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Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, March 1, 2007; 12:00 PM

Michelle Singletary hosted sportswriter William Rhoden for a discussion on Thursday, March 1 at Noon ET about February's Color of Money Book Club selection, "Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete" (Crown, $23.95)

Michelle writes in her column that this book by Rhoden, who is also a columnist for the New York Times, raises provocative questions about wealth and responsibility. Read more about the book in the column: Athletes Black and Blind (Feb. 4).

A transcript follows.

Read Michelle's past Color of Money columns.

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Michelle Singletary: Good afternoon. Thanks to all for taking the time to either participate in this chat live or read the transcript later.

Well, let's get started.

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Atlanta, Ga: Mrs. Singletary,

I would like to start off by saying that I love your show!

I know this is not today's topic but I need your help. My credit is a mess. I was never educated about credit, that's why it's so screwed up. My mother never taught me about loans, credit cards, and interest rates. I had to learn about credit the hard way. I didn't take it serious until I had nothing else left. I am recently married and my husband has good credit. I am in a situation where I want to repair my credit in order to move forward in life.

I have payday loans, student loans, and unpayed bills on my credit. I owe an estimated $15,000 total.

I want to know what is the best way to repair my credit? Do I go to those "Help you repair your credit" lawyers or pay each bill off one at a time.

Please help, I'm scared of how this will end. I need some of big momma's advice..lol

Thank You

Michelle Singletary: First, take a breathe. Now stop beating yourself up. That won't help a thing.

You can get out of this, really. Look I know someone who was more than $100,000 in credit card debt. Yes, just credit card debt and managed to dig her way out -- without filing for bankruptcy so there is hope.

As to your question. Do not use any credit repair company. Save that money for a bill collector. These companies can't do anything you can't do. Besides your problem isn't repairing your credit. It's paying bills.

So sit down and write out all your bills. Then tackle the debt with the smallest balance first. That will give you a sense of accomplishment. Then move to the next debt and the next and the next. Each time taking the money you were using to put on the old debt to work on the remaining debt.

Slow and easy wins this debt race!

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New Orleans, La.: This book is more powerful, because the author, Mr. Rhoden, suited up for the historic Grambling vs. Morgan State football game in Yankee Stadium in 1968.

William Rhoden: yes..i was there in Harlem and Yankee Stadium live and in color...the trip through Harlem i describe had a lasting impression on me--and yes, the fact that i actually played (started for three years) does lend depth to the book but also to my career...

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Atlanta, Ga.: Bill, your story of the UNC athletes' activism in 1992 was so compelling, and reminds us how little (in a positive way) we see of black student athletes off the field/court. Thinking back to that glorious moment in the 1968 Olympics when John Carlos and Tommie Smith made their powerful statement, I wonder if you would comment further on how far into "safety" our black athletes have retreated since then, and how the culture could be changed. I must add that for all the good work that the few are doing, and as much as I'd like to think they would be considered peer leaders, there just don't seem to many following their example.

William Rhoden: yes 1968 was a defining year for black athletes activism and break throughs..1967 was huge, too..remember in 1967 muhammad ali refused to be drafted and--more importantly jim brown--the great cleveland browns fullback--organized a group of athletes to meet privately with ali and then public support him--their other athletes included bill russell kareem abdul jabbar willie davis bobby mitchell..that probably would not happen today because none of those athletes had agents to tell them no to be involved...the issues today are multilayered, the money is huge and the agents are in much greater control...the issues, rather the stakes, are far more harrowing

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Michelle,

What type of account is the best place to put my emergency fund in? Maybe a money market account or an internet savings account?

Also, can I put my school loan money in my emergency fund account until I need to use it or is it illegal to earn interest on it since it's a government-subsidized loan? I will be using the money for school-related expenses (books, transportation, and housing). I want to do the right thing.

Thank you.

Michelle Singletary: With your emergency money you do want to keep it liquid, meaning you don't want to "invest" this money since you don't want to risk losing it.

Yes, a high-yielding money market is good. Shop around for rates. Check your local bank and FDIC-insured internet banks for rates. You can also go to www.bankrate.com.

As for your student loan. I'm not sure why you have borrowed funds if you don't need them yet but I don't know of any law that says you can't put the money in the bank until you need to use it. But only borrow -- if you have to -- the exact amount you need. And I hope you are working or something to try and tap sources of money that don't involve borrowed funds.

Good luck.

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Washington, D.C.: Having worked in recent years as a consultant to professional athletes in developing their philanthropic strategies, I agree completely with Bill Rhoden's critique of black athletes. I continue to be amazed by the culture of entitlement (which extends across all celebrities). What do you think accounts for the difference between an Andre Agassi, Alonzo Mourning, Steve Smith or Warrick Dunn on the one hand, who have been extremely generous, and effective, with their resources; and Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and so very many other athletes who appear to go through motions but, in the end, give, and do, almost nothing for others?

William Rhoden: i'm careful not to dictate what "celebrities" do with their money as individuals--what's needed--across the board--is a more collective approach--a "team approach" to attacking and ultimately "solving" many of the problems that plague the Af American community..team work--unity..everyone has a foundation but the problems facing our community are larger than one foundation's ability to solve them

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Alexandria, VA: Hi Michelle,

My boyfriend bought a 2006 BMW and is making payments on it. He has talked about waiting until the service contract/warranty gets close to expiring and then trading it in for a new one.

I have told him that paying off the car and paying for maintenance once the contract has expired will be much cheaper than trading it in for a new one and starting payments all over again. (I have a 96 Volvo -- paid off -- that I plan on driving until it won't move anymore).

Then, last week, he mentioned that he might LEASE his next BMW!

Can you please give me some pointers on what to say to convince him that this is a BAD BAD BAD idea?

Michelle Singletary: If it were me I would be saying, "bye, bye honey."

I would kick this man to the curb.

Seriously.

When I was dating if a guy who just bought a car was already talking about the next car, I would tell him to lose my number.

Look, I'm sure he's probably a nice guy but there are RED FLAGS all over this relationship when it comes to money. Sounds like you have already made a good case for his knucklehead thinking.

Find a financial soul mate that has some sense and cents!

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Glen Burnie, Md.: Mr. Rhoden

Your book is right on the money, great job! My question is, How is an athlete suppose to be a leader in the community after he has taken the bumpy ride on the conveyor belt which breaks his spirit?

William Rhoden: that, of course is the dilemma: how you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paris?"

once you've been transported form your roots and been exposed to the so called "finer things" and in some cases started to view your people as "they" view your people--identification with your roots becomes problematic--unless you're really grounded..

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Boston, Mass.: Hi Michelle! I am 2 years out of college and am trying to decide where to draw the line on how much rent I can afford to pay. I net about 2,000 a month and have no debt to speak of. The problem is I currently live in possibly the cheapest apartment in Boston and pay $550 a month for everything (I have one roommate.) My place is pretty old and needs many repairs, but it works out. I am moving to be with two of my friends for various reasons. I realize now that anywhere I want to move will be $650-$700 a month for my portion of the rent plus the unknown cost of utilities. It may be up to $800 total. I want to keep saving my money to maybe one day buy a place, and I know an extra $200 a month seems like peanuts to most readers, but that is about what I have left over each month as is. How do other people my age making a similar amount do it? I feel like it costs money to breathe!

Michelle Singletary: It is hard these days starting out, no question about it.

I do feel for you. And you are asking the right questions and doing the right math. The thing is will you have the strength to stay put or move to an apt. you can really afford.

Could you move back home? Or get a bigger place with more roommates to keep the costs down?

Or perhaps move to another town altogether? I'm asking because you HAVE to do what you can afford or you won't be able to get ahead financially.

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Washington, D.C.: Collective action would indeed be ideal, but I wonder how much today's athletes are willing to "share" when it comes to credit, etc. I have often thought that if a cadre of athletes came together to pool resources as well as their voices around particular issues, we would see a very powerful force at work.

Michelle Singletary: I totally agree.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: Mr. Rhoden. Great Book! My favorite book of 2006! I thought the stories about the black jockies and cyclist were very interesting. I learned so much history from your book. Have you thought about making one of those stories into a documentary film?

William Rhoden: i have thought about it and in fact have been approached by a documentarian and a filmmaker to discuss the possibilities..more than that, i appreciate your reaction to the book..it truly was a labor of love..

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Washington, D.C.: Thank you Michelle for agreeing to tackle this topic. Thank you William Rhoden for writing this book. I have been saying for years that some professional athletes remind me of slaves. The professional sports industry is a trillion dollar business. Although athletes make several millions-the owners, investors and sports agents make most of the money without sustaining life-long injuries. My major gripe is many athletes are not adequately prepared AFTER their sports career is over. What happens when the fame and fortune ends and the real world sets in??? Professional athletes need to understand that education is paramount and can take them far. Why is it that after the sports career is over many black athletes become either used car salesman, insurance agents at some off the wall named company, or professional trainers at a local gym while their white counter parts become either Vice Presidents of corporations, sportscasters, or professional coaches? A lot of it has to do with lack of education, poor communication skills, and bad boy behavior. What good is having millions of dollars and end up losing it recklessly by putting it in the hands of others who may mismanage the money all because the athlete doesn't have the knowledge to keep track of what is going on. On another note, I do believe black athletes have a moral obligation to give back to the black community because it is only by the grace of God that they were chosen to have a professional sports career.

William Rhoden: all good points...i do believe that many brothers and sisters who have been blessed with the money to earn money from their physical skills do give back...the challenge--and this is the challenge for Black America--is to do things as a "team": as a "choir" and this of course requires us finding a new common denominator..that is the challenge of the 21st century..

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Digging out...: I think what is most helpful is to take a targeted approach - so you pay minimums on all but one major card, and you give a big chunk to one card.

You will feel a sense of accomplishment when you see that balance drop dramatically.

Michelle Singletary: That's exactly right. Make the minimum on the other debts while put every dime you can get your hands on on the one debt.

I've done this with a number of people I've helped individually and thru a ministry at my church. It really works when they see the debts go down. When you put a little on everything it just seems to stay the same.

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Jacksonville, Fla.: Mr. Rhoden,

You propose in your book that athletes form some kind of association to work together on issues. Have you seen any movement in that direction? thank you.

William Rhoden: i have seen an attempt here and an attempt there but nothing on the scale required to make a national global impact...the association would have to be started by a "name" and that, unfortunately, in not likely to happen

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Herndon, Va.: I know this probably doesn't have anything to do with today's column but....my husband and I are going to purchase a home in the Northern Virginia area. We plan to put down about 75K. We are thinking about the 30 fixed rate interest only loan where it is interest only for 10 years? We can afford the house we are looking at with the 30 year fixed rate but we are planning to have another child so we want to have a smaller payment just in case while the kids are in daycare which will cost almost $2000 a month. Over the course we do plan to pay as if we have a 30 year fixed rate loan and possibly paying extra from time to time, but until daycare is done we want to have that safety net of having a lower mortgage just in case. We also plan to stay in the home for a while. Do you think this is a smart idea or not? Any advice is appreciated?

Michelle Singletary: Since you asked me, I would say get the house and the "fixed" loan you can afford without all the "ifs."

This includes daycare. Tomorrow and your pay is not promised. What if one of you decide to stay home? What if one of you HAS to stay home because mom or baby is ill.

If you are worried about daycare cost save that money now so you have it and won't have to rely on an interest only mortgage.

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Washington D.C.: This may be a little off topic, but not too far. Yesterday's Metro section story about the young boy who died for lack of dental care is a cautionary tale. For those of you with means, dental care is just a normal occurrence. But for the poor and homeless, it's a luxury. I'd like everyone who reads this to do what they can to help with dental education, either through your school systems, community organizations or churches. Small problems that would take a few hundred dollars to correct soon become problems that take thousands, and in this case, hundreds of thousands, and with an unfortunate outcome. Anyone with dental insurance should donate (even a small amount helps)to a clinic, such as S.O.M.E., who provides dental care to the poor and homeless. I've had dental problems, but I have a job (no dental insurance) and could pay for the procedures over time. If one organization had stepped up and helped this family, this child would be alive today. Sometimes BMWs and Jimmy Choo shoes don't seem so important.

Michelle, thanks for the soapbox.

washingtonpost.com: For Want of a Dentist (Post, Feb. 28)

Michelle Singletary: You are welcome. And considering we are talking about giving back you aren't off topic at all!

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Providence, R.I.: Mr. Bill Rhoden,

Thank you for the gift of your book. I hope so much that it will become a documentary with wide viewership because there is so much in it to learn about our history and our culture.

William Rhoden: actually, forty million dollar slaves came out of a documentary i wrote for HBO in 1996: Journey of The African American Athlete..the documentary won a peabody award for broadcasting..though during the production i said i wanted to to a book based on the film with "bite..." now I'd like to do another documentary based on Forty Million Dollar Slaves.."

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Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon, Mr. Rhoden and Ms. Singletary!

Mr. Rhoden, your book is excellent! I read it against the backdrop of the recent NBA Allstar break, and it was right on time. My husband is an entertainment attorney and we often attend these events that put us within close proximity of professional athletes. It was disheartening to see the amount of disposable income that is routinely wasted by some--not all--Black athletes. It's even more depressing to see the utter apathy displayed by some about issues that affect the very communities from which some of them came. While I understand that becoming suddenly affluent comes with some temptations, it seems to be more exacerbated with the showy, ostentatious display that some of them exhibit especially compared with what they could be doing with their time and money to mentor or help someone else. It just seems that the culture is all about "getting paid" at the expense of everything else, including their families. Don't even get me started on the failure and refusal to stand up for anything meaningful. As my pastor is fond of saying, if you don't stand for something, then you'll fall for anything. And that's what I see so many doing--falling for the okey-doke just to get bragging rights on who has the biggest (and most) cars, the most expensive jewelry, the most decorated wife, etc.

Again, thank you for a well written book!

Michelle Singletary: You are so right and it's not a black "thang" either. This is a problem across the board in our country.

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Leasing: I get that leasing isn't the best for everyone but it depends on your situation. I don't understand why it's so discouraged -- I've seen it work for me and others who cannot afford high payments and just need to do it temporarily.

Michelle Singletary: Leasing doesn't depend on your situation. Perhaps (perhaps) if you are in business and you can write off the total lease.

But for everyday people, leasing is bad, bad, bad.

With the glut of good used cars on the market from all knuckleheads that lease or trade perfectly good cars because they "have" to have the latest you don't NEED to lease. People who leave are living above their means. They are trying to get a car they can't afford.

What happens when the lease is up? You got nothing but another lease or car payment.

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Columbia, Md.: My husband and I are 26, we have a loan for our condo, 2 car loans at about $9k left on both, 2 student loans an no other debt. We both contribute 10% to our 401ks and we have about $30k in savings. We are getting a $5k tax return and were thinking about pulling another $4k out of savings to pay off one of the cars. Is this a good idea or should we put the tax return into savings?

Michelle Singletary: Sounds like you have a good amt saved for an emergency so I would definitely pay off the cars.

THEN keep making those car payments -- only to yourself. So next time you need a car you can perhaps pay cash. Or use the money to pay off the student loans early.

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Washington, D.C.: I have noticed in my work with professional athletes that those who are in the leagues with the lowest salaries -- WNBA, MLS -- tend to be proportionately much more generous with their resources than those in the higher-paying NFL, NBA etc. Would you comment on this phenomenon?

William Rhoden: i haven't noticed that but in some ways it makes sense and probably has something to do with humility and not "tripping" on fame..could also have to do with a spiritual understanding of giving..

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Falls Church, Va.:"If it were me I would be saying, "bye, bye honey"

Look Michelle - I know you are quick to jump on those who don't squeeze the most out of every penny, but how can you tell this girl to dump him when you have no idea of his financial situation? He may make 200k a year. If so, what's the big deal?

Michelle Singletary: I can say it because it's my chat.

And I can say it because she clearly has concerns -- and for good reason.

Was I quick. Sure I was. It's a chat!

But I read between the lines. And I've seen this before. And I don't care if the guy makes $200,000 a year, which by the way he isn't bringing home!

You can go broke on $200,000 a year and $200 million a year.

The red flags are there. Wanting more when he already has a lot. Thinking about leasing? Ugh!

I saw it. I called it.

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Alexandria, Va.: Mr. Rhoden,

I am enjoying your book. My question is why haven't the athletes like in the NBA formed companies to acquire a team on their own. Are there rules that prohibit team players from owning a franchise? If so, why can't these rules be changed. There would be no NBA without the players.

William Rhoden: yes..if you play you cannot own (while you are playing)...not sure how many would want to own, even if the rules are changed...(some may ask-"If I was an owner, would I want somebody like ME on the payroll.?")

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Washington, D.C.: I have $25,000 in student loans, mostly federal. I could've paid for all of my graduate school if I'd cashed out my retirement, but I did not. I'm young so I would've had plenty of time to build up my retirement funds again, but I figured it would be better to continue building a nest egg while aggressively paying off the loans. What do you think?

Michelle Singletary: Now that the money is in a retirement fund and it would cost you a lot in taxes and penalties to take it out, I would AGGRESSIVELY pay off the student loans.

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Washington, D.C.: Good Afternoon,

I am helping a friend clean up his credit reports. What is the best way to dispute and remove any derogatory credit? Do I need to do this with all the reporting agencies. The agencies do not make this easy for you.

Thanks for your reply.

Michelle Singletary: The FTC has a great step-by-step guide to try and clean up errors on a credit report, including a standard letter template you can use. Go here

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.htm

And what a wonderful friend you are to being helping with this. Good for you.

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Rockville, Md.: Are you going to give Howard Schneider an ear-full? When asked about debt yesterday, he said "Michelle Singletary is a better one than I am on this issue, but I think her point would be something to the effect that debt in itself is not bad."

That is so not you. Debt is evil evil evil.

washingtonpost.com: Transcript: U.S. and Global Markets (Feb. 28)

Michelle Singletary: I will have to definitely talk to Howard. Clearly he is slacking off reading my columns.

Because as many of you know -- and criticize me on -- I believe ALL debt is bad. Necessary (like for a home) but bad.

I want to be DEBT FREE!

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Rockville, Md.: I dug my way out of $25,000 in credit card debit and one trick (which may not be available today) was to find cards that offered no interest for the first year. I paid the last in the fall of 04. Not a dime in a credit card that is not paid the next time due.

Michelle Singletary: Good for you and in some cases a good strategy. Thanks.

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Glen Burnie, Md.: mr rhoden,

There is always talk about the struggle in the civil rights movement. Is it crazy to think that maybe these athletes are the "prize" that everyone has had there eyes on? and they are really just disappointed in the end result.?

William Rhoden: in my view athletics is simply one promised land not THE promised land...athletics is simply an means to an end..unfortunately, when you haven't defined an "end": the means can lead you in the wrong direction..this has happened to a number of athletes

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Extra income?: I know this doesn't relate to today's column but I've come to the realization that if I ever want to get out of debt I need to stop my spending (which I'm really trying to do) as well as increase my income. So with that said I'm looking for a part time job but would want to do it from home. Any suggestions on where to look? Every telecommute job I'm seeing is about sending money (which I know it's legit) or selling products which I don't want to do.

Suggestions?

Michelle Singletary: It is hard to find a good home-based business that is legit.

So you may have to work outside the home. Don't rule it out.

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Washington, D.C.: If I am preparing to declare bankruptcy, is it advisable or a good idea to tell my boss, whom I've worked for 15 years about it?

Michelle Singletary: So sorry about your situation. Personally I don't tell anyone I work with, including my boss, anymore than he or she needs to know.

If you have a job with a security clearance or if you handle money you might want to tell IF such employee credit reports are routinely pulled.

If not keep your private business private.

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Arlington, Va.: I can attest that snowballing (paying minimums on all but one card and putting everything else to that card) works.

I have paid off three cards already. I have too many to go (bad, bad choices), but knowing that three of them are done is wonderful.

Most important thing to remember, though. Do NOT charge on them again! Cut them up, lose the numbers, close the accounts if that's what it will take for you to not use them!

Michelle Singletary: True. True. True.

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Boston to Boston, Mass.: In regard to the previous post from Boston, MA, I am also in Boston, also 2 years out of school. I make the same money as she does, but I pay $750/mo in rent and still have $300 to put into savings most months. I eat out sometimes, have a gym membership, cell phone, etc.

You don't have to leave the city to make it work financially. Just figure out where your money is going.

Michelle Singletary: Good point. I was assuming the person had done a budget and was cutting to the bone. If not, do it now!

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New York: Dear Michelle and William,

What a great topic for discussion! Thank you for raising this issue.

As a white person (might as well get that out there), I despair of the commercialism and emphasis on material possessions that I seem to -notice- more among black entertainers and athletes than among their white counterparts. Of course, maybe it's just that I'm looking for it, and I will acknowledge that candidly.

I wonder, though, whether the "problem" is precisely that the areas where black economic achievement has been strongest are in entertainment and athletics -- two areas associated with very strong egos that are stroked by the celebrity-obsessed media. It's not that egos don't exist in other segments of the economy (Donald Trump comes to mind), but the media focus on entertainers and athletes in superficial way.

Have you gotten any reaction from the athletes themselves so far?

William Rhoden: good points though i don't really agree with the premise of the argument about materialism and af americans..Af America did not invent capitalism but was certainly victimized by it and in many ways still is...

a number of athletes--during the football season and now basketball--have responded very positively to the book, in many ways in terms of appreciation that they were presented with information about their industry that they were unfamiliar with and in, perhaps, a different way..

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Laurel, Md.: When Lawrence Taylor was first exposed for using cocaine, part his explanation was that he would go on a road trip carrying more money than his father earned in six months, and just didn't know how to handle it.

Many African-Americans today are the first generations of their families that were not poor, so they have no life-background in how to handle a large amount of money.

Could Michelle address for middle-class wealth, and Mr. Rhoden for high-end wealth, address whether you find that blacks are less equipped (by BACKGROUND not I.Q.) than whites at handling their excess wealth, and how this affects their financial practices.

William Rhoden: i think that many of us--inside and outside of athletes--are crippled when it comes to handling money because its been such a mystery to many of us (i'm speaking for myself) i wish in 7th or 8th grade --certainly as a high school freshman---there would have been an introductory course on "MONEY" myth a nd reality..how to make it work for you, how not to be consumed... the glamour of the sports industry and the fleeting nature of most careers can be a deadly combination...i do think than younger generations of athletes have seen the horror stories and are much more prudent when it comes to money management

Michelle Singletary: I agree with Bill that mismanagement of money is color blind. Look I get HUNDREDS of e-mails every month and I'm in the community volunteering and working so I see all the mess people have made with their money.

It's not a black, white, red or blue thing. We simply are in a culture that loves debt, preaches debt, creates mortgage products (like interest-only loans and leases) that keep people in debt for decades. For many blacks they get caught in a deeper hole because they don't have the assets to help them out, a home for example. Others can tap their home equity to pay off debt or borrow for college.

But the bottom line is many -- too many -- people are spending over their means at every rung of the economic ladder.

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all financial advisors (except you): say debt in and of itself is a useful tool. MISHANDLED debt is bad, but debt in an of itself is a tool to provide a home, transportation, education for your family. Debt is even good when one uses it to establish good credit and get the lowest interest rates on loans. An established habit of paying back loans on time gives one a better credit rating than no history of debt.

Michelle Singletary: Interesting point.

Now who do you think has the most to gain by championing debt and saying "debt in and of itself is a useful tool?"

Financial advisors, bankers, credit card companies etc.

Or me?

Debt should be shunned at all cost. Can we cut it out completely. No. I know that.

However, we rely on it too much. We teach our children to rely on it by saying things like, "Go ahead baby, go to the college you want. We will pay for it the best me can because after all you deserve what you want even if we don't have the money for it or won't have it for decades to come. But go ahead baby use debt. It's your God-given right."

Hogwash.

Keep believing debt is good and we will continue to raise a generation of folks who live above their means because they can -- IN DEBT!

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I know this isn't exactly the topic at hand, but Mr. Rhoden seems like the one to ask.

When George Mikan died, it was widely reported he had been living on a $1,000/month NBA pension. It made me wonder... how much more expensive is it to be that size? Furniture, cars, clothes... what's the cost of being 6'10"?

William Rhoden: depends on who you are..if you're Shaquille O'neal, the sky is the limit! (never heard that about Mikan..)

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Kansas City, Kansas: I agree the stakes are infinitely higher today for the professionals -- and the students as well. Do you see a way out???

William Rhoden: organization is the first step in that direction..athletes must form a professional association (like lawyers, doctors journalists) that is the first step toward harnessing heretofore scattered power.

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New Orleans, La.:

I first saw Reggie Bush when he was running outdoor track in San Diego County. I became a fan and watched his USC games often. When he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints I was delighted, since my spouse and I had relocated to New Orleans four months before Katrina. Even before he started playing games, he was out in the community giving money to restore the stadium field at City Park, contributing to a special education school that was facing closure and, in general, making his presence felt in the community, which was 67 percent African American before the storm and still retains its African-American majority. The Times Picayune newspaper referred to him as "St. Reggie." He received a lot of good press for his monetary contributions. Maybe this year's NFL rookie class should see the clippings and follow his example. As African-American players receive publicity for their good deeds, they may come to see that a united effort would be a good thing.

William Rhoden: the "redemption" part of my book--forty million dollar slaves--refers to this spirit of Public giving and PUBLIC acts of inspiration--the public acts serve as a beacon light and highways to possibility..

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Michelle Singletary: Well this was a great conversation. What wonderfully thoughtful questions and comments.

I also thank those of you who regularly challenge me on the debt thing. Really. I love the debate, especially when you aren't mean to me :)

Seriously, my heart, my desire, my prayers are that people know the peace there is when you have no or little debt other than perhaps a home loan. Being debt free gives you choices.

Thanks again for joining me today or taking the time to read the transcript.

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