances. I'm educating myself, and at the same time, buying these books for my kids and telling them I want you to learn this because you're going to need this for the rest of your life.

So they know that debt is the enemy, and they have to be balanced. A couple of them just bought cars because they absolutely needed them. They did, unfortunately, have to get into a car payment, but under the understanding -and I know my kids. I know - I trust them, and they trust me - that these car payments are totally their responsibility, and they got into it knowing where they were going.

But what I'm teaching them, basically, is debt is the enemy to be fought and avoided at all costs. Find out what your passion is, educate yourself, develop it; learn to stand on your own two feet as far as career-wise; and no matter what happens with the economy, which is - it really doesn't look good. I mean, with all this debt, the only way out is to pay the debt, and, you know, it will take a miracle for that to happen.

But no matter what, if you develop that foundation for yourself, no matter what happens with the economy anywhere, you will get by. You may not be rich, but you will always get by.

LUDDEN: All right. Ron, thank you so much for the call.

Gary Neuman, you know, we've just recently learned that students loan - I mean, it's good to say that debt is terrible, but so more students than ever apparently are graduating with so much student loan debt. It now outstrips credit card debt. So teaching about debt is kind of necessary for so many families out there. How do you manage that?

Mr. NEUMAN: Sure. These - the real root of debt, to me, is the idea of not spending on things and valuing what you're spending on. There are studies that all show that the number one marker of success for people, in business and in life, is the ability to delay gratification.

When Michelle was saying before, I don't give my kids some things, there's a part of training our children to not have what they see impulsively what they must need. So there's always a certain amount of debt that might be necessary under circumstances, but it's always what you're actually having that spent on.

And being able to teach children that, that what's real value - that's what this whole recession is about - to teach children that they are valuable, and we are valuable - not by the goodies and the things we have - but what we can really do.

You know, I dislike, so much, the idea in today's society when we say to kids, you know, your value is just school. I love school, but it's this message of, you know, your job is to just do school, don't do anything else.

Well, I have five kids. We home schooled four of them. You know, the concept of taking them to nursing homes, them helping other people, doing community service. I always wanted them to learn that, whether you have money in your pocket or not, I have news for you: you are valuable, you mean something to so many other people. And you don't have to wait till you're 25 or 45, and you have money or you have a house. You know, it's that message as a family, that whether we have money or not, we have fun. We have love between us.

And, of course, we should remind our children all the time - we read it all the time in the tabloids and everywhere - that having money and fame, I mean, this does not mean that anybody is going to be happy, married, not divorced or not have broken families. It doesn't mean that people have good relationships. So it's really important, especially for college students, because they are going away.

By the way, my 21-year-old daughter, who's in her master's program, out of nowhere, she gets this credit card. And I said, oh, don't, you know, you don't have a job. How - you can't get a credit card. And, of course, she reminds me I'm a student. Ha, hello. Yeah. They're going to give as much money as I want.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Well, at least, she's on to that.

Mr. NEUMAN: And leaves with a lot of debt.

LUDDEN: Let me just interrupt you here to say, you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Jason is on the line from Dickson, Tennessee.

Hi, Jason.

JASON (Caller): Hi. Thank you for taking my call.

LUDDEN: Go right ahead.

JASON: My parents divorced when I was eight, and my mother had to work two and sometimes three jobs to support us. So she wasn't around, and, obviously, my father wasn't around. And I didn't learn much of anything about the value of money, and it wasn't because, you know, she didn't want to teach me, just because she wasn't there. And so I had to learn everything the hard way from that.

LUDDEN: So for example.

JASON: From how to balance a checkbook and what happens when you don't balance it correctly, and what happens when you don't pay your bills and can't pay your bills and, you know, what credit cards can do to you. I learned it all the hard way.

LUDDEN: So if she was working so hard to support you, though, it sounds like she must have protected you quite a bit by not letting on that she was struggling.

JASON: Yeah. I mean, we struggled. We struggled, and we knew we were struggling. Now, you know, I had two older sisters. I was the youngest. And, of course, they went and got married to men who supported them, and they were good housewives and, you know, did what they were supposed to do as housewives and mothers and - but, for me, you know, I had to kind of get out and do my own thing and find my own way.

And in turn, what I have chosen to do with my children is we've told them, you know, I'm not going to pay you to keep your room clean. That's your room. You know, you need to keep it clean. That's your responsibility. And I'm not going to pay you to get good grades. That's your life. That's your education and your school, you know?

But if you want to wash dishes, if you want to sweep floors, if you want to, you know, vacuum floors and wash the car and do those things, we will pay you for those things. And the challenge for us has been to stick to that.

You know, when they come to us and say, hey, you know, can I get this, you know, new toy or, well, is it your birthday? No. Well, is it Christmas? No. Well, do you have any money from doing your chores? Well no, I didn't do any chores this week. Well, then, I guess you can't get that. To try and teach them the value of, hey, if you want something, then, it's worth working for...

LUDDEN: All right. Jason...

JASON: ...to have the opportunity...

LUDDEN: ...we've got to leave there, but thank you so much for the phone call. We'll talk more about parents, kids and money in a moment and take more of your calls. What are you teaching your kids about money? What did your parents teach you? Our number is 9-800-9 - 800-989-8255. Email us at talk@npr.org. I'm Jennifer Ludden. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

LUDDEN: Right now, we're wrapping up our conversation about kids and money. Our guests are Gary Neuman, a practicing psychotherapist and author of, most recently, "In Good Times and Bad: Strengthening Your Relationship When the Going Gets Tough and the Money Gets Tight," and Michelle Singletary. She writes The Washington Post column "The Color of Money," syndicated in more than a hundred papers, and her most recent book is "The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom."

Before another call, Michelle Singletary, I want to ask you, you know, how young is too young? When do you start talking about money matters, and what, you know, what's age appropriate for different kids?

Ms. SINGLETARY: The moment they start asking for something that's the time to talk about money.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Early.

Ms. SINGLETARY: If you're in the car and they're in the car seat and they're pointing to the yellow arches, that's the time to say, baby, we got a mortgage. We got a college fund, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: What's college, mommy?

Ms. SINGLETARY: You know, it's - I'm telling you. I did it when they were in their car seat, and I have three. And my son was asking I think he was, maybe five; and Ursula(ph), my daughter, was three. And he was asking to go to a fast-food restaurant, and my two-year-old, because I drilled it into him, he was like - and before I can open my mouth, she says - she - my son's name is Kevin. She says, Kevin, you know we can't go. Mommy has a mortgage, you know? Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: And I don't actually know if she knew what a mortgage, but she knew it had to be paid.

LUDDEN: That's the answer. That's great. All right. Let's take another phone call here. Jessica is in Denver.

Hi, Jessica.

JESSICA (Caller): Hi. When my son was about to be a junior in high school, we opened a checking account for him. The bank then was giving a free silver dollar, so that was a good incentive. And I gave my son money at the beginning of every month, and whenever a bill came in that month, he had to pay it. He paid the mortgage, the public service bill, the phone bill, the water and sewage bill, the groceries.

LUDDEN: Now, he's using your money to pay these bills?

JESSICA: Yes.

LUDDEN: Oh, interesting.

JESSICA: But I figured if he was still in high school, he could learn where the money had to go...

LUDDEN: That sounds really smart.

JESSICA: ...and the expenses that he would have to meet. And he paid all the bills, but he learned how to budget. There was some months when we didn't have enough money to pay all the public service bill, and he knew that that month we didn't have a hamburger and we didn't go to the movies. And...

LUDDEN: Wow. Interesting.

Jessica, thanks for the call.

JESSICA: OK, there was more to it than that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: We, you know what, there's so much. I mean, we're going to get as much in as we can, but that is a wonderful...

JESSICA: Well, he learned how to budget very well. When he was in college and got a credit card, he had no problems with it. And then when he had his own apartment, he had no problems arranging to pay the rent every month because he had learned how to budget. And now that he has a young son, he takes him to the store, and my grandson is learning how much he can afford to spend on groceries and some things we can't buy this week.

Ms. SINGLETARY: I bet your daughter-in-law loves you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Jessica, thanks for the call.

Gary Neuman, what are some other, you know, beyond telling kids to save, what are some ways like this that you recommend or tell people to do to really kind of drive it home?

Mr. NEUMAN: Well, for sure, as that lady was explaining, I mean just having them have a greater awareness, you know? As kids nowadays, they just think things magically appear. So helping people even understand where the root of things come. You know, when you take them to a supermarket, you know, where does that apple come from? Who has worked for that? You know, understanding the root cause - the roots of these places is important.

I think that, you know, letting them more about insurance, letting them know that that is something that we have a cost and a value. I think in recession times, I think it's very important to sit down with kids and explain to them that when changes are happening, that look, there are changes happening. We will have to cut back. The reason we're doing this is because we as parents are making sure, to the best of our ability, that our necessities are being taken cared of.

I think children feel good when they're brought into the fold. And sometimes, we can even ask our children, what are some of the things that are very important to you? Sometimes, as parents, we think buying them this is what they really need, you know, send them to camp, and therefore, we have to save and not have them spend all year. And they might say to you, no. The sneakers make me fit in at school. That's what's really valuable to me. I'd rather forego other things.

They've become a part of the budgeting process. They have a voice. But they understand that we're doing this to be responsible so that something horrible or horrific isn't happening.

Ms. SINGLETARY: Right.

Mr. NEUMAN: And most of all, even if something horrible is happening, you have to move, you have to change lifestyles, move in with relatives. You do mention that we are going to be taking of you, that we have a system in place. Even if we don't what's around the corner, that through our love for you, we're going to work this out. And keep talking and you keep asking questions and we're going to do the best of our ability to manage, through what are for some people some extraordinarily difficult times.

LUDDEN: There's an interesting email from Victor. He writes: I'm 26 years old, the youngest of eight who grew up a poor immigrant, and my parents always talked about our financial situation. However, because we came to this country for its economic opportunity, they also gave us what we wanted, got into debt and passed this on to several of my siblings. I think parents need to not only teach their kids about money, but also be good examples on money matters. Michelle Singetary.

Ms. SINGLETARY: Yeah. You know, children live what they learn, they learn when live. And, you know, people will say, how can I say no to my children? How can I teach them? They are watching you whether you know it or not.

We've heard callers who got - who involved their children, intimately, into finances. You know, I'm not going to necessarily do that with my kids. I don't want them to know how much I make because they going to be telling the neighbors.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: But it's the key thing to - everybody is saying it's conversation. And so, it's really important that you do that and in the household.

And I think Gary put the pin in the needle, or in the haystack, or whatever you call it. You have to have values within your home, because they can latch on to that. We value our college education with no debt. We value, you know, buying a car with no debt. We value tithing. We value giving to charity. And so, in order to do all those things, there are things we cannot do that your friends might be doing. And I think that's how you get them to buy into the right things to do with your money, because you just can't - you can't say any longer, to this generation, because I said so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Right. Right.

Ms. SINGLETARY: It's not going to work.

LUDDEN: It's not the end of the conversation.

Ms. SINGLETARY: It's not the end of the conversation. You can go on the Internet...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: ...and they'll say somebody else said this. And so that's - and that's why, even though I think it's important to the educational institutions, our high schools and college, to teach kids about finances, it actually has to start in the home, because that's where they're going to get the values. And it's those values that are going to carry them through to make sure that they do the right thing with their money.

LUDDEN: All right. Let's get one more caller in here. Celeste in Lafayette, Louisiana. Hi, Celeste.

CELESTE (Caller): Hey. I have a quick trick. Being a poor, single parent, I could never buy anything for my poor daughter. So every time we go in the store, I never bought anything for her in the store that she wanted. If we're grocery shopping, we just got groceries. We don't even go to Toys "R" Us, and we would play there - and I just couldn't afford the toys. So we would play there and then leave and Molly thought that Toys "R" Us was play place. So she (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

CELESTE: And it enforced the habit, though, that we don't buy things in the store. You get things on special occasions. You can save for things. And to this day - she's 13 - she knows not to ask from me - anything for me - from me while in the store. So that was a trick born of necessity and it completely worked.

LUDDEN: And you didn't get confronted when she saw those other little kiddies walking out of the store with the big bag?

CELESTE: She just - I don't know if she was oblivious or she was particularly happy kid. But she - you know, the registers were kind of to one side and I'd exist out the entrance.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NEUMAN: There you go.

LUDDEN: Lady, Toys "R" Us.

Ms. SINGLETARY: I love it. I love it.

Mr. NEUMAN: It's the Toys "R" Us museum. That's...

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: That's right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CELESTE: One day she said, oh, you can buy toys from there?

LUDDEN: I know. That's great. Thanks for sharing, Celeste. Yeah. I have a friend who has four sons who kept bugging her about something that was being advertised on TV. She said, okay, fine. This is a piece of crap and I'm going to show you. She got it, it broke, and that was that. I love it.

Ms. SINGLETARY: But, you know, see, humor is a really good tool with your kids. They might not always find it funny, but - and having rules as the mother said she sort of have the rules when they went to the store. And with my own children, when they would watch television, they see something, commercials. I'd say, well, the rule in this house is you can't get anything you see on the television commercial. So my little one saw something, rushed in, mommy, mommy, I want this. I said, where did you see it? And she stopped and she thought and she said, it came to me in a dream.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SINGLETARY: Because she knew the rule why she couldn't get something that's in the commercial.

Mr. NEUMAN: I think...

LUDDEN: That's pretty funny.

Mr. NEUMAN: Yeah. Also, it's the impulse, you know. I always teach children, if they see something in a store that they like, let's go home. Let's think about it. If you want it in a week, then let's talk about it. Then maybe it's something that you really want. You know, we don't realize that advertising is all overloading our impulse purchases.

The important thing, again, is for these children not to feel poor. You know, we know so many children who were raised in such poverty and they say they didn't feel poor, because, you know, the family had value. Thei family had meaning. And it didn't matter whether you had this or had that. They had enough to get by. And if they had a little extra and they spent it on themselves or somebody else, they saw what it could purchase.

So, sometimes people have a little money, but they make their children feel poor by just saying, we don't have money for that. Why do you think we have money for that? You know, those kinds of attitudes, like, oh, I have to go without. Instead of teaching them that, hey, listen, nobody has everything. Everyone has to go without something. So it's not a matter of going without because it's terrible and horrible. It's a matter of making really healthy choices for things that really make life better, and that it's not just the price tag.

LUDDEN: All right. We need to leave it there. But this had been, not only helpful, but really fun. Gary Neuman, psychotherapist and ordained rabbi. He's the bestselling author of seven books, including "In Good Times and Bad: Strengthening Your Relationship When the Going Gets Tough and the Money Gets Tight." Thanks for joining us from the Catskills.

Mr. NEUMAN: Thank you.

LUDDEN: And Michelle Singletary, author of The Washington Post column "The Color of Money," syndicated in 100 papers. She's author of four books, most recently, "The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom." Thank you so much, Michelle.

Ms. SINGLETARY: You're welcome. Remember, parents, the most powerful word in the English language: No.

LUDDEN: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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