The Opposite of Spoiled

One of the questions Balentine fields most often involves raising children to be financially responsible adults. Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for the New York Times, tackles this issue head on in his new book The Opposite of Spoiled.

The Opposite of Spoiled is full of practical tips, suggestions and solutions on issues ranging from allowances to charitable donations. Personal anecdotes suggest these tips churn out well-adjusted teenagers and young adults.

Ideas include:

  • Starting an allowance system at an early age while distinguishing between what to spend, save and give.
  • Strategizing for how to handle the human propensity to keep up with the Joneses, which has been made much worse by social media.
  • Answering tough questions like “are we rich?” and “how much money do we have?”
  • Establishing the difference between needs and wants.
  • Instilling charitable giving in children at a young age.

One underlying theme of the book is communication. Bucking the trend of money as a shrouded and forbidden topic, Lieber promotes honest, open and frequent dialogue. Why? Because, as Lieber argues, children are naturally curious, and we now live in an age of abundant information and instantaneous answers. It is undeniably better for children to hear the truth from parents than from a litany of Google results!

A second important thematic takeaway from The Opposite of Spoiled is the idea that values should shape how we teach children about money and, relatedly, how we ourselves spend money. Borrowing from Carl Richards’ playbook, Lieber challenges readers to analyze their own spending habits as they strive to instill good money habits in their children. As a parent, if your child were to read through your bills and credit card statements, “What would they say is important to you?” Lieber asks. Perhaps more importantly, “Would you feel good about their assessment?”

Overall, Lieber’s book is a great tool for any parent looking for general advice on communicating with kids regarding money matters and easy-to-implement tips in your own home. Additional resources are included for parents who want more in-depth information on a specific topic.

Unlike many other books which cover children and money, The Opposite of Spoiled is cheery, upbeat and full of stories in which creative, out-of-the-box parenting goes right. The topic of what happens when the burden of inherited wealth goes awry is largely avoided. Therefore, the book is best suited for parents who have children at home—the years during which parents are still able to provide guidance and influence.

However, this is only the first step. As Lieber reminds readers, financial literacy is a life-long commitment and difficult conversations must be rehashed many times over. The outcome—financially responsible and values-based children—is worth the discomfort.

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