Color of Money Book Club

Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Columnist
Wednesday, February 15, 2006; 12:00 PM

Michelle Singletary hosted author Dave Barry for a discussion about this month's Color of Money Book Club selection -- "Dave Barry's Money Secrets -- Like: Why Is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?" (Crown, $24.95).

In a recent column , Michelle wrote that the book is intended to lighten you up a bit. "Because truth is, personal finance has become so complicated that we all have to chill or we will go bonkers."

A transcript of the discussion follows.

Read Michelle's past Color of Money columns .


Michelle Singletary: Good afternoon everyone. Well I'm in beautiful Seattle today on the first leg of my book tour. YEAH! Hope you all read the excerpt in the Post of "Your Money and Your Man."

Anyway thank goodness for computers so I can be on the road and still chat with all of you.

Well lots of questions so let's get started.


Washington, D.C.: This is a question for Dave Barry: I enjoy all of your books and read your newspaper columns with enthusiasm and great amusement. Now, since this is a personal finance chat, you are obligated to answer the following question: How much do you make?

Dave Barry: More than you, Mr. Cheney.


Laurel, Md.: Dave, how do keep Nigerians from transferring your money in the wrong direction?

Dave Barry: You can draw little arrows on it.


Bowie: Dave, what advice do you have (from a personal finance perspective) on retiring to SE Florida?

Dave Barry: Bring a LOT of cash, and something heavy to weight it down with during hurricane season.


Mrs. Charbonneau: How do you pronounce the name of the woman on the "golden" dollar?

SACK-uh-juh-WE-uh or suh-CAW-juh-wah?

And poop. Wait, I'm sorry, I was saving that for Weingarten's chat....

Dave Barry: It's "POKE-a-HON-tiss."


Washington, DC: Dave,

I am a do-nothing, going nowhere, zero ambition, lazy, slovenly, part time convenience store clerk who lives with his parents. How can I be a millionaire in only two short weeks?

Much appreciated,


Dave Barry: Well, you've obviously made a good start. Unfortunately, there is no GUARANTEED way to make a million dollars in two weeks. The best I can tell you is that if you purchase my book, which by the way is for sale, you will definitely become a millionare within three weeks. I'm sorry, but life is not always as easy as we would wish it to be.


Philadelphia, Pa.: What creeps me out is not the eye on the back of the dollar bill but the floating section of building. Does our government advocate the overthrow of the laws of physics? What is it with that floating top of the building?

Dave Barry: That's merely an accurate rendering of the famous Floating Building in Washington, D.C.


Pennywise, GA.: If it costs more than a penny to make a penny, can I sell my pennies for more than a penny?

Dave Barry: This is EXACTLY why we have eBay.


Burke, VA: Hi Michelle,

Question for you. Your faith is obviously an important part of your life. And the Bible has much to say on finances. How does your recurring money advice align with Biblical teachings on money?

Michelle Singletary: Wow. Interesting and important question. I believe if you read scripture the point of much of the advice on money is to live within your means, watch when you borrow because the borrower does become slave to the lender and keep in mind that we are all rich if we just realize that we have so much already.


Washington, D.C.: Why does money stink? I mean, it literally smells bad--coins and paper.

Or is it just me?

Dave Barry: I have noticed that, also. But only with money that has been handled by you.


Fort Washington, Md: You are being robbed the question is ??? Your money or your wife? What is your answer and why?

Dave Barry: Why do you ask, Mr. Trump?

Michelle Singletary: I bet you don't have any money or a honey. Of course this poster is referring to the title of my book "Your Money AND Your Man."

Listen to me and you won't have to choose!


Whig Party National Committee: Our committee is considering endorsing you for President. Are you running in 2008, and would you consider accepting our endorsement if offered? If elected, would you serve, and, really, why would you serve?

Dave Barry: I believe you asked me this once before, and I believe I answered that it depeneded on the financial incentives involved, and I believe you never got back to me on that, and until you do I'm afraid I will have to continue entertaining offers from other major political parties wishing me to be their presidential candidate, and believe me there are PLENTY.


Dallas, TX: Dave - What is the best denomination bill to use to wipe away an emerging booger? (this is kind of urgent, if you know what I mean)

Dave Barry: The best by far -- though hard to come by, these days -- is the 50,000,000,000,000,000,000-lira note (actual value, 8 cents).


Laurel: What should we do about the fact that America still uses the largest (in physical size) money in the industrialized world?

In the last 40 years our money has lost 80% of its buying power, but hasn't gotten any smaller so now its five times as big as it should be.

We need to:

abolish pennies

scale nickels and quarters down

stop issuing paper dollars

make the dollar coin the size of quarter

issue at least a $500 or $1000 dollar bill

Dave Barry: We're a big country, and we should have big money. I wish our money was EVEN BIGGER. I wish we could, in a pinch, use our dollar bill as a TENT. Because that is the kind of large-size nation we are.

Michelle Singletary: And what does it matter anyway. Many people don't even carry cash. They use that plastic devil.


Miami, FL (Suzy Q): So, Dave, what's the safest place I can keep my money? Besides your bank account, that is.

Dave Barry: Ha ha! It would be insane to put it in my bank account. Just leave it in my mailbox. Thank you.


Trump Towers, NY: I just wanted to give my $.02 to this discussion. Aw, crud. That was not very financially sound as it was my last, and now I am out of advice. Is there any help for someone like me?

Dave Barry: Did I mention that my book is for sale?

Michelle Singletary: As it my book

I don't know about Dave but I've got three rugrats to put thu college and walking around naked to encourage them to move out when they get grown won't work. They already call our house the naked house.


Rockville: What should you do if you're in a foreign country (like on a Caribbean cruise), you only feel like tipping the restroom attendant 50 cents, and they tell you they can't take coins?

Dave Barry: Offer a hearty handshake.

Michelle Singletary: Ewww...


Bowie, Md.: Dave, speaking of scripture, doesn't it command every Christian to be a Communist?

Dave Barry: I believe it does say that, right after the part about never watching HBO.


Washington, D.C.: Hello Michelle,

I wanted to write and tell you how much I admire you for showing such compassion to the poor in your column. I work at an npo dealing with poverty issues and it is amazing how many people really think that since people are poor they must not have made good choices and should be punished. It's appalling. That said I wanted to warn your readers that many of the books promising information on free grants are scams. I have worked at two nonprofits listed in such books and neither ever made any grants. Nonprofits and foundations don't generally give a lot of grants to individuals. Most give to organizations because of tax reporting requirements. If it's information on a genuine government program you shouldn't have to pay just to find out how to apply. If people are looking for money to buy a house you local government or local non profits will probably have information on homebuyer programs for free. I hate that people are ripping off people who are in desperate situations.

Michelle Singletary: Hi. Thank you so much for your kind words and great advice on the scams. All take notice.


Ashburn, VA: Michelle - why do you suppose we, as a nation, do such a poor job giving a financial education to our children?

Michelle Singletary: We are too busy shopping!


Springfield, VA: Hi Michelle,

We're getting about $3K back in tax refunds due to medical and day care expenses being way high last year...would you use it to pay down debt, add to our house down payment fund or go to Aruba????

Dave Barry: I think that, in your particular situation, the wisest financial course would be to purchase my book, which by the way is for sale.

Michelle Singletary: Or...

you SHOULD pay down debt and take a virtual tour of Aruba on the Internet.


LabSpecimen: Dave,

I have a large supply of toilet paper tubes in a box in my garage (location intentionally left off). I think I have a plan for making money from them. Do I have to pay royalties to you for the idea?

Dave Barry: Don;t be silly! Yes.


Deale, MD: Dave, when will supermarkets start having separate men's and women's cashier lanes, so I (a man) don't get stuck behind some woman writing a check?

Dave Barry: That is a sexist stereotype, and I will not dignify it with an answer, other than to say: YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Michelle Singletary: Heyyyyyyy

When was the last time you saw a guy buying groceries? The men I see heard they could pick up women so they are there just to check out the honeys!


Link to book excerpt: Hi Michelle, could you post a link to the book excerpt for those of us who haven't read it yet? Thanks!

And, Dave, I am missing your column right now. I can only imagine what you could do with the fodder to OVP is providing right now.

Book Excerpts: 'Your Money and Your Man'

Breaking Up Without Breaking the Bank

Love And Money

Michelle Singletary: Oh yes Dave please weigh in on the VP.


Montclair, New Jersey: Dave - you spent an intense hour reading Donald Trump's latest book on finance, and shared a few of his secrets in your own book. Has Mr. Trump given you any flak for that, and would you consider appearing on "The Apprentice"?

Dave Barry: Unfortunately, I have a dental appointment.


New York, NY: Hi Michelle -

How do you get a W-2 from a company that insists it sent it out and now no one can seem to help you? My friend is a yoga instructor at a local Y and has repeatedly called HR, who keep taking messages that don't get returned or followed up.

Michelle Singletary: It's time to call the IRS. I bet your friend's employer will help then.

Here's what the IRS says about this: If you don't receive your Form W-2 (PDF) by February 15, contact the IRS for assistance at (800) 829-1040. Also, you may want to refer to Tax Topic 154, Form W-2 - What To Do if Not Received, to see the specific information the IRS will need in order to prepare Form 4852 (PDF), Substitute For Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099R, Distributions from Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.

Dave Barry: Don't forget to tip your IRS agent! Fifteen percent is standard, but add more for special services, such as not being audited.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Dave, today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, which normally prints two pages of comics, printed only one page. Where are the protests against this offense to our cultural traditions? Will you and Gene Weingarten help us in Philadelphia protest this cruelty?

Dave Barry: I say we burn down a Danish embassy, assuming there are any left.


NoVA: Michelle,

Love your column and show! It has really inspired me to live within our means and get and STAY out of debt.

Here is a strategy question -- by the end of the year I will be finished paying off our credit cards and car. Our only remaining debts will be the beautiful Sallie Mae to whom we owe $40,000 (all principle) and a Home Equity loan that now stands at 125K. Which should we focus the bulk of our resources to pay off? Obviously we will and are paying on both of these monthly, but we will have an additional $2600 a month to put towards debt service. Any suggestions?

Michelle Singletary: First I would say pay down the debt that is costing you the most. So which loans -- student or home equity -- has the highest interest. Pay that down faster. If the rates are about the same then pay down the home equity. That way you free up the equity to be used in the future if you really need it.


Filthy Lucre, AZ: Dear Dave, can you explain the term fungible? Should I worry about this? Also, I noticed that the Stock Market responded favorably to the news that the VP shot a lawyer. Is this a reliable indicator?

Dave Barry: Some assets are fungible, and some are not. Just to be on the safe side, ALWAYS wash your hands after touching an asset.

As for the Stock Market, I'm assuming investors are simply reacting to the news that there will be one less lawyer practicing for the time being, NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING AT ALL FUNNY ABOUT THIS OR ANYTHING ELSE.


Benton Harbor, MI: My son is pretty much a slacker. For a summer job, he's got a choice between working at Scout camp as a counselor, which pays about $800 for seven weeks of work. He will stay at the camp, away from us during this time.

Or, he can get a job at a place like Baco Tell, and make twice that, easily, with far fewer hours. But, he'll be home.

Which is better?

Dave Barry: I think YOU should go to Scout camp.


SW Michigan: Should I buy stock in birdshot?

Dave Barry: It's going up!


Washington, DC: Mr. Barry,

I have recently been getting a lot of guff from my friends for paying a dog-walker to come to my house and take my dogs out for a mid-day walk. They say I'm crazy, but I say the dogs are like my kids and I should treat them well, even if it means spending a little money.

Do you spend a lot of money on your large, main dog Earnest and your small, auxiliary dog Zippy?

Dave Barry: Very little, inasmuch as they are both deceased. They hardly eat a thing.


Ashburn, VA: Hi Dave and Michelle,

I'm buying Dave's newest book! You've given wonderful advice on kids' parties, scuba diving, and the Congress, among others. I can't wait to read it.

One question for Mr. Writer Man: is there any mention of snakes anywhere in the book? As in, "I was sitting in front of my computer while it mocked me, saying, 'Ha Ha, Mr. Writer Man! You have no idea for a story!'when EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

there was a snake." While it has nothing to do with money, I think 100% of Americans can identify with your reaction. Have you worked a snake story in there somewhere?

Dave Barry: If it will make you purchase my book: YES! It's FULL of snakes! It's Snake-a-Rama!


King George, VA: Michelle, love the chats. This is slightly O/T, but you simply have to read the "Can this Marriage Be Saved" feature in the March Ladies Home Journal. In this marriage, the husband was frugal and the wife was a spendthrift. Even though they had money to burn, much than most of us are ever likely to see, this led to major problems. So those of us with less should definitely view it as a cautionary tale.

Michelle Singletary: I'll try to read it. Sounds interesting.


State of Disarray: Hey Dave, there is a remarkable resemblance between Michael Chertoff, Sec'y of DHS, and Ben Bernanke, the new Fed Chairman. Should this worry us?

Dave Barry: I find it deeply disturbing, to the point where we might have to, as a nation, consider setting fire to a Danish embassy.


Philadelphia, Pa: I just sent $10,000 to a widow in Nigeria to help her move her $10 million inheritance out of the country. When she pays me my half, how should I best invest those profits to ensure my future financial security?

Dave Barry: I would think you could easily afford to purchase several hundred thousand copies of my book, which by the way is for sale.


Honolulu, HI: Dave,

Greetings from the far west coast.

No questions yet, but one answer - to the question in the title of your book: "Like: Why is there a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?"

The reason for the eye is explained by the Latin inscription above it: "ANNUIT COEPTIS": "He has smiled (on our) beginnings". "He" in this case is the deity named above the large "ONE" in the middle of the reverse side. Look at the base of the pyramid: "MDCCLXXVI" -- 1776 in Roman numerals. Get it? --]

I am not making this up.


D.B. Chipp



The Latin inscription below the pyramid "NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM" announces "A New Order of (for) The Ages".

Take a good look a the bill itself. Ask an expert (at the US Treasury or Classics Department of your college).

If you have already researched all of this, please accept my apologies.

Best of luck with the book - no doubt your answer is a lot funnier, but in financial matters - & with experts like Michelle -accuracy is important.

Dave Barry: Oh, SURE, Like I'm going to believe THAT.


LabSpecimen: Dave,

If the plot-line of "24" doesn't improve this season, will that have an effect on our Gross National Product (DNA)?

Dave Barry: This is no laughing matter. The plot of "24," so far, is a NATIONAL DISGRACE. We need NATIONALLY TELEVISED SENATE-COMMITTE HEARINGS, starring Arlen Specter and Joe Biden as themselves.


Washington, D.C.: Why does the government eventually punish you for sacrificing today in order to save and invest for a better tomorrow? For example, if I use the miracle of compound interest to become "rich" in 25 or 30 years instead of sating some ephemeral need, the Man slaps a means test on me and tells me that I am too rich so he penalizes me by reducing benefits. Do the "wrong" thing and the government loves you. Do the "right" thing and the government beats you down. I don't get it.

Dave Barry: Why does the government do ANYTHING? Beats the hell out of me.


Arlington, VA: Dave - what does an IRS audit involve these days? Should I schedule early so I don't miss out?

Dave Barry: It's not so bad, as long as they remember to sterilize the implements.


Tamara RWC, Atlanta: Dave,

'Love the book; it changed my life.

My question: Will outstanding oral you-know-what abilities, as you discuss on page 45, get me a job at the White House? Just kidding--of course it will! What about at The Herald?

Dave Barry: We at the Herald are always looking for qualified individuals.


Nashville, TN: Dear Dave,

Recently, I was living in a dumpster and hassling school children for their lunch money, often getting myself beat up by 3rd grade bullies in the process, but after reading your book, and taking your advice about subletting my fiscal debentures of accrual in vested nest-egg CIA's of carnal fiduciary antidisestablishmentarianism, I now own Donald Trump's empire as well as his hairpiece.

In your opinion, should I sell it on E-bay?

Dave Barry: Sell the empire. Keep the hairpiece, for personal protection.

Michelle Singletary: Oh so many funny people out there. You guys are a trip!


Miami, FL.: This broker keeps calling wanting to sell me hedgefunds. What are hedgefunds? Are they future in hedgehogs? Are hedgehogs good eatings?

Dave Barry: They make FINE eating. I like to fry up a big mess o' hedgefundhogs after shooting them with the vice president, NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING FUNNY ABOUT THIS.


Chicago, IL: Dave, in an attempt to become more liquid while sheltering my fortune from federal part 852b 9L5 taxes, I've converted all my holdings to "Dave Barry For President" bumper stickers.

How long do you think I should hold these?

Dave Barry: Until the glue dries.


Miami, FL.: Where does my money go? Should I put my phone number on my money and ask people to call and let me know where it is when they get it?

Dave Barry: That's a good idea! Use your cell numnber, because they'll be calling you in federal prison.


Washington, DC: What is you position on the "throttling" of frequent renters by Netflix?

Clearly it is a most nefarious, egregious evil . . . almost as bad as low-flow toilets. Plus, the comsumer doesn't get full value for his dollar . . . see, a convenient tie-in with finances. 'Throttling' Angers Netflix Renters

Michelle Singletary: I say watch "free tv"


Anonymous: Hey, here you are again. Sorry I missed you for the first time in six years in NYC, my son came home from the Marines the Saturday before and I ..well, sorry. He ends up being more important than you. Um. So, tell me, How should I manage money, I mean, when I get some that I can spend on anything beyond food, home, tuition, defaulted student loans, absurd car insurance, beer, and heat?

Dave Barry: I don't like those priorities. Beer DEFINITELY goes before food and home.

Michelle Singletary: And when you stop laughing (which I am) read some of the books Dave lampoons in his book.


Harold "Scooter" Stumpbumper Elementary School: Dear Mr. Barry sir,

There's a girl in my class who I like a lot, but I don't know if she likes me back. My friends double-dog-dared me to offer her a dollar to kiss her, but after reading your book, I realize that if I invest that dollar, by the time we're in high-school, I can pay her to

DAVID BARRY!! This is Mrs. Pringlemyer and I want you to know I am shocked and disgusted at your flagrant "advice" to little billy! Cancel my subscription! If I have one!!

Dave Barry: This drug problem is even worse than I had feared.


College Park: Saving money for a down payment. .. doesn't look like I'll be able to afford anything anyway, so should I pay off the car (about 8K) and start saving over again?

I really would like a place of my own, but waiting another year for it . . it's very hard just thinking about it.

Dave Barry: My book is for sale. I don't know if I have mentioned that.

Michelle Singletary: Don't despair. Keep saving. You can be a homeowner even in this area.

Oh, did I get too serious there?


Michelle...: my guy buys ALL the groceries and does a majority of the cooking. Why? Because he likes to cook whereas I don't.

Michelle, you give GREAT financial advice and I've learned a ton from you but I'm a little tired of the stereotyping.

Michelle Singletary: Did you by some chance miss the fact that we are having fun here?

Or are you just attacking the woman on this chat, which I might point out is a stereotype :(


Richmond: Dave, why should I spend the money to buy your book when I can check it out from the library?

Dave Barry: People like you make me so mand I could BURN DOWN A DANISH EMBASSY.


Your City and State: Dave,

After a recent purchase of a certain book, the cashier gave my $.20 change back in the form of two dimes. At that moment I realized what a paradigm looked like. But wait! Then, she slid the coins towards me along the counter and I realized I had been part of paradigm shift.

So my question, "Did I already ask this question?" and "Did I already purchase your book, or not?"

Thanks for your help.

Dave Barry: That is why I am here.


Dog Heaven: Zipp and Ernest are dead? I'm so sorry--I loved reading about them. Do you have new dogs, or are the bugs in south florida enough?

Dave Barry: No dogs at the moment; just fish. Same IQ, basically.


Washington, DC: Michelle, I have to say that I love your column, books and now TV show. (The Wash Post has some GREAT employees!) While I appreciate all of the serious advice, it can sometimes be a little heavy. Thanks for allowing Dave Barry to show us that other side of you- even though I'm sure it pained you a bit to back off on some other great idea for now. And Dave, I'll always pick you over Weingarten even though your last name could use some work.

Dave Barry: Oh, there are many things you don't know about Michelle, such as that apparently she walks around her house NAKED.

Michelle Singletary: LOL

And I put on clothes when company comes.


Louisville, OH: Cell Federal prison...HA! Good one, I spit pop on my monitor!

My question is: If my plane lands at Miami International Airport and Construction Zone at noon, will I get out of the airport in time to catch my cruise ship that leaves at 4PM?

Dave Barry: Har! That is a good one.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: What comes to my mind on this beautiful, warm, sunny day is spring cleaning. I have a number of house hold items in excellent condition (still in boxes), and other 'stuff', that I am ready to toss. I need the space. However, I am torn between how long to hang on to of these some items, like a fondue set, that I haven't used in (literally) 10 years, but now that I have a child and maybe another reason to use, I don't want to toss today, then re-buy tomorrow.

I am also torn between selling these items (yard sell, not eBay) for even a few cents and worrying about buying again later if the need arises.

Your two cents???

Dave Barry: My book is available for purchase.

Michelle Singletary: Sell.

You have enough (oh sorry there I go again being serious).


Chicago, IL: Dave,

Is it true that so long as you tack on realistic penny amounts to your made up deductions (such as $14,687,521.16 instead of $100.00) you will never be audited?

Also, do dogs still count 1.5 codependents on the 1040EZ provided you give them a funny name?

Dave Barry: Right. If you claim a deduction for, say, "14 bazillion dollars," the IRS will "red-flag" it, because it sounds made-up. So you want to go with "14 bazillion dollars and seventy-three cents."


Dave Barry's Aquarium, Where He Lives: "The same IQ"? As yours, maybe, but we can't hold a candle to canine IQ. OK, they do drink out of the toilet, but, face it, we swim in our toilet water. So, anyway, we need a mid-day fish walker, come on, Dave, you'll be able to afford it once a few more of these jokers buy your book, right?

Dave Barry: Speaking of my book, it is available in bookstores, in exchange for money.

Michelle Singletary: And by jokers you mean that in the nicest way, right?


Denver, CO: Michelle, does your book tour bring you to Denver?

Dave, I miss you.

Michelle Singletary: I would LOVE to come to Denver. But right not not coming. Off to Chicago tomorrow. I'll be at the Borders (Beverly Store) at 2210 West 95th St. on Thurs. starting at 7:30 p.m.


Washington, DC: I accidentally spent all my money on beer. Now what do I do?

Dave Barry: Me, I would urinate.


Washington, D.C.: Can one of you please hire me? It seems like you have a work environment that allows laughter. Well, I usually have laughter in my workplace, but it's because I am looking at my paycheck and just can't believe someone is supposed to live off that.

Dave Barry: You made your bed, Mr. Cheney.


Naked: Is walking around naked a money saving method?

Dave Barry: For some people, it's a major source of income, not that I am saying that this is the case with Michelle, or that there is anything wrong with it if it IS the case. But in any event, my book is for sale.

Michelle Singletary: I just hate buying yes I guess it is a money saving method.

And no Dave I don't make money off being naked. But my husband is happy.


Sacramento, CA: Dave - how can we ensure that the money we "donate" to the Presidential election (on the IRS Tax forms) goes to the 2008 Dave Barry juggernaut?

Dave Barry: Your best bet is to send it directly to me in the form of shoeboxes full of cash.


Your blog: Why aren't you blogging at this very moment?

Dave Barry: I have a headache.


Michelle Singletary: Well time is up. I haven't laughed so hard in I don't know when. Thanks for all of you who joined with your sense of humor in tow (please don't tell my hubby I told you about our naked house.)

Now back to my regularly scheduled fussing about how so many of you are not spending your money wisely :)

Seriously I love these chats. I love that so many of you join in. I loved having the great Dave Barry bring some fun to finances. Take care and in case you missed the point today buy his book and MINE! (Your Money and Your Man)


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