This is the first in a series of book reviews by Mr. DoD.  His New Year’s resolution is to read 12 finance related books in 2018, which would be 12 more than he read in 2017.  We hope you enjoy the first entry in the Doctors On Debt Prescribed Reading series.

Becoming a parent is hard.  There is so much to learn about how to take care of this little life you’ve been given; it can become overwhelming.  Sometimes it feels like you’re doing everything you can just to not screw it up.  

Everything is new and different, instantly.  Your sleep schedule.  Your monthly bills.  Your priorities.  Your goals.  Your life.

Suddenly, you’re not the center of attention anymore; even (and especially) in your own head.  Every decision you make now has new variables that come into play that were never a consideration before.

The changes are exaggerated for first time parents. Every milestone reached is a first.  No day is the same, which keeps things new and fun but also terrifying.

A constant question that most parents ask themselves often is, “Are we doing this right?”  Whether “this” is giving your baby his first bath, moving her to a new bed, caring for them when they are sick, or encouraging them to eat their first solid foods, there’s always that lingering fear that you’re not doing it the right way.

Though our child is still a toddler, we imagine that same fear stays with you through all of their years, whether you’re teaching them how to drive or trying to answer their questions about sex.

There’s no question about it:  Trying to navigate your way through raising your kids can be stressful, and most parents can use all the advice they can get.

Luckily, when it comes to talking to your kids about money, there’s a wonderful resource available that I would strongly encourage all parents seek out:  The book The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber.

The Author

Ron Lieber is a bestselling author and New York Times personal finance columnist.  He has worked for the Wall Street Journal, as well as Fortune and Fast Company magazines.  He maintains a website and newsletter that can be viewed at ronlieber.com.

Most of his writing is focused on personal finance, and he’s really made a name for himself when it comes to discussing these things with your family.  The “About the author” section of his book says that Ron “speaks often to schools and community groups about parenting, money, and values.”

If he doesn’t have the background to speak on those topics (which he absolutely does) he at least has the voice to; his writing style is conversational but confident.  His words are easy to read and written with authority behind them that makes you feel like you’re actually getting good advice.  He also sprinkles anecdotes about his own child throughout the book, reminding the reader that he’s a parent, too, and further lending credence to his words.

The Book

The Opposite of Spoiled is subtitled Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money.  If you’re a parent trying to teach your kids about finances, that subtitle is perfect.

I mean, who doesn’t want kids who are grounded, generous, and smart when it comes to personal finance?  We all do, of course, and I really think The Opposite of Spoiled can help us get there.

Let’s just cut to the chase:  I really liked the book.  Aside from being an easy read (which, I’ll admit, was a bonus), it was also a fun one.  Reading it never really felt like a chore, as reading sometimes can.  

It’s broken down into nine short chapters with titles like “Why We Need to Talk About Money,” “The Smartest Ways for Kids to Spend,” and “Why Kids Should Work.”

As you can imagine from those titles, each chapter is very specific to certain situations that will arise throughout the course of a childhood.  Whether it’s the first questions about money when they are still very young, to deciding on appropriate allowances, to having frank discussions about the family finances as the children get older, Mr. Lieber has very specific answers for very specific questions.

Without a doubt, the book is strongest when it’s focused on those specifics.

From the first pages, The Opposite of Spoiled makes the case that it’s more than just a good idea to talk to your children about finances; it’s a duty.  In Chapter 1, “Why We Need to Talk About Money,” he says that it’s a responsibility we have in order to raise financially competent and virtuous young men and women.  So why is it so hard?

Lieber answers this question by asking us to consider a couple of things that he believes to be truths:  1) That money is emotional, and 2) that we aren’t rational when it comes to our children.  

Therefore, answering questions our kids ask about money (of which there will be many) is doubly hard because it’s an emotional subject broached by those we are responsible for.

Chapter 2 is titled “How to Start the Money Conversations,” and it’s probably my favorite chapter in the book.  After establishing that talking to our kids about money is our duty in order to raise financially literate kids, we are given specific examples of how to do that in this chapter.

Questions like, “Are we rich?” and “Are we poor?” and “Why can’t I have it if I’m going to buy it with my own money?” are all touched on, among many others.  Lieber gives us straightforward answers here, teaching us exactly what to say in many different circumstances.  This includes what he says is the single best response to any money question (or, really, any question at all) your kids may ask you.  

I won’t spoil it, but that little nugget was worth the price of admission by itself.

While the first two chapters of the book establish the overall theme of the importance of talking about money with your kids and how to do it, further chapters dive into deeper subjects with more detail.

Allowance, spending habits, materialism, giving, work, and gratitude all earn chapters of their own.  Each is filled with anecdotes on the subject in question and explanations for why you should do what he is telling you to do, and when.  

The book concludes with a chapter that is titled to ask the ultimate question: “How Much is Enough?”  

The question has been asked before (including in this classic by Physician on Fire), but the answer is different for everyone.  Further, as Lieber astutely points out, the same words mean different things depending on the conversation you’re having; it’s plain to see that “enough” allowance and “enough” charitable giving have different answers entirely.  

The real question, then, is “How much is enough for you?”

I believe most parents would love to raise children who can answer that question honestly and with conviction.

Conclusion

The Opposite of Spoiled is going to maintain permanent residence on our bookshelf for easy access for many years to come.  It’s one of those books that we will be coming back to time and again when we have questions for how to approach money issues with our kids.  

Bottom Line:  For parents, this is a must-read.

Three Quotes to Remember

On encouraging children to think about where they are spending their money:  “The implicit but essential message here is that every dollar we spend is an endorsement of something.”

“Financial status is fluid but financial values should not be.”

“There’s no shame in having more or having less, as long as you’re grateful for what you have, share it generously with others, and spend it wisely on the things that make you happiest.”

What do you think?  Have you read The Opposite of Spoiled?  Did you like it or not?  Let us know in the comments!