Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Opposite of Spoiled

I recently read Ron Lieber's The Opposite of Spoiled.
His take on kids' allowance is that it should not be tied to chores so that they can learn valuable lessons managing money divorced from the other lessons about hard work they will learn from teachers, coaches etc.  Most parents disagree with him, but I see his point.  He thinks they need the money lessons even if they're being a bit knuckle-headed by not doing their chores.  They do need chores, though.  He wants them to have to do them because that's what it means to be part of a family and household.  He thinks they should learning cooking as early as possible.

He advocates for three jars (spend-25%, give-25% and save-50%), but different stories mentioned had different approaches to what "save" meant.  He also mentioned families who match the "save" area and some who even try to teach tax a bit with a kid's money if they lose something or inconvenience someone.  Lieber allowed for a banned shopping list for kids spending their own money.  I can picture parents saying "not even your own money!" with regard to knives, tattoos, more barbies etc.

Lieber suggests some neat sites if you are managing allowance and/or chores with children (via actual banks).  Allowance Manager and FamZoo are two he offers.  There are others.

I remember when one of the girls came home with a "Wants vs. Needs" coloring sheet from a bank who had done a presentation at school.  What a gift.  I do think that conversation needs to be central.  I also think kids need to see what we donate to.  (Lieber said that most kids don't know.)  He also advocates for very honest conversations about our finances (appropriate for age), and he gave a plethora of examples that were quite inspiring.

One place I had a hard time connecting was along the lines of what materialism is/means and what our relationship should be to consumer goods.  He doesn't have trouble (as I do) with idealizing acquisition.  Also, his idea of moderate + decently-made is Lands End for clothes.  We don't live in the same universe, I'm afraid.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I would never buy there (or Hanna Andersson!), but we usually go for used on ebay.  It's certainly not our "moderate"--especially for growing children  (But then again, for adults perhaps it could be since I have a small/capsule-ish wardrobe?  Quality over quantity.  I'm still an LL Bean fan myself.)

I liked his idea of trying to figure out the "fun ratio" in terms of toy/game purchases.  Have kids look at how many hours of fun relative to dollars/cents spent.  They realize they get more bang for their buck in certain types of purchases.  Lieber has fun with tooth fairy traditions like giving foreign money (from a traditions book) or different animal teeth from the tooth fairy.  (We give "fairy gifts" like stones, seeds, feathers, bangles.)

I found his mention of ECHOage compelling as a way to streamline birthday gifts and include the charity of their choosing.  Another exciting thought was helping them to some kind of life-changing summer camp one of these days (where all tech is left at home and they learn a little bit more of what they're made of).  (I've love it if anyone could share their favorite summer camps and why.)

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