Enough is Enough

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, September 10, 2009; 9:37 AM

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Got recession depression? If you've lost a job, a home or money in the market, I can certainly see why. But do those losses define you? How do you measure success? What is enough?

Mark your calendars for my next online chat on Friday, Sept. 25th at noon ET when John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group, will be my guest to discuss his latest book, "Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life." (It's a day later than my usually scheduled chat, so please take note.)

"Enough" is September's Color of Money Book Club selection. I profiled it in last Sunday's column A Manifesto On Success and Excess.

Enough is Enough

In my first book, Spend Well, Live Rich, I talk about the mantra that I try to live my life by. I try to remember, "Enough is Enough."

Even for me, that's a hard concept. Although many people are struggling right now, I wanted to open up a discussion about when enough is enough. Even before the scheduled chat at the end of this month, many of you have weighed in.

Here are some of the comments I received following Sunday's column:

"I suspect many on Wall Street would turn a deaf ear to what Bogle has to say," said Norman Wagher of Culver, Ind.

Meg Lark of Rochester, N.H. wrote: "We line-dry our laundry. Our daughter had a very scaled-back wedding, using the church hall for her reception; our two children worked their way through college, and graduated without ANY student loans. We don't take fancy vacations, we don't travel a whole lot, we have good, nutritious food on the table -- and we did it all by knowing how to say, 'Enough.'"

"Enough is plenty," wrote Walt Stone of Berrien Springs, Mich. It's a phrase he picked up in high school and tries to live by. "If more people really thought about those three words every time they did ANYTHING we would all be better off."

One reader made an interesting point: "Bogle seems to be a nice man with a good heart, but with age, we all get more insightful on what life should be or should have been. It is also very easy to say 'enough' when you already have enough and plenty of it."

I see where this reader is going. But we can learn a lot from our elders. They've been there, done that. So they know we are chasing the wrong things. I would like to learn this long before it's too late to apply the wisdom.

Jennifer Deutsch of Falls Church, Va., said she and her husband make enough to provide a nice lifestyle for their family, but wonders how to distinguish between "enough" and "too much."

"My husband and I are both blessed with stable jobs," she wrote. "We work hard and have achieved financial stability. But it's also enabled us to provide things for our three kids that we never had."

I do understand Jennifer's dilemma.

Here's how you discern: If your kids expect more, can't be satisfied with what they have, and/or stop showing gratitude, you've reach more than enough.

Celebrity Cash

Recently, Michael Vick spoke to students about the pains of peer pressure and how to resist, as part of his community service obligation.

Last week, I wrote about his finances. Vick ended up filing for bankruptcy protection in part because he was spending so much on friends and family. I asked in the Color of Money question of the week whether that was admirable.

Here's what you said:

"Vick should be commended for attempting to help his family and friends," wrote Gale Moore of Brandywine, Md. "Unfortunately he was not wise in the manner he chose to help."

Gretchen L. Miller of Reston, Va., says, "I think there is a significant difference between assisting family members in need, especially with housing and education, and buying people things (new car/house). There's a difference between helping and enabling. One puts people on their feet. The other makes them crawl on their knees."

"It's my understanding that it was his old buddies, the recipients of his largess, who were most active in the dog fight scandal," says Rick Scott of Ventura, Calif. "And it took place in those fine digs he provided them rent free."

Warwick M. Lucas of Johannesburg, South Africa wrote: "While I feel sorry for Vick and his good intentions, it needs to be known the assumption of wealth, like the assumption of democracy carries responsibilities. He couldn't solve his family's money problems with money. What he could do that would have a made a difference is give them the means to help themselves."


Young Money

No doubt it's hard these days to be starting out.

The Associated Press Economic Stress Index found that places with high concentrations of people in their late 20's or nearing what they thought would be their retirement age are feeling the recession the hardest.

If you're young or old (but especially young), it's worth your time to check out a PBS special that premiered last night."Your Money, Your Life" was produced for young people who need help with their personal finances. If you missed the Wednesday night viewing at 9 p.m., you can catch it again online.

Donald Faison, star of TV series "Scrubs," hosts the program and gives a personal testimony about his youthful financial faux pas.

The special features a number of celebrities and personal finance gurus, including yours truly. To view a clip about my money mantras, click here and select "Expert Voices" under the video feed, scroll down to the bottom, and click on "Michelle's Mantras."

Remember: at all ages you need to manage your money. Don't let it manage you!

Charity Brown contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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