The Opposite of Spoiled

Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money

by Ron Lieber

Number of pages: 256

Publisher: Harper

BBB Library: Parenting

ISBN: 9780062247025

About the Author

Ron Lieber is an American journalist who writes the “Your Money” column for The New York Times. From 2002 to 2007, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, including the “Green Thumb” column on money management.


Editorial Review

The Opposite of Spoiled is all about how, when and why to talk to kids about money, whether they are 3 years old or teenagers. Written in a warm, accessible voice, grounded in real-world experience and stories from families with a range of incomes, The Opposite of Spoiled is both a practical guidebook and a values-based philosophy.

Book Reviews

“Lieber, who has spent a decade writing about money for The Wall Street Journal and now this newspaper, wants to educate parents on how to raise a generation of adults who are, as his subtitle says, “grounded, generous and smart about money.” He doesn’t offer a grand philosophy about how to accomplish this. His book is intensely pragmatic, relentlessly anecdotal — and that’s why I loved it.” — The New York Times

“Lieber makes a strong argument that money is something that children notice and talk about. He believes modern American parents’ reticence on the subject bypasses the opportunity to instill both good values and important skills. Lieber advises giving honest responses to children’s questions about family finances and encouraging even affluent kids to take after-school jobs.” — Publishers weekly

“In the course of profiling dozens of savvy families, Lieber gives tips on how to talk about money with kids in a calm way. . . . He makes a convincing case that the tendency to avoid the topic is a missed opportunity.” — The Wall Street Journal

"He writes that upon creating a word cloud of traits that are the opposite of spoiled, ‘I realized that every last one of those attributes — from generosity and curiosity to patience and perseverance — could be taught using money.’” — Forbes

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Wisdom to Share

Human quirks and emotions have a profound impact on economic decisions, from governments right down to individuals.

It doesn't have to cost all that much to spoil a child, and three of the four factors of being "spoiled" don't cost a thing. Parents of middle- and working-class kids have many of the same worries about materialism and entitlement, given that all kids are exposed to the same acquisitive culture.

The opposite of spoiled is a generational manifesto that is first and foremost a promise to our kids that we will make them better at managing money than we are and give them the tools they need to avoid the financial traps that will ensnare so many adults.

An allowance helps kids learn to save and spend money, a skill they don't get to practice in very many other ways as they grow up. They are at a time in their lives when the stakes are pretty low, so the inevitable mistakes don't matter so much. Plus the primary virtue of receiving an allowance is learning patience.

It's useful to have kids generate their own list of needs and wants at the outset of the allowance process, just to see what they come up with.

Parents have an essential role to play in modeling generosity, and researchers have shown that if parents give, kids tend to as well. Most important, it helps if parents talk to their offspring about giving too. And the more the parents give, the greater the likelihood that they talk to their kids about that giving.

What our kids can learn from paid employment is a work ethic, that loose phrase that captures the ability to listen, exert ourselves, cooperate with others, do our best, and stick to a task until we’ve done it and done it right.

It's all too easy to default the assumption that it's more trouble to teach kids how to perform more complicated household tasks than it is to just do them ourselves, indefinitely. In doing so, we send a clear, strong message: We expect little of you, and you're living mostly for yourself.

One of the most profound challenges of having kids is that raising them isn't simply about shaping their financial values and decision-making skills. Teaching them means questioning our own priorities as well which is a healthy thing to do in any event. So defining enough for grown-ups has to happen as early as possible in the parenting process.

When kids start earning, we want them to figure out how much they need and to what end. And when we reflect on what we have, we want our kids to grow into young adults with perspective people with a healthy definition of enough that is unique to them and isn't based on what everyone else has or does.