“The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Lieber, best-selling author and  “Your Money” columnist for The New York Times since 2008.

Premise: Helping parents have conversations with their children about money

Money. It’s one of the most talked about, and certainly most thought about topics on the planet. It is the means by which we provide material things for our families, it is a primary way employers value our work, and it is at the center of nearly every transaction we participate in. Yet all too often it is a taboo subject between parents and children. Furthermore, schools have historically done a poor job educating children about how to properly manage their money, not to mention how to avoid some terrible pitfalls that await young adults once they are in charge of their own finances. Why is that? One, these can be difficult topics for young children to understand if not presented properly. I know a financial advisor (last name Menges) who got into a conversation with his 6 year old son about depositing his money in a real bank (as opposed to the piggy variety) and before he knew it, he was neck deep in an explanation about FDIC insurance! Second, parents themselves often have an uneasy relationship with money, so to avoid an awkward topic, they just leave it alone.

If any of this sounds familiar, then Ron Lieber has put together a fantastic book in The Opposite of Spoiled to help facilitate your conversations.He reminds us that children are great listeners; they absorb much more than we give them credit for. They are also inquisitive, and Ron strongly encourages us to answer all the questions our children have about wealth, or lack thereof. He weaves personal stories from parents who have had these tough conversations and gives the reader some context for putting best practices into action in their own households. From addressing allowances, the tooth fairy, charitable giving, why kids should work, to simply raising kids with gratitude for what they have, Ron did an excellent job not only keeping my attention, but also giving me several actionable ideas that I now practice regularly with my children.

The reality is that we spend so much time teaching our children how to stay healthy by eating the right foods, exercising, not taking harmful drugs, how to avoid danger, etc., yet we don’t take the time to help them understand money from an early age so they can hopefully mitigate any future stress caused by money. Money is often cited as a leading cause of marital troubles, stress and anxiety. We owe it to our children to help them understand how to have a healthy relationship with money. In that light, Ron Lieber has hit it out of the park.


Other book reviews by PDS

Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)