LMS Recommends: The Opposite Of Spoiled!
Do you talk about money? More specifically, do you discuss financial topics with your children? For many, money is something simply not discussed in polite company; for others, its scarcity necessitates a constant conversation in order to keep the family afloat. I, myself, belong in the latter category. Growing up, our financial well-being was almost always in flux and was, therefore, an ongoing source of stress. Early on, I internalized a negative view of money because there was never enough and talking about it made people yell and cry. Even as our quality of life improved—bigger house, newer cars, more trips to the mall—somehow, finances remained a major source of strain.
Today, almost a year from the major upheaval that completely rearranged our lives, my husband and I find ourselves in the empowering position of having a completely clean slate upon which to create the life we've always dreamed. For the first time in our 12-year marriage, we know we're on the right path, armed with the knowledge to make wise decisions, financial and otherwise.
However, one of the most challenging aspects has been explaining the circumstances to the kids. The younger ones are fairly oblivious, but at 7 years old, our oldest son understands much more than his siblings. He vividly remembers the mountains of Christmas gifts, bloated birthday checks, and frequent vacations. We've spoken to him honestly about why we moved and the importance of downsizing. He's handled it quite well considering how much change has been jam-packed into the past ten months, but my husband and I do have concerns about how to fill that superficial, but no less potent void. They're kids, after all, not tiny adults. They deserve to have an enjoyable childhood, right? We knew we wanted to start giving him more responsibilities, but we weren't sure how to implement them in a meaningful, age-appropriate way.
After hearing wonderful things about The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, I finally grabbed it from the library and devoured it in one 24-hour period. Several times, I loudly exclaimed, "That's brilliant!" It was exactly what I needed because it tackled all of the issues swirling around in my head, the main one being, "How do I teach my kids about money in a way that won't scare or overwhelm them?" I knew I didn't want to create an alarmist attitude about finances, but I was also wary of fostering a sense of entitlement. How does one straddle that line?
Over the course of The Opposite of Spoiled, author Ron Lieber outlines various strategies to raise kids with a healthy relationship with money, one where it is seen as a useful tool rather than a yardstick by which to measure one's worth. Before reading the book, one of my concerns was its point of view. Would it only be for those in the middle and upper classes? I needn't have worried. Taking the best tips from American families of varied socioeconomic statues, structures, ethnicities, seasons of life and belief systems, Leiber has created a book that is both useful and accessible to everyone, whether they are barely getting by or are in the top 10%. I loved the range of practical information, too; there's tips for those as young as 4 or 5, all the way up to college-bound teens (and beyond.)
Further, he directly confronts the changing economy of the 21st century. Thanks to the recession, jobs are hard to come by and expenses are higher than ever. Our kids need to learn how to navigate a world that is very different than it was a generation ago. For example, the cost of higher education is sky-rocketing, but there's no longer a guarantee of job retention just because one has a diploma. If they're lucky enough to find a job in their field of study, they may or may not have stability—or health coverage—while there. As parents, it is our job to prepare our children for these realities, rather than just preaching the same old "go to college, graduate, and get a job." Along with basic money management, we have to teach them the values that go hand-in-hand with financial intelligence. According to Leiber, ideals such as curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance, and perspective are paramount to a well-rounded view of money. By starting when they're young, we can ensure our kids have the tools necessary to make their own informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls that can so easily derail one's economic future.
Lastly, The Opposite of Spoiled devotes a fair amount of space to the idea of giving, a topic that is near and dear to my heart. The people mentioned in the book shared a myriad of ways to be charitable, but the unifying factor that stood out most was the involvement of the entire family. Kids and adults discussed to whom the money would be distributed and/or where to volunteer their time and effort. In addition to illustrating the importance of generosity, what a wonderfully-democratic way to ensure each person in the family is heard!
I can't recommend this book enough! It came along at just the right time and has provided tons of useful information that we can start using right away. Our oldest son will be turning 8 in November, and we've decided to implement an allowance as part of the celebration. It's the perfect time to start him on the path toward becoming a responsible steward of his finances, something far more valuable than money itself will ever be.
Have you read The Opposite of Spoiled? If so, what did you think? How do you talk about money with your kids? How did your parents discuss it with you? Would love to read your thoughts below!