Where'd the Money Go?: Jeri, Dan

Compulsive Shopper
Dr. Phil talks to man who's collectibles has gotten him into nearly $30,000 worth of debt.

"My husband's spending is threatening our marriage," says Jeri, showing the room where Dan stashes his collectibles, including Star Trek paraphernalia and Hot Wheels. "Debt is a nightmare to me. I would actually consider divorce so that I could live a less stressful life."

Dan defends his shopping sprees. "I am the sole breadwinner. If I want to buy something, I should be able to buy it," he says. But he knows he has a problem. "I have a compulsion to obtain, and I feel good about those purchases until my wife opens the credit card bill."

A few years ago, Dan had prostate surgery, which changed his outlook on life. "I didn't want to die of cancer. I went through a lot of depression ... I wanted to have more kids," he says emotionally. "The reason I collect is for my children as a legacy."

Turning to Dr. Phil for advice, Jeri pleads, "Can you please help me get through to my husband that his spending is hurting our family?"
Addressing Dan, Dr. Phil asks, "What do you think about what you're doing?"

"I find it very difficult to stop, and I know it's not the right thing to do for the welfare of the family," Dan confesses.

"Do you have any theory as to where it comes from?" Dr. Phil probes.

"It wasn't as bad until I had my prostate surgery," Dan admits. "After that, I got better and found eBay all over again."

Dr. Phil wonders if Dan shops because he feels that life is short. "Mortality was visited upon you so you just said, 'Hey, if it feels good, do it'?"

"To some extent. I do feel that mortality hit me square in the head. At 43, having prostate cancer, being very young, definitely changed my outlook on life without a doubt," Dan says.

Dr. Phil observes that Dan wants to leave a legacy for his children. "If you want to leave them something, how about financial security? How about a college education fund?" he questions. "If your kids had a voice ... how do you think they would vote with you or me? Cash or Hot Wheels?"

"In the future, obviously cash," Dan replies.
Dr. Phil introduces Lynnette Khalfani, a financial reporter and author of a book called Zero Debt. "How much credit card debt did you have when you were at your worst point?" he asks.

"I am a financial expert, and at my worst point, I was actually $100,000 in credit card debt," Lynnette says. "I now have zero debt. That's one of the reasons I wrote the book, to teach people that they can get out of it just like I did."

When Dr. Phil asks Lynnette how long it will take for Dan to pay off his $30,000 debt, she replies, "It will take him well over 30 years to pay off that debt if he's paying minimum payments ... well over 30 years."

"And that's going to wind up costing you somewhere between $80,000 and $90,000," Dr. Phil adds. Turning to Dan, he asks, "How do you feel about that?"

"Pretty sickened about it," Dan admits.
Dr. Phil presses, "Didn't you tell me that you resent [your wife] telling you what you can buy and what you can't?"

"Yes sir," Dan says.

Dr. Phil explains, "Resentment over control is usually followed by rebellion. Didn't you also say that there are times that you just do it because you just want to show her you can?"

When Dan says yes, Jeri chimes in, "And I resent being put in the place that I have to be his mother, his nag, his babysitter."

"See, isn't that the issue here?" Dr. Phil points out. "The topic is the Hot Wheel or the Matrix thing, but you have a parent-child relationship. And you're rebelling against mom. That's a very expensive rebellion."

He acknowledges that Dan has admitted, "'I, in fact, do have a compulsion here. I recognize that I get a high when I buy something.' Do you understand that that's an addiction?" Dr. Phil questions. "That's a fix. It's like taking a drink or taking a drug ... but then it wears off and you and have to go do it again. Fact is, that you're getting an emotional, physiological pay-off when you buy something, the same as you would get if you took a drug or a drink. It gives you a sense of control. It gives you a sense of peace and relaxation for that short period of time, but then you have to get another hit."
"I would like you to consider giving away all of those things that you have purchased that you know were just a matter of compulsion," Dr. Phil suggests. "In fact, we're coming into the holiday season, and there are so many children that are needy and deprived and without, that you are like Santa's workshop."

"There's a lot of truth," Dan says. Reaching into his pocket, he brings out a surprise for Dr. Phil. "I knew I was going to be on the hot seat today, so I only have one of these," he says, presenting Dr. Phil with a Hot Seat car from Hot Wheels.

Holding up the toy car, Dr. Phil jokes, "This could be a real beginning, because I am a very needy, Hot Wheel deprived young man. I truly appreciate that gesture. What I'm asking you to do is to say, 'You know what? I want that good feeling inside and I'm trying to fill it up with things. I want to fill it up with a spirit of giving instead.' I just wonder if that might bring you some peace to give instead of get."

He suggests that Dan and his family spend some weekends at a shelter or an orphanage. "See if you can fill yourself up by doing that," he says. "I want you to try to give your way to some health and some happiness. Are you willing to give that a try?"

"Yes sir. I will do it," Dan pledges.