Ron Lieber’s inspiration to author his bestselling “Opposite of Spoiled” drew largely from his readers’ questions, but it dawned much earlier when he asked himself the same questions.
The New York Times columnist, who previously wrote for the Wall Street Journal, said he was confounded when his then-3-year-old daughter asked him about money, specifically their family’s money.
“For some people, it’s hard because their parents never talked to them about money, so they’re following the behavior from when they grew up,” Lieber said in a phone interview last week.
Lieber hopes to dive into this topic at an event Monday, Oct. 17, at Huntington Middle School, courtesy of the Partnership for Awareness. His book, whose long-form title is “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money,” advocates an open line of communication between parents and children about personal financial situations in an effort to better prepare children for the future.
“They know that when they talk about it, their kids will ask pointed questions, as kids often do,” Lieber said.
Parents feel awkward with the topic for a handful of reasons, Lieber said, including never having gotten the talk from their own parents. Some, he added, aren’t sure how to acknowledge their relative “privilege” when it comes to finances or feel misguided sentiments of shame because they know they haven’t made the wisest money decisions in the past.
“The things we do with our money say a lot about us as people and what we value,” he said.
Helen Kim Spitzer, president of PfA, said she was thrilled to have booked Lieber for the organization’s speaker series this year in part because of her own recent experience in talking money with her oldest son, who started college a year ago.
The credit card she gave to her son, Spitzer said, ended up being used a lot for ordering food without careful regard for the bill being racked up. She admitted it was “kind of expected” and it introduced her to the idea of teaching financial literacy to children raised in affluent towns such as San Marino.
“In reading Ron’s book, I realized I didn’t really use the opportunity when they (her kids) were curious to instill family values and how to budget,” she said. “It kind of opened my eyes. These kids, they just don’t always know how to budget things. There were opportunities (to talk about finances) and I kind feel like I missed them.”
Spitzer said Lieber “fit the bill” of someone who not only can answer the “why” to the question, but also the “how.” She also has children in 10th and 7th grade with whom to have these conversations.
“I really think that parents will learn a lot of things to do immediately and things to think about moving forward,” Spitzer said.
Krishna Rao, a parliamentarian with PfA, acknowledged her children were raised in an environment that is “very comfortable for them,” and that added an element to the money conversation.
“You know that you should have that conversation with your kids, but where do you start?” she said. “I think Ron Lieber’s got more of a game plan.
“It is weird how we don’t talk about it,” Rao, the mother of 5th-, 7th- and 11th-grade children, added.
Lieber’s book promotes, among other points, plans to set aside money for immediate spending, money to be saved long-term and money to be used charitably. He said he’s received more interest from California than other states in speaking about his book, something he attributed to the unique demographics to California life.
“There are a lot of pockets of above-average net worth in California, but California is also a hotbed of progressive values,” he said.
The PfA program begins at 7 p.m. Monday in the Huntington Middle School auditorium. Any and all interested parents are welcome to attend, the PfA has said.