For many affluent parents, the worst condemnation of their parenting would be to describe their children as “spoiled.” This word evokes the sense that the children came into this world pure and good, but the parents did something that ruined the children like rotten meat.
The Opposite of Spoiled
In his latest book “The Opposite of Spoiled,” New York Times financial columnist (and admittedly my dear childhood friend), Ron Lieber, takes on this fear and gives parents the tools to help raise children who are the very opposite of all that spoiled connotes.
What’s the opposite of spoiled? Lieber lists certain virtues and traits that characterize the opposite of spoiled: patience, thrift, generosity, modesty, curiosity, perseverance and perspective. His book contains a number of ways that parents can teach their children all of these traits using money as the tool.
Lieber advocates for non-chore based allowances, balanced vacation choices, less materialism and open frank discussions with kids about the family's finances (at ages younger than some of our clients may be inclined or comfortable).
How We Can Help
So, how can clients’ advisors help? Here are a few ideas. First, we can educate our clients that although they may fear having spoiled children, they probably need to put in the time and effort to consciously focus on what that means to them and how to avoid it. Second, we can help our clients articulate their personal values and goals for their children in this regard. Third, we can help them develop an action plan that lays out how they’ll implement these goals at or by various ages. We can help hold them accountable.
We can also help by leading periodic family meetings with age appropriate content for the children. We can help the children learn about financial literacy, budgeting, estate planning and philanthropy. We can facilitate (or find others to facilitate) frank discussions about topics such as materialism, narcissism and lack of gratitude, which many perceive as evidence a child has been spoiled. The family can be educated on the substantial body of research that indicates how shallow pursuits lead to discontentment, dissatisfaction and other problems. In contrast, the research shows that true happiness stems from giving, helping others, feeling useful and finding meaning in one’s life.