Raising children in an affluent area like Orange County, California has its unique challenges. For example, if you have a nanny when the children are little, when is it time for the children to make their own beds and clean up after themselves? If we are going to launch great young adults they need life skills and independence, not helplessness and entitlement. How can you raise responsible, kind and capable young adults even when they come from an advantaged family? A recently published book by Ron Lieber targets this concern in The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, (Harper, 2015).
Many parents feel that they want to do more for their offspring than their parents did for them, but also don't want their children to become spoiled. What is the opposite of spoiled? Perhaps it's raising children who are appreciative, grateful, and unselfish?
Children and teens often envy and want the things they see friends having, as well as things on social media and television. Lieber takes the stance that parents need to have conversations with their children and teens, throughout growing up, about responsible and irresponsible choices with money. Children need to giving financial education at appropriate ages about saving, credit, limits and wastefulness.
Lieber's book made me think about parents I am working with who are making decisions about the first car their 16 year-old will drive, and what portion of the cost of the car, gas, and insurance the young person will pay. Even if parents can afford a fancier car, maybe the best decision involves helping to teach your teen about money and earning things. Maybe a safe used car sends a better message.
Lieber has some good advice on how to answer questions about money, like "How much do you earn?". He has a fun 'hours of fun' metric that he recommends parents introduce kids to before they are purchasing items. For example, how many hours of fun might you get from this bike versus this phone. Lieber has his suggestions on how to teach children to save, spend and give parts of their allowance. They have to learn from making some of their own mistakes, Lieber cautions.
Volunteering with your child or teen is another great way to introduce conversations with them about money, values, and service. While my youngest daughter went to a private, religious high school with plenty of advantaged teens, we had some good Saturday mornings volunteering for a local food pantry together.
The books assumes a degree of privilege in the family, so it's not a book geared at every family. However if you are raising children in an affluent area, this book is full of good ideas on teaching children about being wise with money, saving, being generous with others who are less fortunate and making good decisions. Conversations about money are also conversations about our values. Why would we let social media or the Kardashians have a bigger say about what's important than we do? It's time to start talking with our children about money as it's a part of preparing them to launch successfully into adult life and be grounded.