How to Talk to Your Kids about Money: Dr. Phil Roundtable

The Value of a Dollar

Dr. Phil stands before six kids, ages 9 to 11. Next to him is a table with electronics and toys, and chalkboard featuring images of a house, a car and a bag of groceries. "I want to talk to you guys about how much things cost today. Do you know how much groceries cost?" he asks.

"Like, $20?" Madison, 10, guesses.

Owen, 9, disagrees. "Well, sometimes, like, hundreds of dollars," he says.

"Groceries can be between $300 and $600 every month," Dr. Phil says, writing it on a chalkboard. "How much do you think it takes to run the car?"

"Like, millions of dollars," Owen says.

"You think millions of dollars?"

"Around," he says.

"Do you have, like, a really nice car?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yeah," he says.

"Well, the average cost per month is $500 to $700. So, it's not quite a million. How much do you think it costs to keep the house warm, like electricity and gas?"

[AD]"Maybe a few hundred?" Katelyn, 10, guesses.

"Well, you're pretty close because that one is $150. What do you think it costs for the house?"

"Like, $500 million," Owen says.

"Five hundred million? You must, like, have a really nice house and really nice cars," Dr. Phil says.

"Yeah," Owen says.

"Your monthly payment on a house would be like $1,400."

Dr. Phil shows the kids some money. "This is a stack of money for how much the average family in America makes. Everything that we just listed would take this much money," he says, setting aside a portion of the cash. "And what would be left would be this much money, about $2,000. But you would be really cold right now if you didn't have on clothes, right?"

The kids giggle.

"A family is going to spend about $175 a month on clothes. If you go to the doctor: $238. What do you do for entertainment?"

"I like to go to theme parks," says one little girl.

[AD]"Entertainment is about $225 a month. If you like to eat out, miscellaneous things: $425 a month. So now you have about $500 left." He hands the money to Owen. "There's $500. Could you buy this laptop with your $500?"

Owen thinks yes, until Dr. Phil turns over the $1,200 price tag. "OK, I definitely don't have enough," Owen says.

"Your parents, they've got $500 left over after they've paid all this stuff, and you want a laptop for $1,200. What happens now?"

"I don't think I'm going to get it," Owen says.

"Now, the iPod is $400 about. Do you think you could buy many groceries for what it costs to buy that iPod?"

A few kids say no.

"I'm going to surprise you, because I want to show you how much you can buy in groceries for what that iPod costs," Dr. Phil says. A curtain is lifted, revealing many bags of groceries.

"Oh, my God," says a little girl.

"That's 28 bags of groceries. Are you surprised? That's a lot of groceries, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

"Would you rather have the iPod, or would you rather have all those groceries?"

Katelyn, McKenzie and Dezirae all say, "The groceries."

[AD]"This is enough groceries to feed the whole family for a month and a half. Joseph, what do you think, iPod or groceries?" he asks.

"Groceries," he says.

"Do you think you've learned a little something about money today?"

"Yeah."

"So, the next time your parents talk to you about money, and they say, ‘Well, we can't really afford that,' I just want you to think, ‘Hmm, they're paying for a lot of stuff before they get to the things we'd like to have but don't need,'" Dr. Phil says.

Dr. Phil asks Owen's dad, Ivan, "What do you think about what he knows and doesn't know?"

"The most surprising thing was his utter lack of knowledge about what things cost, like our mortgage and all that, and the flip side of that was down to the penny, how all the kids knew what the luxury items cost," Ivan says. "They knew what an iPod costs to the cent. They knew what everything cost, but not anything practical."

"Yeah, we were all trying to wrangle an invitation to y'all's house," Dr. Phil jokes.

"It's really nice," Ivan says.

"Did you learn anything?" Dr. Phil asks Owen.

"I learned that when your parents tell you, ‘No, you can't get that,' that you shouldn't nag them all about it," he says.

"Out of the mouths of babes," Dr. Phil says.

He turns to Katelyn and her mother, Michelle. "This is Katelyn, and she is so cute that Robin wants to take her home. So, what did you learn yesterday, Katelyn?"

"I learned that an iPod is 28 bags of groceries, and groceries are much more important than an iPod," she says.

"Mom, what do you think about what she's saying?"

[AD]"It was great. It was a great thing for them to have a visual on all the utilities, and mortgage, and car and things, that I just didn't realize that they didn't have any idea, so I think it was a great thing to do," she says.

Dr. Phil turns to Madison and her father, Darius. "What did you learn, Madison?"

"Instead of nagging them for a bunch of things, you should appreciate what you have instead of asking for more things and, like, having a tantrum, because that's what I do when I don't get what I want," she says.