Dave Barry Explains the Value of a Dollar Perhaps with a eye toward eventual retirement, Dave Barry's new book examines fundamental economic questions, such as 'Where does money come from anyway?'
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Dave Barry Explains the Value of a Dollar

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Dave Barry Explains the Value of a Dollar

Dave Barry Explains the Value of a Dollar

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From NPR News in Washington, DC, I'm Neal Conan, and this is TALK OF THE NATION.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: A few years ago, Dave Barry argued that duck butt decoys provide the perfect garnish for your holiday punchbowl.

Mr. DAVE BARRY (Humorist and Author, Money Secrets): Then the manufacturer said that could be a problem, in that the alcohol in the punch might dissolve some of the paint and it could be toxic.

CONAN: People put alcohol in that punch?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, apparently they do, especially with duck butts in it. But my feeling is that anybody who drinks from a bowl with duck butts in it deserves to die.

CONAN: Now Dave Barry asks the critical questions about money, like, why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar? Dave Barry's Money Secrets, plus the State Department's memo on Niger, yellowcake and Iraq, and the sad, sad story of Ziggy, the too-perfect parrot. It's the TALK OF THE NATION after the news.


CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Dave Barry just won't quit. The Pulitzer Prize winner did drop his syndicated column in the Miami Herald a year ago, but refuses to focus his life around the racetrack and the golf course like other Floridian male of a certain age, and continues to work, work on movies and books. Perhaps with an eye toward eventual retirement, he's now published a book of economic advice, the do-it-yourself financial guide of the 21st Century.

So, if you have questions about starting your own business, teaching your kids about money, how to get rich on Wall Street, or about fundamental economic questions, where does money come from anyway, our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. The email address, the new one, talk@npr.org.

Later in the program, what the State Department concluded about Niger's alleged sale of uranium to Iraq, and the classic romantic quadrangle of Chris, Suzy, Gary, and Ziggy the parrot. But first, Dave Barry joins us here in studio 3A. He's the author, most recently, of Dave Barry's Money Secrets, like why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar bill? Nice to have you here in person, Dave.

Mr. BARRY: Thanks to be here.

CONAN: So, why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar bill?

Mr. BARRY: Oh, I'm glad you asked that question, because I do address it in the book. I currently think it's national security. I think there's an actual camera in there. There's a little chip inside the, in the dollar bill.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: And it can see you. It is sending images back to a head computer, probably somewhere here in the Washington, DC, area. So, right now, it's probably picking up a lot of the insides of people's wallets.

CONAN: You'd think so.

Mr. BARRY: But it could catch an act of terrorism, potentially, or if you see one, you could just hold your dollar up and eyeball side out, that's, and your government thanks you.

CONAN: Well, that's, you know, this whole idea of money. I mean, you know, originally, as you point out in the book, people, you know, valuated the price of things in cows.

Mr. BARRY: They used cows for money for a long, long time, which was fine as well as it went. It made it very difficult to rob people, for example, because how far are you gonna get with a cow?

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: But it, also, the issue of change was a big problem, because you have to use smaller animals like your squirrels, your hamsters, which don't, they tend to scamper off. You're always losing your money. So then, they tried a whole lot of different things, and for a while, they went with gold. Now we use, because we're smart, sophisticated people, pieces of paper, which is...

CONAN: Boy, that'll fool them.

Mr. BARRY: As long as we all really believe in them, they're really valuable.

CONAN: Yes, yes, yes.

Mr. BARRY: Because if you were to give somebody, like, in exchange for his house, acorns, everybody would say, you idiot, you took, but now you get pieces of paper with an eyeball on them, so everybody's saying, everybody believes in that. That's how our money system...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: People think we're kidding at this point, but we're actually not.

CONAN: This is all true.

Mr. BARRY: It's better that we just don't let that get around because there will be a panic.

CONAN: In fact, I read somewhere that there's a phrase that appears throughout this book, I'm not making this up.

Mr. BARRY: No, I'm not. For a while, a lot of people believe, I think still believe, that their currency is backed by gold. And I just want to say, if you go to Fort Knox and ask, and with your dollars, and asked for your gold, I'm sure they'll welcome you with open, no, you'll be used as a chew toy by federal dogs if you do that, so please, don't try to get any gold for your money. It's just pieces of paper, folks, but it, but we all believe in it.

CONAN: We all have to learn about the value of money, the value of that dollar, and of course, the eyeball. As children, and you wrote that as a child, well, your family wasn't all that rich, and...

Mr. BARRY: No, we weren't.

CONAN: And you grew up, you know, the way you made extra money was mowing lawns.

Mr. BARRY: Mowing a lawn, well, not so much mowing the lawn, but we did have a lawnmower, and this is how I learned the value of a dollar. It was a really old, crummy lawnmower, and when spring would come and the lawn would start to grow, I would go out and yank on the starter motor.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: 50, 70, 1,000, who knows how many times, but it wouldn't start. And then I would go in and whine to my parents for money, and they would give it to me. It was hard work, but I did it, because that's the way it was in those days. Now, kids today, they want everything just handed to them, and that's why I think it's so important to stress financial discipline to them, to tell them, to sit them down and say, listen, just because your friends have food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, that doesn't mean you get to have those things. Teach them. That's what I'm saying. Be a grownup.

CONAN: There's the eternal question of how much allowance should kids have?

Mr. BARRY: Very, very complicated, difficult, a lot of variables. Three dollars.

CONAN: Three dollars.

Mr. BARRY: It's plenty, plenty, and they should put one dollar aside every week to teach them that they'll have money saved up, and also, it's useful for you in case you run out of money. You can just borrow theirs.

CONAN: In case you need beer.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, they should keep it, yeah. Keep it, you should keep some, well, none for them, the beer. That would be your beer money.

CONAN: Well, that's another, that's another book about, that I'm sure you're gonna be writing later about, you know, culture, and that sort of thing. But anyway, 800-989-8255 if you have economic questions for Dave Barry. His new book is Dave Barry's Money Secrets. Or, you can send us email, talk@npr.org, and let's begin with Larry. Larry's calling us from Cleveland in Ohio.

LARRY (Caller): Hey, Dave, how are you?

Mr. BARRY: Fine, Larry. How are you?

LARRY: Good. I just want to say first off I've been big fan of yours for many years, and I've actually taken financial advice from you already.

Mr. BARRY: That's pretty scary, Larry. If this about a lawsuit, Larry, this is not the number.

LARRY: No, no. No, I bought your book on homeownership.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, Okay.

LARRY: And yeah, I went with a book of checks, and was told by your book that just anyone could walk in and ask me for a check, and I had to write it, fill out and give it to them.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, I do, I describe the...

LARRY: It turned out to be true.

Mr. BARRY: ...the ritual homeownership closing ceremony, where they start with reasonable-sounding documents.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: You know, this is the title search, this is the insurance. But then they slowly work down. This is your share of the Spanish American War debt, this is the digestive system of a badger, and you have to sign these things or you don't get your house. It's that simple. And then word gets around the legal community. Hey, there's a signing going on, and he will sign a, he'll write a check for anything in there, you know.

CONAN: Anything.

Mr. BARRY: And eventually, you basically just open the window and throw money out is what you do.

LARRY: And that turned out to be entirely true.

Mr. BARRY: That's exactly how it works.

LARRY: I guess, just based on what I heard the first part of the interview before I turned off the radio was I guess I should not start saving my acorns and walnuts for my future retirement.

Mr. BARRY: Actually, I think they're probably better, you're better off with that than your social security at this point.

CONAN: Isn't that how social security's paid, so many acorns per month?

Mr. BARRY: Now as I understand it, we have a social security crisis coming up, which as I understand it people my age, I myself am 58.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: I'm a baby-boomer person. We're gonna get all our money, but the people much like my kids are not gonna get their money. So, what's the problem?

CONAN: Yeah. Does anybody see any difficulty? Their worldview of you, right, is completely screwed up, because they think this is all about them.

Mr. BARRY: Exactly. It's not about you. It's about us, the baby boomers. No, it's...

LARRY: I'm gonna go, but I just wanted to say I have been a big fan for years, and I will continue to follow your financial advice for as long as you're writing it.

Mr. BARRY: Larry, that's good, and if you do end up in a refrigerator carton, God bless you.

CONAN: Next time you're in a halfway house, give us a call.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah.

LARRY: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Larry. Let's talk to Bill, and Bill's calling from where? Fort Gibson in Oklahoma.

BILL (Caller): Yes, sir.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

BILL: Yes, sir, can you hear me?

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: We hear you, Bill.

BILL: Thanks for taking my call being as we have a genius onboard to answer many questions. The Republicans and the leadership in Washington, D.C. believes that removing the mortgage interest rates for homeowners, or cutting it way down, is a way to raise taxes and so on and so forth, and there's a lot of people that are relying on that, and pretty well have bought their homes and so on and so forth. And so, what I was wondering is what is your thought on splitting a payment, and making half of it a mortgage interest deduction, and the other half reducing the principle, instead of it being when you first buy a house, the majority of it is a interest write-off.

So, just automatically, half the payment's interest, and the other half is principle reduction, which increases the equity in a home faster for people. That would help America. If they're not gonna grandfather everybody in that's done, that's bought homes heretofore, what would be wrong with that. And I'll take your answer off the air.

Mr. BARRY: Okay, my...

CONAN: Well, thanks for the call, Bill. And I think principle reduction, wasn't that your, the subject of your other book on schools and diets?

Mr. BARRY: That's why I can, no, I have to say I completely agree with everything the caller said that I understood, which was that he was in Oklahoma.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: Beyond that, I've kind of, it was a little hazy to me, but I really think that anything he thinks, I think, especially if there's a chance he's armed.

CONAN: There is also along the way, with financial advice there, there's this important professional advice. Do you remember your three important tips on how to operate a computer, of course is going to be the future for everybody?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, well, yeah sooner or later. I think the three steps are you turn it on. That's step one. Step two, you wait for it to boot up. And step three, you call technical support.

CONAN: And that will take the rest of you life.

Mr. BARRY: Actually, I, speaking of technical support, I have a proposal in my book for businesses people can start.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: And one of them is tech support for baby boomers, which I really think somebody could get rich doing it, and basically, the problem is this, there are a lot of people my age, we're baby boomers. We buy technical, we think we're technically sophisticated, so we buy gadgets. But then we don't actually know how to work them.


Mr. BARRY: A good example, like mp3 things, you know that there's supposed to be music coming out, but you don't really now how that, at least I don't, how it gets in there, how it gets out.

Or you buy digital camera, which we all have one of. And you take lots and lots of pictures, and you know there in there somewhere, but you don't know how to get them out of the camera. So, you tend to show your pictures, at least I do, to other people.

CONAN: Right away.

Mr. BARRY: On the back of the camera, which is, so you know, and you can't see, because the other thing about us is our eyes aren't that great. So, you say like this is either the Eiffel Tower, or a Bar Mitzvah. You know, and so what I thought and, then typically what you do when you have a problem is you call technical support. But it's always somebody who's 23 years old. Usually, it's also somebody in like, Malaysia. But the key problem is that they're young, and they think that you understand them, and you don't.

So, my idea would be, you would call technical support, and you would get, if you push a special boomer number, and you get somebody just as old as you are.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

Mr. BARRY: And you'd say your problem, which is I can't get the pictures out of my camera. And the person would go, ha, I can't do that, either. And you wouldn't solve your problems, but you'd feel so much better than you do now, which is waiting, talking, and then still not being able to do it.

CONAN: The other business that you proposed is the where the heck are my glasses?

Mr. BARRY: Finding your reading, yes, you'd call a toll free number and they would tell you where your reading glasses were.

CONAN: How would they know?

Mr. BARRY: Well, they wouldn't have to tell you, because you would never remember the number. It would just be a, you would get them to subscribe, but they would never, you know.

CONAN: And you'd step on something sharp, and...

Mr. BARRY: And you're, walking to get to the phone, you'd step on something sharp, at least that's what I do. My floor, people say, what's your floor made of, Dave, at your house? I'd say, it's reading glasses, for the most part.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail question, this from Steven in Phoenix, Arizona. Please explain in simple language, what is the Federal Reserve, and what does it do? If that's too hard, please how to explain how to get out of paying alimony.

Mr. BARRY: Okay, Federal Reserve is a big reserve that we have here in Washington. Is that right, Neal?

CONAN: That's right.

Mr. BARRY: It's here, antelope, and buffalo there. And well, it's run by a man, or was, I think he's a retired man named, Alan Greenspan. And what happens is, when we are concerned about the economy, they call Alan out. And if he sees his shadow, then he raises the interest rates. Or something, it's along those lines, anyway. And that's what the Federal Reserve does and it keeps the economy on an even keel.

CONAN: After...

Mr. BARRY: What was the other one, alimony?

CONAN: How to get out of paying alimony?

Mr. BARRY Oh, okay. Well, I would recommend the same technique that I use...

CONAN: To get out of paying for the IRS.

Mr. BARRY: For the income tax, which is...


Mr. BARRY: It's a little tip, and I don't know why nobody thinks of it. Where it says name, write your name, and then write deceased right after your name. Now, that also has to change the way you answer your phone, of course.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: Which would be like, in your case, you would say, this is Neal, unless it's the IRS, in which case, this is not Neal.

CONAN: The other one was to set up a summer home in Uzbekistan.

Mr. BARRY: Yes, because how are they going to check that?

CONAN: There you go. After a short break, more financial advice from Dave Barry. Call with your questions, 800-989-8255, the address for e-mail questions, talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan, back after the break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking today with Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize winning humorist and now financial advisor. Dave Barry's Money Secrets has just been published, like, why is there a giant eyeball on the dollar? Believe me, that's on the cover.

And we've also now understood the reason why Dave Barry chose to write this book: of course, his enormous financial acumen, and the chance of getting a picture of himself in a wig.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, there's a picture of me dressed as George Washington. I just, I don't want, do I look like that, Neal?


Mr. BARRY: Okay, good.

CONAN: But, you look like a guy who likes wearing wigs, though.

Mr. BARRY: A little too much you think?

CONAN: I don't know. We've got another caller on the line. This is Ray. Ray is calling from Kansas City.

RAY (Caller): Yes, I have a question regarding IRAs. I work for an organization in which I set up an IRA in two individual accounts. And I learned that my employer transferred one of my accounts to the other accounts without my knowledge. And I'm wondering if I discover discrepancies on that, how to, how do I address debating any discrepancies?

Mr. BARRY: Okay, first of all, you don't want to go into his office with a machete, okay, because that's completely a violation of the Code of Ethics. You want to, you're talking about an IRA, now?

RAY: Yes, but is an ex-employer.

CONAN: It's an ex-employer, in that case, I think the machete is just perfectly okay.

Mr. BARRY: Then I'm sorry, I take that back about the machete. Get the machete, you know, and just, you know. Don't use it, because that's really wrong, but just sort of have it in your hands when you discuss this with him.

CONAN: It's sometimes effective if you just hone it while you're talking to him.

Mr. BARRY: Hone it, maybe split, like, hold a piece of paper up and go whoosh, and just...

CONAN: That's a good one.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, yeah.

CONAN: Yeah, okay. Ray, thanks very much for the call.

RAY: I mean, there's agencies where you're supposed to report this. How do I do that?

Mr. BARRY: Okay, well then, I would just call an agency right now and report it. That's how I would handle that.

CONAN: The Ford Agency is probably a good idea. Anyway, thank you for the call, Ray.

Mr. BARRY: I think we really helped Ray quite a bit.

CONAN: I think we really helped Ray quite a bit. And somebody may want to look into his next step.

Mr. BARRY: I would hope Ray really doesn't have a machete, because, you know, or if he does, that he doesn't know where I live. But, anyway.

CONAN: Another e-mail question. This one is from Scott in Bowling Green, Ohio. What is a pig future and should I invest in them or it?

Mr. BARRY: Okay, pig futures, I actually cover the options market a little bit. If you suspect that there's going to be a rise in the price of pigs, or as there known on Wall Street, porks, you should, you want to go long on, or is it short? I can never remember.

CONAN: It's one or the other.

Mr. BARRY: You want to go long or short on porks. Bit what you do is you go there and you put in a bid for like a certain number of pork bellies. Let's say, in your case, what was his name again?

CONAN: This was, I just threw this over here. This was Scott.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, Scott, I would say, Scott, and I'm familiar with Scott's situation. We want to go in for like five to 10,000 pork bellies. Okay, so you put in, and you put in a bid for them. Now, here's the really important thing, Scott. Write that information down, because you want to sell them before they come due. Because the last thing you really want, trust me when I tell you this, is a pork belly. Okay?

CONAN: Much less 5,000.

Mr. BARRY: Exactly. You don't want to one morning look out and there's the UPS man with a refrigerated truck, saying Scott, here's your pork. And, you know, that's, you want to pawn them off on somebody else, okay. Somebody, Scott, even less sophisticated than yourself.

CONAN: Somebody who really likes bacon.

Mr. BARRY: Right, or just is stupid.

And then you, that's the way it works. And then, one minute, everybody trades the pork belly options until finally, some pathetic loser actually ends up with pork bellies, which are really useful only as a prank. So that's basically my feeling on the whole option situation.

CONAN: Let's talk now with Charles, Charles in Chesterfield, Missouri.

CHARLES (caller): Howdy. Well, Dave, I've always been trying to find out, who prints the money and what basis do they print it on? Is it because they did something like run out of acorns or they want more acorns?

Mr. BARRY: Well, I think that, originally, as I said, they really, you actually could trade the money in for something useful, gold, I think. Then it was, I believe it was President Richard Nixon, who decided that it was, it was just, gold was actually valuable, right? So, why if you have the gold would you give it up for a piece of paper? I think that was kind of how the government felt about that. And if they just sort of said, we'll keep the gold and you get to keep these pieces of paper.

CONAN: Richard Nixon, so warmly remembered by so many of his countrymen.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, so that's really how it happened, Scott. But at some point, we all just sort of bought into the idea that paper is really valuable. I certainly think it is.

CONAN: And I guess Charles thinks it is.

Mr. BARRY: And I'm a pretty sophisticated guy.

CONAN: He didn't want to spend more of his hanging on the phone like that.

Mr. BARRY: He's gone?

CONAN: Let's go to Jennifer. Jennifer is calling from Tallahassee.

JENNIFER (Caller): Hi, Dave.

Mr. BARRY: Hello, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: I have a question. I'm thinking about buying a home for the first time and I want to know what these point things are. What are points, explain them to me?

Mr. BARRY: Points are a certain amount of, points is a code word for money. Okay, when they say you're going to have to pay them points that means you're going to have to give them money.

But they just, well they're not going to come right out and tell you that. But what you...

JENNIFER: I don't get anything tangible out of it. I mean...

Mr. BARRY: No, no, you just give them money. Well, you get a house. I mean, but houses are not as tangible as people think they are. And I hope you're not going to make one of the two big mistakes that many homebuyers make.

CONAN: And what would those be, Dave?

Mr. BARRY: Number one would be buying an old house. Number two would be buying a new house. These are the two, because old and new houses, as it turns out, are both made out of wood. And where does wood come from? A lot of people don't know this.

CONAN: Trees?

Mr. BARRY: Trees. And what are trees? Giant buffets for insects. So, basically, you have a thing that insects eat in the wild. It's like building your house out of pork. And to go back to the meat, it's an edible substance.

JENNIFER: So, I should build a bunker, you think?

Mr. BARRY: I think, oh yes, or just basically, probably your best bet is to buy a good quality humor book about money in your situation.


Mr. BARRY: That's what I would advise.

JENNIFER: All right.

CONAN: Jennifer, good luck.

JENNIFER: All right, thanks.

Mr. BARRY: Boy, we are helping people today, aren't we?

CONAN: Right and left. Kate in Jacksonville writes, I'm a boomer who's retired early, and I find myself spending way too much time reading retirement books. They all tell me I don't have enough money to pay for the rest of my life. Should I stop reading these books? I'd hate to add psychiatry bills to what I already can't afford.

Mr. BARRY: Well, I actually have a chapter in my book called, Retirement: the Financial Advantages of an Early Death. But assuming you don't want to go that route, yes I would stop buying the retirement books. And maybe, you could even think about getting a part-time job. Like, for example, Neal here in the radio station.

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: This isn't a full time thing is it?

CONAN: No. What else do with the other time?

Mr. BARRY: I don't know.

CONAN: This is two hours a day.

Mr. BARRY: Exactly.

CONAN: Let's talk with John. John's calling us from South Bend in Indiana.

JOHN (Caller): Yeah, hi, Dave, how you doing?

Mr. BARRY: I'm well, John, and you?

JOHN: Good. Hey, listen, I live close to Chicago, and with the difference between Bulls and Bears, I was kind of confused. So, I ended up betting half of my income on both, and ended up losing. Can you tell me where I went wrong?

Mr. BARRY: I think living that close to Chicago was probably your big mistake.

JOHN: Thank you.

Mr. BARRY: And thanks for calling.

JOHN: Bye.

CONAN: Good-bye, John. Bulls and Bears, of course.

Mr. BARRY: That's like kind of, that's like the long and the short thing.

CONAN: Yeah, it's so complicated.

Mr. BARRY: It is, it's really hard, I don't know how people remember. I think a lot of people lose a lot of money just because of that. Which is bull. Now bull is like, okay, remember that Merrill Lynch do the strong like bull? So, that's how I remembered.

But I always thought it was kind of weird that a company that wanted you to give them a lot of your money, advertised itself by this giant dumb animal that goes around pooping all over the world. You know what I'm saying? You know what I'm saying.

CONAN: I had sort of put you on the horns of a dilemma now.

Mr. BARRY: Cluck. It behooves us to move along, I think.

CONAN: That's the udder part of the story.

Mr. BARRY: Wait a minute, bulls do not have udders, come on. Do they?

CONAN: You learn something new on this program every single day.

Mr. BARRY: All right, okay.

CONAN: Now let's talk with Mary. Mary's calling from Naples, in Florida. Getting a lot of your Floridians.

Mr. BARRY: Floridians, yes. They have nothing to do.

MARY (Caller): Hi, Dave, how are you?

Mr. BARRY: Fine, Mary, and yourself?

MARY: I was so glad to hear that you and I have so much in common. We're both 58 years old and we're both people.

Mr. BARRY: We're both carbon-based life forms, Mary. And I feel that bond between us.

MARY: Right. I have a really, really important question I need to ask you. Here in Naples, we're always getting these invitations to go to dinners, wealth management seminars, and things like that. And I was wondering how many of those dinners do you think a person ought to go to every month?

Mr. BARRY: As many as humanly possible. I mean, I would get, I think the idea would be to consume their food without letting them actually have your wealth.

MARY: I was.

Mr. BARRY: You know what I'm saying?

MARY: Yes, exactly.

Mr. BARRY: Unless it's one of those things where they don't let you out the door or they don't let you go to the bathroom until you invest. Then you don't want that.

MARY: Yes, but you know would that be worth the trade off, getting the free meals? I mean, not being able to go to the bathroom and everything.

CONAN: Kind of depends on what they're serving for dinner, doesn't it?

Mr. BARRY: I would think, I think your smart top line investors, your really shrewd Wall Street operators go to the bathroom before they go into the...

MARY: Yeah I think they would. Well thank you very much.

CONAN: Mary, before we let you go. Naples, Florida, when do they serve these dinners, about three thirty in the afternoon?

MARY: They serve them early yes because most of us here are pretty old like.

Mr. BARRY: Fifty-eight.

MARY: Dave and I are pretty old.

CONAN: They've got to clear out the investment crowd to get the early birders in.

Mr. BARRY: I've been to Naples, Naples has like, six golf courses for every human.

MARY: Yes.

Mr. BARRY: Why does everybody do that, does everybody just kind of...

MARY: Well they wear funny pants and white shoes and, things like that. You know, it's the style.

CONAN: But you're like one of the young cool.

Mr. BARRY: The white belt capital of America.

CONAN: You're one of the hip people there, I would think, a young babe of 58.

MARY: Oh, yes, right.

Mr. BARRY: You're like a rock and roll animal in Naples, I would think.

MARY: Yeah we're really the youth of Naples. That's one of the reasons people in their 50's live here, so that they can feel really young.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah come to Miami, you'll feel really old.

MARY: Yeah also really dead.

Mr. BARRY: No we have a new attitude in Miami, a new tourism promotion slogan, come back to Miami, we weren't shooting at you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARY: Thank you so much for your wonderful answer.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, you're welcome, as I say, Neal and I are here to help. We're here to help people.

MARY: Right.

CONAN: Arguments about money are always cited in divorce proceedings, that sort of thing, what advice do you have for couples who were maybe in some difficulty about how to resolve their situations?

Mr. BARRY: Married couples?

CONAN: Yeah.

Mr. BARRY: The best way is to never get married in the first place, because that's really where the first big argument happens, when planning the wedding. Okay, because the wedding planning usually doesn't involve the groom that much.


Mr. BARRY: It involves the bride and her mom. And the groom may not even be aware that there is a wedding coming up until he's informed, you know, maybe he gets an invitation, or whatever. But the bride and the mom get into, you know, the wedding industry is enormous in this country. You know, the wedding is kind of like along the lines of the Normandy invasion these days, only more expensive. And so, the groom, at some point, begins to realize that they're going to spend like 50,000, or 100,000 dollars on this wedding, which to him is basically a party, you know. And he says, why are we spending all that money on this wedding? Why don't we just invest it?

CONAN: Just get a couple of kegs, or anyway.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah. But he says invest it because he's trying to be rational.

CONAN: Oh, I see.

Mr. BARRY: In fact, if he had the money he would buy a motorcycle, but, anyway, that's when the couple starts arguing. It keeps on right all the way through, because of the differing priorities. And I don't want to engage, far be it from me to engage, you know, indulge in gender stereotypes, but women will buy like, to what appears to the men to be a really ridiculous quantity of shoes, and the man will buy, and this is, I'm basing this on my own relationship. The man, and I feel a need to buy a new laptop computer, approximately every twenty minutes, because of the qualities they have.

CONAN: Yeah, absolutely.

Mr. BARRY: In my case, it's a rational thing. And so, my wife and I tend to like sneer at each other's economic priorities. Like, I don't know how many pairs of, sort of, roughly the same color of green shoes a human being needs, but I don't think there is a limit as far as my wife's concerned. So, it's a constant problem, and there's really no solution except for to never get married.

CONAN: Never get married in the first place.

Mr. BARRY: In the first place.

CONAN: All right. All right. Email question from Derek. What are some useful acronyms that I may need to know when dealing with financial analysts? Well, there's IOU.

Mr. BARRY: No, you don't really, they'll take care of the acronyms if you go to a shrewd financial analyst. He'll, I went to a guy, his name is Neal, he's a very nice man, and he produced this unbelievable report of charts and graphs, and I didn't understand any of it. And so, I felt really kind of compelled to give him my money.

CONAN: And so, as long as you don't understand any...

Mr. BARRY: Any of it, then you know they must know what they're talking about. It's like the space program.

CONAN: It would never occur to you to say, you know, what does IRA stand for?

Mr. BARRY: Right. I, you know what, to this day, when they say that I still think they're talking about a terrorist group, but I know they're not. I know they're not. Nobody would, I'm sure nobody's investing, maybe they are, I don't know.

CONAN: For some reason, I just think they're spelling out the name of the Friday host. We're talking with Dave Barry about his new book, modestly titled Dave Barry's Money Secrets. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255, or send us an email: talk@npr.org. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Let's get another caller on the line. This is Craig. Craig's with us from Athens, in Ohio.

CRAIG (Caller): Yes.


CRAIG: Hey. I got a question for Dave. So, I was in a wonderful, long term, long distance relationship with a women. I live in Athens, Ohio, she lived in Albuquerque.

Mr. BARRY: Excellent. And what did you do to screw that up?

CRAIG: Well, no, well, here's the dealio, you know. I decided that it was best to get married, so I...

Mr. BARRY: You, you decided that?

CRAIG: Well, she, we decided we should get married.

Mr. BARRY: She decided that you should get married?


Mr. BARRY: Okay. Okay.

CRAIG: So, and it was, she lived 1,600 miles away. It was very expensive to continue the relationship at a great distance, and we loved and love each other very much. I was just wondering, when is it best, or when do you know that it is best to go ahead and buy the cow, even though you're still getting the milk for free?

Mr. BARRY: Oh, the old buy the, oh, well, hah, don't you think that's kind of a sexist way to talk about a woman in Albuquerque?

CRAIG: Well, I told her to listen to the show, you know.

Mr. BARRY: Have an interesting time. Neal really isn't qualified to speak on this, because just a little while ago, he expressed the point of view that bulls have udders. So, I'll take the cow question. I think it's too late for you, because you've already clearly agreed to get married.

CRAIG: Own cow.

Mr. BARRY: You are, yeah.

CONAN: And I assume you're still in Akron, Craig, excuse me in Athens, and she's still in Albuquerque, so I assume what, you're going to live in Norman, Oklahoma that's about halfway between.

CRAIG: No, no, no. we have gotten married. She lives here, now. I'm just, I'm just, I'm not explaining that...

Mr. BARRY: So let me get this straight. Your wife is listening in, and you're calling in and telling a large listening audience that you're not so sure it was a good idea?

CRAIG: No, no, no, I'm just wondering...

Mr. BARRY: I don't think you have to worry about your marriage too much longer. And indeed, the free milk was being delivered.

CRAIG: So, you're saying that soon I will have no milk and no cow?

Mr. BARRY: Wait, are you saying you're having sex with a cow, sir? Because we, that kind of thing may go in Athens, Ohio, but here, here in...

CRAIG: Well, there are no cows in Albuquerque, as everyone knows.

CONAN: No. Not anymore. Anyway, Craig thanks very much for the call, and I've rarely had to say this to somebody so much in need of it. Good luck.

CRAIG: Thanks, bye.

CONAN: Another email question. This from Donna in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, she says. Hey Dave, how about the imaginary money referred to as available credit. That's not even pieces of paper. How weird that credit cards rule, when it's nothing but air.

Mr. BARRY: I know. I have actually, a, I don't know if I could find it in my book, but I discuss...

CONAN: Found those reading glasses, though.

Mr. BARRY: I did. Well, I keep those, you know, right under my, I was trying to explain how credit cards work, and the thing is, if you charge like a Diet Coke for one dollar, first of all...

CONAN: Where can you get Diet Cokes for a dollar now?

Mr. BARRY: First of all, I can't stand you, because I'm behind you in line and there's, just pay a dollar, okay. But, you know, how people do now, they pay credit cards for everything. Do you have any idea how much that dollar is going to actually cost you when it goes on your credit card?

CONAN: Absolutely not.

Mr. BARRY: $343.67. And do you know how I know that?

CONAN: How do you know that?

Mr. BARRY: I made it up, and I think that's why they do, too. Because we're not capable, we know it's like eighteen and a half percent or whatever, but we're not capable, most of us, after, like, you know, we get out of say twelfth grade, and that's the last time we ever deal with math. And so, eighteen, I know, I don't mean to insult the audience, I know there are people out there who could figure out what eighteen percent compound...

CONAN: People could do it off the top of their heads.

Mr. BARRY: But I am not one of those people, and you're not, most of us with credit cards, we don't know what that is any more than we know what the cosine is, really. So, when the credit card statement comes we just pay what, we just believe them, whatever. And I think they have like some kind of a contest at the credit card companies, or like they have an awards ceremony once a year. They say like, you know, we got Mrs. Shirley Hemplemeyer to accept a bill that said she owes us one jillion dollars, with a j. You know, and there's a big loud round of applause. I think it's like, that's how it works. I think that's how credit card companies...

CONAN: And, of course, you can calculate all of those things on your PDA or your laptop computer...

Mr. BARRY: If you know how to make it work. But you have to call technical support.

CONAN: Thereby lies the rub.

Mr. BARRY: Yup.

CONAN: More questions for Dave Barry. Who knew that all of these money secrets would be revealed on this program today? And stuff we're making up as Dave Barry just said into a dead microphone. We'll be back after a short break. 800-989-8255, email us: talk@npr.org. He's Dave Barry. I'm Neal Conan. We'll continue after the break. This is NPR News.

(Commercial Break)

CONAN: Today we're talking with Dave Barry about is new book, Dave Barry's Money Secrets, Like, Why is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar? You're invited to join the conversation, 800-989-8255, email: talk@npr.org. And let's go with Scott. Scott calling from Ann Arbor in Michigan.

SCOTT (Caller): Hi, Dave.

Mr. BARRY: Hey, Scott.

SCOTT: I have a next door neighbor who's converting an old Ford Mustang with an engine that he says is capable of going forever without any gasoline. It's some kind of a perpetual motion machine. And he's asked me if I'd like to invest in this. And it sounds like a great idea. And I was wondering what you think about that. If I should invest in this.

Mr. BARRY: Does this man, do you think, have any specific technical expertise that would make you think that he really has invented a perpetual, because I'm not saying he hasn't. I'm just saying this would be new, as I understand it. This would be like, especially with a Mustang. You know, when you think perpetual motion machine, you...

CONAN: Mustangs are not it.

Mr. BARRY: Mustangs...

CONAN: Jaguars, Mustangs, perpetual motion, no.

Mr. BARRY: But I know for a fact that there was a time machine made with a DeLorean, because I've seen that on television.

CONAN: Yeah, Mr. Fusion, I remember that.

Mr. BARRY: That's right. So, I mean, but does he like, does he tell you, has he given you any hints about how it works? And I don't want you to give anything away, here.

SCOTT: Oh, he told me, he showed me all the drawings but he told me I wasn't allowed to tell anybody.

Mr. BARRY: Does he wear, does he wear, anytime that you noticed, a hat made out of aluminum foil?


Mr. BARRY: Okay, then it sounds to me like he's on the up and up. And I would put, I'd put a...

CONAN: Sell the mortgage.

Mr. BARRY: A Mustang you say? You know, a Kia would never go, but the Mustang, that's the killer out there, Scott.

CONAN: Well, make sure you get, look, can I just say one thing? Make sure you get the extended service plan, if it's really going to be going that long.

CONAN: Scott, thank...

SCOTT: Okay, I'll do that.

CONAN: Scott, thanks very much for the call. We wish you're friend the best of luck with his device. Wow, a perpetual motion Mustang. Flip writes us from Fort Meyers in Florida, in spite of listening to NPR for decades, I am still confused about the difference between the Gross National Product, and the Gross Domestic Product. It could be due to the fact that I've been in Florida too long, and only have foggy memories of sidewalks.

Mr. BARRY: Okay. The Gross National Product is the sum total of all the product produced in a gross way by the nation. Whereas, the Gross Domestic Product, as its name would imply, is the amount of the product that is produced by domestics.

CONAN: It's the amount you take out to the sidewalk every morning.

Mr. BARRY: Exactly, and so, you have to subtract the one from the other, and that gives you your differential. And it's a very useful indicator of the way things are going, as a rule.

CONAN: But...

Mr. BARRY: But not always.

CONAN: Not always.

Mr. BARRY: I would go short on that, or long.

CONAN: David with us in San Francisco. David, you're on the air.

DAVID (Caller): My credit rating is dead, due some bad financial decisions made after college, but now I've got a little bit of savings, and I'm wondering how I resurrect it.

Mr. BARRY: Well, and you don't want to go with the old witness protection program route.

DAVID: Probably not.

Mr. BARRY: Okay. Can you just describe to us the nature of the bad decisions made after college, because I made quite a few myself, and I want to...

CONAN: Some he even remembers.

DAVID: Oh, a 40,000 dollar master's degree on my VISA card.

Mr. BARRY: You did what?

DAVID: I put a 40,000 dollar master's degree on my VISA card.

Mr. BARRY: Do you know you can get a master's on the internet for 250 dollars, young man? You got taken.

DAVID: I would definitely do that next time.

Mr. BARRY: All right. No, you want to resurrect your credit. Well, I think the thing to do, and let's not bring up the machete again, I think that's kind of overused as a device, what you need to do is just buy something, and pay for it right away. Something like, not a master's degree, but something like a PhD, maybe.

CONAN: They're cheaper.

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, they're much cheaper and just pay...

DAVID: Would that improve my credit rating?

Mr. BARRY: I think vastly so, you've got...

DAVID: Just buying on my VISA card and paying it off?

Mr. BARRY: Yeah, I think so.

DAVID: Because I've heard that I should like buy a car or something, and then...

Mr. BARRY: Hey, if you're interested in a car, there's a perpetual motion Mustang in Ann Arbor, and frankly for a young man like you with credit problems, I cannot think of a better vehicle, to be honest.

DAVID: No gasoline.

Mr. BARRY: Exactly, there you go.

CONAN: Thanks for the call David, good luck.

DAVID: By the way, Dave?

Mr. BARRY: Yes, sir.

DAVID: You're a genius.

Mr. BARRY: Well, thank you very much, thank you.

CONAN: He mentioned the $40,000 master's...

Mr. BARRY: For a Master's Degree, man. Can I just talk about college a little bit?

CONAN: That's just what I was going to ask you about.

Mr. BARRY: Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't let you segue into that. In your smooth NPR way.

CONAN: Well, you know that word, segue, go ahead.

Mr. BARRY: Well, this young man's question leads us perfectly into this. A lot of parents worry about college, paying for college for their kids. A good college can run you 30 or 40,000 dollars a year for a good college. Which is why I think it's so important to start planning now to get your child into a bad college.

CONAN: But that's not easy.

Mr. BARRY: Way cheaper, way cheaper.

CONAN: But not easy.

Mr. BARRY: No, it's not. And the key is bad grades. But they do not just happen by themselves. If you leave a child alone, that child is perfectly capable of going out and getting good grades and then, where are you?

CONAN: And might invent a perpetual motion Mustang.

Mr. BARRY: So you have to stay right on your child. No, you will not do your homework until you've finished your video games, young man. That's the kind of parenting we're looking for.

CONAN: Intervention might be necessary in some cases.

Mr. BARRY: Tie them up to that X-Box. Look for signs of, like, is your child mysteriously missing, coincidentally, during school hours? Your child is sneaking off to school, ladies and gentlemen. Be alert. Get wise, parents.

CONAN: Let's go along and ask another listener to join us. This is Victoria. Victoria in Tallahassee, Florida.

VICTORIA (Caller): Hi, how are y'all doing?

Mr. BARRY: Doing well, and you?

VICTORIA: Pretty good. I was wondering what your thoughts were on whether I should get a house and just have a large down payment but pay it off in a shorter period of time, or have a small down payment and a longer period to pay it off with. And also, I was wondering what your theory was on the spider on the dollar bill.

Mr. BARRY: The spider on the dollar bill?

VICTORIA: Yeah, that's kind of (unintelligible).

Mr. BARRY: There's a spider on the dollar bill? Now I'm getting creeped out. The eye was all right, but you know, I would use, there's really a spider on the dollar bill? Hello?

VICTORIA: Yeah, I've heard there is somewhere. In all the spider webs, I've heard that somewhere there's supposed to be a spider sitting in there.

Mr. BARRY: Neal's gonna check a dollar, while I answer your house question.

CONAN: I work for public radio, I've only got one or two of them.

Mr. BARRY: Let me ask you this, do you have a large amount of money to put down on a house?

VICTORIA: Not really.

Mr. BARRY: Okay, then I would go with the small amount of money. That's my advice. Because otherwise, you'll have to, like, rob a convenience store, or something like that. And really, well, to be honest, that could hurt your credit rating, long-term.

CONAN: I'm looking at the dollar bill, Victoria, and the only spider I see is George Washington.

VICTORIA: I think its supposed to be in the upper right corner.

CONAN: No, there's a big one up there.

Mr. BARRY: Neal's got a cow on his.

CONAN: But it's giving milk for free. Victoria, thanks very much for the call. Good luck.

Mr. BARRY: Good luck with the house.

CONAN: Good luck with the house.

VICTORIA: Thank you.

CONAN: Dave Barry, thank you for being with us.

Mr. BARRY: It's my pleasure, I really think we helped a lot of people.

CONAN: I think we did.

Mr. BARRY: That's why we're here, isn't it?

CONAN: It's our mission.

Mr. BARRY: It's what we do.

CONAN: Dave Barry's Money Secrets is his new book. The subtitle, Like Why is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar Bill? Dave Barry was kind enough to join us here in Studio 3A.

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