I reviewed an eye-opening and useful book by New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber this week that I’m recommending to all my fellow parents. The Opposite of Spoiled argues that if we don’t get real with our kids when it comes to money, we’re setting them up for financial confusion down the road.
What I liked most about the book is it’s not wonkish at all– it’s filled with lots of helpful advice and concrete suggestions for guiding kids to manage money responsibly. Lieber has been using his column, guests stints on the NYT‘s Motherlode column, and his Facebook page to find real stories from families all over the country trying to keep kids grounded in our materialistic culture.
Lieber’s research led to this clinical definition of a spoiled child: He/she has few chores or responsibilities, few enforced behavior and schedule rules, and is lavished with time, assistance and material possessions by parents.
Sound a bit familiar? Yikes!
We’re all a little guilty of spoiling our kids and Lieber goes into all the reasons we do it– from childhood wounds to a need for acceptance from kids and peers. But we’re doing them a disservice by keeping them in the dark about finances and not requiring them to take on more regular responsibilities.
Here’s an excerpt:
Some of the book’s unconventional recommendations may surprise parents, like answering salary questions honestly and not tying household chores to allowance. Parents who fear that talking with kids about money leads to spoiled children may be denying them a map to navigate important decisions later on.
Lieber says it’s “lunacy” to expect a teenager who’s probably never bought anything more expensive than a bike to make one of the biggest financial decisions of his life when choosing a college, if financial aid is involved. The book’s goal is to lay a framework for kids to start dealing with the dough when they’re younger so they develop good habits before finances get more complex with student loans, retirement plans and insurance policies in their 20s and beyond.
When explaining money decisions, Lieber suggests distinguishing “wants” and “needs.” If kids understand the difference, it becomes easier and more rewarding to save for coveted things. Guiding kids to separate money into spend, save and give away piles isn’t new, but Lieber delves deeper into how to help kids appreciate those choices, which often require patience and restraint and build character.
It’s rare to find a book about finance with so much heart, but Lieber’s bottom line is to invest in our kids’ futures by being honest and aware of our relationship with money: “There’s no shame in having more or less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest.”
Would you be willing to discuss your household income with your kids? Tell me in the comments.