The Opposite of Spoiled

The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money by Ron Lieber

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This book had some decent ideas, but I don’t think it was for me. I had a hard time relating to it because its main audience seemed to be very wealthy parents. Lieber tries to be as inclusive as possible, but spends less attention on poor parents trying to avoid passing down a scarcity complex than on rich parents embarrassed by their good fortune. He explains how to have hard conversations with kids, how to say no to expensive things you can afford but that don’t fit your values. I thought Lieber’s ideas were good for his audience, especially encouraging them to integrate their children in mixed-income communities rather than isolating them in wealthy enclaves, and emphasizing giving to the less fortunate. But many of the anecdotes were so far removed from my experience–and my family has an above-average income–that I found them often out-of-touch.

Lieber’s main concrete advice is to allow children to have money and make money decisions and money mistakes. I can see the wisdom in kids gaining experience working with money and budgeting like that. He assumes, though, that parents can afford to give children the kind of allowance that would allow for meaningful money decisions, and that their own income is regular enough to make this commitment to their children. There is also a philosophical debate about whether the allowance should be tied to chores, or if chores should simply be expected from children as members of the household. The book didn’t necessarily sell me entirely on either side of the debate.

One theme of the book that I did buy into is for parents to make money less taboo, to be less afraid of discussing it with children, and to be open with children about their financial decisions and the values behind them, especially since they’re supposed to be teaching their children values anyway. Lieber suggested a great universal first response to tough or potentially embarrassing questions that kids ask: “Why do you ask?” I totally agree that for any topic, from money to sex, countering with that question can start the discussion right, or at least prevent parents from making incorrect assumptions.


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