If there is anything that divides parents and their older offspring, it is the topic of money.

As a refresher to young people who grew up in the Plastic Age and haven't seen money in a while, it is issued in coins and bills, is used to purchase items, does not take two IDs to spend, and comes in green and silver.I can remember going to the bank with my daughter the first year she went away to school. We opened her first checking account. As I put the book of checks in her hand, I said, "There, for the first time you have responsibility for yourself."

Six months later she was admitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for having cashed in a single week more checks under $3, without recording any of them, than any other person in North America.

She saw no correlation whatsoever between the money in her account and the checks she wrote. She said she would be relieved to get a credit card so she wouldn't have to fiddle with records. They'd do all that dumb stuff for her.

Our generation views the purchase of a house differently than our offspring. We bought houses to live in. They buy houses to live off of.

Along with the keys to our first house, we had a stack of payment sheets that when extended looked like the Alaska Highway. Every month, we tore off one sheet. We drove ourselves crazy trying to pick up payments and toasted one another when we finally paid it off. The house was ours.

Today, houses are a monument to equity. They are used to finance cars, a swimming pool, vacation retreats and a boat, but the payments are a part of your life forever, like an ugly carpet.

The goals of both generations are the same . . . to live better than our parents lived. We part company on when we expect this to happen. We tell our kids stories of how we rented an apartment when we got married, lived without a car for two years and didn't own a TV set or take a vacation for the first five years. They exchange glances and look at us like they wonder if we needed a connect-a-dot coloring book to tell us how to conceive children.

They come from a generation who won't walk to the altar unless there's an answering machine, state-of-the-art stereo, matching racing bikes, cappuccino maker, car, word processor, prenuptial agreement and season tickets to the Phoenix Suns waiting there.

We didn't realize how far apart we were until Christmas when we gave our son a check. He said he was buying CDs. We thought he meant certificates of deposit. He was talking about compact disks.