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

By Ron Lieber

(HarperCollins, $26.99,  256 pages)

Who is this author?

Ron Lieber knows a lot about personal finances. Lieber is the “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times, and before that, he wrote The Wall Street Journal’s “Green Thumb” personal finance column, was on the reporting team for its “Personal Journal” section, and worked at Fortune and Fast Company magazines. He also has written (or co-written) three books, including The New York Times bestseller Taking Time Off. He is married to New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.

What is this book about?

Many parents famously avoid having “the talk” about sex with their kids, and a lot of them also avoid the other talk: the one about using money wisely.  Lieber, who really knows the personal finances territory, is also a father, and he understands the wisdom and necessity of making sure a child understands its family’s values when it comes to earning, spending, investing and donating money, from visits by the tooth fairy to handling college expenses. He has written a practical guide, enhanced by  anecdotes about how real families have encountered and solved money behavior problems. This book is meant to be a guide for parents, but it offers useful advice to people of all ages and stages.

Why you’ll like it:

Lieber uses a friendly and practical tone, which is a great help when discussing monetary issues that can be very dry. Besides offering sensible advice on everything from allowances to birthday money gifts to part-time jobs to charitable projects, he emphasizes that teaching children well from an early age about the uses and power and meaning of money, especially if the family is fortunate to have enough, is a vital part of preparing any child to enter the adult world.

What others are saying:

Barnes & Noble says: “In any casual gathering of parents, conversation will probably soon turn to an all-too timely topic: kids and money. In most cases, these chats rapidly degenerate into rants about “how different it was in my day.” With this book, New York Times columnist and author Ron Lieber  plans to change that verbal evasion with practical advice about getting youngsters involved with financial responsibility. In The Opposite of Spoiled, he achieves that goal with a combination of guidelines about discussions and motivational prompts; examples from real cases; and interviews. Real-world approaches to making boys and girls more modest, generous, and ready for the future.

The New York Times Book Review says: “ [Lieber] doesn’t offer a grand philosophy…His book is intensely pragmatic, relentlessly anecdotal—and that’s why I loved it. Lieber wants to solve the problems middle-class parents face every day: allowances, the tooth fairy, summer jobs, indulgent grandparents, North Face fleeces, car insurance. Mammon is in the details. Keeping his eye on specifics, Lieber covers all the biggies: earning, saving, giving, buying. He has an instinct for addressing the nitty-gritty…He has written a book that will start important conversations in a lot of households… “

Says Publishers Weekly: “Despite a smattering of practical advice, there’s more of the philosophical than the methodological to this primer from New York Times columnist Lieber  on helping children, especially those in the upper middle class, to approach financial matters with responsibility, generosity, and gratitude. 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. More specific and fun suggestions include divvying up allowances between Give/Save/Spend jars, establishing the “fun per dollar” test, and making the Tooth Fairy’s arrival less of a cash grab. Assorted motivational stories touch on both the mundane (collecting bottles for deposit) and the dramatic (parents who downsized their home, at their young daughter’s urging, to free up $800,000 for charity). Lieber’s easygoing style will encourage parents to raise a new generation that’s both confident and compassionate.”

Kirkus Reviews says: “Talking big bucks with the smallest members of your household will make the world a better place, argues New York Times personal finance columnist Lieber. Do you know the going rate for a visit from the tooth fairy in your neighborhood? . . .. So what do you put under your child’s pillow? Does it matter? Yes, these seemingly small family financial decisions matter a lot, according to Lieber. In his third book, the author addresses affluence, its effect on child-rearing and the lessons most of us are not teaching our children about managing wealth. As practical as the first half of the book is—it’s packed with suggestions on everything from allowance to college tuition—Lieber’s advice skews toward the upper-class family, leaving out the many families who make less than the $75,000 annual income he acknowledges as his base line. Later chapters get into tougher territory, and Lieber makes a good case for using early money management training to help children eventually tackle society’s bigger problems, such as homelessness and hunger. Humble stories of kids raising money for Down syndrome research or creating kit bags to give to people living on the street offer inspiration for those who do have money to spend it wisely in the world and to teach their children to do the same. Sound advice on managing family finances —  but only if you have sufficient finances to manage.”

When is it available?

You can borrow this valuable book of advice from the Downtown Hartford Public Library or its Albany, Blue Hills, Goodwin, Mark Twain or Park branches.

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