sex, drugs and money

Ron Lieber, New York Times money Columnist, has written a wonderful book called "The Opposite of Spoiled". Speaking as a "thrifty person" (he discusses it and I embrace the epithet!), this book is well worth the money!

It is a big topic and like sex and drugs, one that is very difficult to discuss as an adult and as a parent. I know the default is to ignore these difficult topics - life is so busy. If you do that, you may get lucky and your kid may bumble their way to a safe and thoughtful adulthood, but that is not good parenting. The difficult (and most important) part about this job is being proactive and honest and guiding the conversation as your child develops. It is on you. Let's face it, if you have to tackle one of the three, start with money. It is not easy, but it can be the one that comes up first.

I read a lot of advice books that should have been pamphlets - chatty bullet points. I always feel a little dirty when I am done - too many trees killed. This book is NOT like that. It is a thoughtful and interesting essay on the many ways we have grown twisted or triumphed over, our thinking about love, fear, generosity, envy, self image and parenting. But it isn't only that. It is also very clear eyed strategies about saving, giving and spending. It is very pragmatic. There is no one right way to address this, and lays out the often very ingenious ways that many families work it out. The only thing that you absolutely can't do, is stick your head in the sand.

I hope that this book will continue the conversation about the creative and common sense ways that families deal with the strategies around money and parenting.
Here is one of my stories:
I heard many complaints from my old parent friends about how they were frustrated in being treated as a literal money machines by their college freshmen. We never got those calls. Before our kids left for school we sat down at the kitchen table and laid out very clearly what we would cover and what they would cover. Ours: tuition, room and board and travel home. Theirs: books, supplies, laundry, discretionary travel, fancy coffee, pizza, beer, everything else. They had some saved money from grad presents and we gave them a small amount of seed money (because the books are crazy expensive). They had work study jobs and summer jobs to replenish their funds. We told them that they could keep their seed money if they didn't spend it on the many necessities. It was on them.

What happened: As first semester freshmen, they did a little online research and both spent a fraction of the money their fellow students spent on books alone. One child actually acquired all her many hundreds of $ worth of textbooks for 0$. She gleefully recounted how she walked past the long line at the bookstore and went to the empty library, where she checked out all current copies of the text books, and renewed them for the full semester for free. She then went to Craig's list and Kmart and decorated her freshman dorm room to her heart's content. As germphobs we knew that they would spend their own money to do their laundry (some parents of less fastidious kids may worry about them using their own money for that). You know your own children and what will motivate them and what won't.  My husband and I chalk our kids' level headed attitude up to a little bit of luck and lots of talk and examples of value, thrift and hard work everyday. We bring our own crazy to the table of course, but the honesty about our own struggles is an example to them as their insight is an example to us.

Do you want a copy of this book?
Send me an email with "the opposite of spoiled" in the subject. Include your mailing address and I will pick names from the hat on March 1. Good luck!