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Consumer warrior Clark Howard visits Dayton

When Scott Leopold saw the Facebook solicitation asking for folks willing to contribute their personal stories to Clark Howard’s new book, he decided to submit his name for consideration.

“I enjoy his show, I try to follow him on Facebook, and I liked the idea of being part of it,” said the Dayton father of five who agreed to share tips on how he and his wife, Jeannine, manage to meet the challenges of a seven-person household on a combined income that ranges from $60,000-$70,000 annually.

The Leopolds — whose tips range from thrift store and consignment shopping to growing a vegetable garden in the summer — are one of 50 families across the nations featured in “Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul.” On Thursday, the man who’s made cheap chic came to town to promote a book he insists is dramatically different from his previous nine.

In a morning radio interview with Larry Hansgen of WHIO-Radio, Howard said the idea for the new book came to him in Dayton at a public “Meeting of the Mouths” event where he spent much of his time trying to fight the economic pessimism he sensed in the audience.

“So many people were crushed by the economy that some people think it’s going to be that way but the past is not the future,” Howard said. “I believe we in America have a very bright future and so do our kids.”

To prove it, he gleaned tips from 50 Americans on subjects ranging from Credit and Health Care to Retirement and Investing. The Leopold family’s suggestions are included in the book’s “Family” section.

Most — although not all — of those interviewed for the book have found creative methods for dealing with financial adversity.

“We as humans are so innovative and so creative,” Howard insists. The examples he cited included a Wall Street “big wheel” who lost everything and then decided to start his own business making all-natural Popsicles.

“He’ll end up a multimillionaire!” Howard said. “Another couple in downstate Illinois had $100,000 in student loan debt and wiped it out in four years by getting rid of their cars and going everywhere on bicycles.”

Howard, who signed books at Books & Co. on Thursday afternoon, said he doesn’t like to approach those in financial trouble by talking about sacrifice.

“It’s like a diet — if it’s about the cookie you can’t have, it won’t work,” he said. “It’s about freedom. It’s the reward you’re going to get and that becomes empowering. “

Howard’s overall message is that we all need to live below our means and be prepared for the unexpected.

“So many of us are living in houses where we didn’t build the foundation first,” he said. “We’re all going to have tough rounds — we may walk into a job we thought was secure and they’ll say ‘nice knowing you.’ Maybe it’s a health problem or a family member who gets in trouble with the law. We have to be flexible, creative and we better all follow the Boy Scout motto.”

Howard said he learned that important lesson from personal experience. After growing up as a “silver spoon” kid, he came home from college one day to learn that his father had lost his job and couldn’t afford to send him back to school.

“It was the defining moment in my life,” said Howard, who was forced to get a day job and go to school at night. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to focus on what mattered.”

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