Where'd the Money Go?: Katie, Ron

Retail Therapy
Dr. Phil talks to father who is facing debt from his daughter's shopping sprees.
"Every month, I run up bills on my dad's credit card," says Katie, a college senior. "Then when they come in, we fight about it."

Her father, Ron, is tired of funding her spending habit while paying for college. "Katie knows how to play me, like a violin," he says. "I send her an allowance of $250 a month, and it's basically gone in four days."

Katie, calls herself "fortunate," not spoiled. "When I go shopping, I feel ecstatic," she confesses. "The problem then is when I get home, I think 'What did I just do? How is my dad going to pay for this?'"

When Katie studied abroad in Italy for a semester, she ran up over $10,000 in credit card debt. Ron took back her credit cards, but allowed her to keep an American Express card. "That's the one thing I've allowed her to keep just for an emergency, but she cannot use it unless she calls me in advance to get permission," he says.

Both Katie and Ron worry for her future if she doesn't get her spending under control. "My biggest fear is that Katie is going to be in bankruptcy court," Ron says, turning to Dr. Phil. "Is it too late to teach my daughter the value of money?"
"Are you here to defend this or are you here to change it?" Dr. Phil asks Katie.

Katie responds, "A little bit of both. I don't want to be in debt when I graduate from school."

Dr. Phil observes, "He gives you $1,100 a month for room, board, food and utilities, but you spend it on clothes."

Yes," Katie replies.

To Ron, Dr. Phil says, "Every month, you have a fight about this, right?"

Ron replies, "Just about every month."

"She says that all she's got to do is cry and you pay off like a slot machine," Dr. Phil teases.

Ron laughs. "Maybe not that fast, but eventually I cave in."

Dr. Phil notes that Katie says she is addicted to infomercials, Starbucks, J. Crew and online shopping. When he takes Ron to task about the $10,000 debt that Katie ran up in Italy, Ron says, "Well, a lot of times I'd get these frantic phone calls: 'All my friends are going to Florence this weekend,' and I just felt this was an experience that she wouldn't get again and so I would give in."
To Katie, Dr. Phil points out, "You fly from Chicago to New York six times a year to have your hair cut and colored," as the audience groans.

Katie defends herself. "I haven't found a good place in Chicago yet!" she says.

"Well, thank God you're 'fortunate' that you can do that," Dr. Phil quips. He is most amazed by Ron's comment: "'No, I don't overindulge her. She just hasn't gotten down the art of managing money.'"

Ron replies, "I try and keep her to a budget ... I give her what I think is a fair allowance each month, and then she has this way of just calling me up and she's very persuasive."

Dr. Phil is unconvinced. "Did somebody slip in here and stamp 'stupid' on my forehead? Are you kidding me?" he says. He points out that Katie has great qualities, like being a loving daughter and a good student, but admonishes, "You have a responsibility here, Dad. When I think about parenting, it's more than just providing a roof over their heads and clothes on their back ... One of the things you have to do is you have to socialize her. You've got to teach her how the world works ... No money, no stuff. No money, no house. No money, no car ... Unless you're going to spend the rest of your life picking up the tab for her to be irresponsible with finances."
"Aren't you crippling her if you're not holding her accountable?" Dr. Phil asks Ron.

Ron begins, "I did pull the credit cards ""

Dr. Phil interjects, "No, you didn't. You pulled two credit cards, gave her an American Express only to be used for emergencies, and then she goes and buys clothes with it!"

Ron wants Dr. Phil to see his side. "But she's supposed to call me up and get permission, and then send me an e-mail because she knows I forget sometimes what she actually did."

Dr. Phil explains that money problems aren't caused by or solved with money. "You get into money problems because of emotions, because of poor planning, because of impulse-control problems," he points out. "You solve money problems with planning and programming, maturity and accountability. I guarantee you, if you threw 10 grand at her right now and said, 'It'll totally get you out of debt. You'll start out of college debt free,' this would be the best-dressed fortunate woman in Chicago. And she wouldn't have her rent money the first month."

He tells Ron, "I mean she's just as cute as a speckled pup, but you've got to learn how to say no ... If she doesn't learn that, we're going to have a lot of trouble here."
After the show, Dr. Phil follows up with Katie in the audience. "If you changed your definition of success " where the way you thought about you was defined differently " would that help you?"

"It would," Katie agrees. "I wouldn't have a knot in my stomach about my purchases for that day. Even if I didn't have the items,
I would feel better."

When Dr. Phil wonders if Katie will be able to curtail her shopping sprees for 30 days, she nods hesitantly.

"Your enthusiasm is underwhelming," Dr. Phil jokes. "Can you do that?"

Katie replies, "I'll do it."