in: Career & Wealth, Wealth

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #188: The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money

How should you respond when your five-year-old asks you if your family is rich or poor?

Should you pay your kids an allowance?

How do you teach your kids to budget their money?

Teaching children about money can be a touchy subject for a lot of folks and there isn’t a lot of guidance out there for parents on how to do it well. Parents want their kids to be savvy with money, but often don’t know how to start the conversation.

Well, my guest today has written a book packed with research-backed tips on how to effectively teach your children about personal finance. His name is Ron Lieber. Ron is the money columnist at The New York Times, and the author of the book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.

Today on the show, Ron and I discuss the benefits that come with talking openly with your children about your finances, as well as some of the most vexing questions parents have when it comes to kids and money.

Show Highlights

  • Why many parents have such a hard time talking about money and why that sets their kids up for financial problems later in life [03:00]
  • The traits of spoiled children and the traits of “opposite of spoiled” children [06:00]
  • What parents can do to help their children be grounded when it comes to money [12:00]
  • How money can be a tool to teach values and virtues to children [14:00]
  • How to start talking to your kids about money at different ages in their life [16:00]
  • How you should respond to your kids if they ask if your family is rich or poor [22:00]
  • Should you pay your kids an allowance? And if so, do you tie it to chores? [27:00]
  • When should you start paying your kids an allowance? [29:00]
  • Why you want your kids to make mistakes with money when they’re young [31:00]
  • How to set limits on how much your kids spend (even if you can afford to buy them what they want) [32:30]
  • How to teach your children to be generous with their money [37:30]

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast

Book cover, the opposite of spoiled by Ron lieber.

If you’re a parent (or plan on being a parent), The Opposite of Spoiled is a must read. Ron does a great job of giving high-level, philosophical guidance on how to approach money with your kids, alongside brass tacks tips on how to put those principles into practice.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. As a parent myself, one of my goals is to raise a child that’s not a spoiled brat, that’s grounded when it comes to money, that’s generous with it and is savvy and sees it as a tool and makes the most of it while not letting money control them. It’s a issue that a lot of parents struggle with on how to teach their children about personal finance.

Well, my guest today on the podcast has written a book with researched back tips on how to teach your children about personal finances. His name is Ron Lieber. He is the money columnist at The New York Times, and he’s the author of the book, “The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money.”

Today on the podcast, Ron and I get high level first talking about the philosophy we as parents should use when teaching our children about money, but then we get really brass tacks and get into specific questions that a lot of parents have about money such as, should you pay your child an allowance, and if you do, when do you start and how much should it be? How do you teach your kids about being generous with their money? How do you teach budgeting and setting limits on spending? A lot of great practical information. When you’re done with the podcast, make sure to check out the show notes at, and that’s spelled L-I-E-B-E-R. You can find show highlights as well as resources we mentioned in the podcast as well, so without further ado, Ron Lieber and The Opposite of Spoiled. Ron Lieber, welcome to the show.

Ron Lieber: It is great to be here. Thank you for having me.

Brett McKay: You’re the money columnist at The New York Times, and during your writing, I’m sure you’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers about different money topics, and I’m sure the people you’ve interviewed through the years have raised the same issues about money and kids. It seems like teaching your kids about money can be a really touchy, sensitive topic for a lot of folks. Why are parents so uncomfortable talking about money with their children?

Ron Lieber: Well, I think some of this is bred into us. People who are parents now grew up 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, whatever it is, and quite often, when we tried to ask questions about money, we were met with some version of the following response: That, young man, is none of your business, and so we got used to the idea that there was something wrong with being curious about this. Maybe it was because we were presumed not to know enough to be able to handle the answers to the questions. Maybe we were supposed to think that it was rude to ask about money or to talk about money or to even think about money. Maybe it was assumed that if we asked and if we got the answers that we would blab, and that would embarrass our families or embarrass our parents. For all of those reasons and more, so many of us have talked ourselves into or been talked into assuming that this was a topic of conversation that was utterly off limits.


Brett McKay: Yeah, and what’s interesting is we think we’re protecting our children when we don’t talk about money, but in the end, the irony is by trying to protect them, we actually fragilize them in a way when it comes to personal finances.

Ron Lieber: I think that’s exactly right. I’ve actually heard it said to me and put to me directly in those terms one of the very first times I was ever out in public talking about this topic. A dad raised his hand and said to me, I just want to protect them, my kids, from all of this money stuff just a little bit longer. Why is that not a good idea? My response to him was, you have to think about what the end game is here. We’re all in the adult making business here, and money is a big part of how the adult world works.

When we don’t have all that long to make an impact or an imprint on our kids’ brains, and if you want to put this off until they’re teenagers, the problem is is that you then will only have a couple of years left to get their heads screwed on straight until they are faced with a six figure minimum decision about college. Well, nobody was really paying much attention. All of a sudden, these college decisions became enormous financially, and part of the many things we’re getting them ready for is to make a mature and appropriate decision along with us about what they’re going to spend and how they’re going to pay for it to go to college. If you haven’t started that conversation, if you haven’t started giving them practice with money until they’re 13 or 15 or 17, you’re not going to be able to teach them enough in time so that they’ll be ready to contemplate those super big numbers when they’re applying to college.

Brett McKay: Well, it’s funny too, you talk about this in your book, The Opposite of Spoiled, is that while parents don’t want to talk to their kids about money, they really, really, really don’t want their kids to grow up to be spoiled little brats. My question is what makes a spoiled child? Is it part of not talking about money? Is that an issue? Also, I’m curious, what are the traits of an opposite of spoiled child?

Ron Lieber: Sure. It took me a long time to find the answer to that question, because the word spoiled itself was something that came to me almost instinctively. The original thought exercise I was trying to go through was the trying to figure out what all these parents who are confused about money had in common, whether it was people who had more than average or the people who had less than average, what did they all want to accomplish or at least want to avoid. I asked myself what the single worst word might be that somebody would use to describe my daughter, and now my older daughter, that would be the worst indictment of me as a parent, the thing that somebody might use to describe my kid that would make me feel like a failure.

Right away, the first thing that popped in my head was the word spoiled. It made the hairs rise up on my arm. It gave me goose bumps, not in a good way, and as I tried to figure out why that was so instinctive, I asked other people the same question. More than half of them said the word spoiled. Yeah, some of them did say racist, some of them did say mean, but spoiled was the one I heard most often, and I think the reason why that’s the case is that spoiled kids are not born, they are made. Spoiled is a verb not just an adjective, spoiled by whom. Well, probably spoiled by us, and so it literally is an indictment of our parenting when somebody uses that word.

Yeah, I knew that that was what we’re all trying to solve for us, so I had to figure out what the opposite of spoiled actually was. You have to start by defining your terms. I looked at a lot of what the academic researchers had found in this area, and they had attempted to come up with clinical definitions of spoiled. The thing that was surprising to me about is that money is really only a small part of it. Spoiled kids, I think of four definitions, only one of which has anything to do with money.

Spoiled kids have no rules, no standards that they have to abide by, so that’s number one. Number two is if are any rules, there are no consequences for breaking them. The rules might as well not exist in the first place, because the kids feel emboldened to blow them off at will. Number three is that spoiled children are never allowed to fail. Their parent or parents are constantly out in front of them smoothing the path to make sure that they’re not challenged to push too hard or they’re coming up behind them to clean up their messes. They are literally never allowed to fail, and if they fall over, their parents are there to pick them up and dust them off and intervene with their teachers and their coaches and treat them like fragile little teacups.

It’s only with the fourth part of the definition of spoiled that you start to get into money. Spoiled children believe that they have it all coming, and they are lavished with goods or with privileges way above and beyond what most other kids get, and they are not grateful for them at all. They feel entitled. Turns out that while it’s easier to spoil a child if you happen to be affluent and a family of means, it’s certainly not limited. I ran into all sorts of stories of families who were not doing very well at all financially, but the kids were nevertheless spoiled because their parents felt so badly about the situation that they were in that they lavished all of their limited resources on the kids, because they did not want them to suffer. This happened too with extended families, especially with extended family who were trying to do things for the kids as much as they possibly could, and the kids begin to feel like they had it all coming. Those are the four ways in which I would define the term. You have to start there before you begin figuring out what the opposite of spoiled adds up to.

Brett McKay: I guess you want those first three traits, they’ll influence the personal finances in a way later on down the road, right?

Ron Lieber: It is, but for kids who have no rules and have no boundaries and if there are no consequences for breaking the rules, and if the kids are not allowed to run their own lives, if those are the standards you’re setting or the baseline you’re establishing, that means that there are no limits on what they can have or what they can spend, or if there are rules and they break them or they spend too much or they don’t save up anything, that they are constantly bailed out or their parents feel like, well, this money stuff is all very complicated and it’s stressful and I’m going to shield my child from all of that as much as I can, because what’s most important is that they’re happy and well-adjusted and doing well in school and spending time thinking about that and certainly not working for money, and so I’m just going to keep all of that away from them for as long as possible.

Brett McKay: Okay, that’s what we don’t want. What are the things we want to try to develop in our children so that they’re the opposite of spoiled?

Ron Lieber: Well, the challenge here, and it was one that I faced directly, was that there isn’t a great antonym for spoiled in the English language. If you look in the thesaurus, the first thing you find is the word fresh, but we’re not talking about meat or produce here, we’re talking about children, we’re talking about the secondary definition of spoiled.

I found myself scribbling for months the list of the values and virtues and character traits that add up to the kinds of grounded, decent kids that we all want to push out into the world some day, things like modesty and thrift and prudence, patience and perseverance and grit, certainly generosity and graciousness, a sense of gratitude for what you have, a perspective on your place in the world and curiosity about how it came to be, an understanding of your social class and who has more and who has less and how that came to pass and whether it’s fair.

We look at all of those things together on the sheet of paper. If you use your imagination, you can immediately see how conversations about money and family practice and ritual around saving and spending and giving can actually lead directly to each and every one of those values and virtues. Rather than shutting down money conversations, we actually do the inverse and embrace them. Those conversations can lead directly to all of these things that add up to the opposite of spoiled.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s a really interesting take, because I think most people, particularly in our Judeo-Christian westernized world, think of money as this evil thing that it can corrupt virtue, but what you’re making the case that money can be a tool to teach important virtues that have bigger lifelong impact on our well-being and happiness and groundedness, is that correct?

Ron Lieber: Yeah, well, it’s interesting that you tip your cap to our generalized majority religious tradition in this country, because I went looking for the money is the root of all evil, the source of the text for that, and I couldn’t find it. I’m not actually sure it exists. While there’s certainly all sorts of parts of any and every unholy buck that you could find, that talk about the dangers of materialism, what I found as I researched the book, and especially after I wrote it, the message was being embraced by people of all faiths.

I’ve been on the Debt Free Muslims podcast, the book has been praised by all sorts of Mormons, had gotten great write-ups on progressive Christian blogs. I’m Jewish myself; people in the Jewish community totally got it. All of these traditions, much of the root of what they’re trying to teach is how to be a good person, how to have good values, because money is such an important part of how we move through the world. It stands to reason that there is a connection between how we spend and how we save and certainly how we give and what we stand for as humans. In fact, the connections are direct and they are deep, and I’ve spent more time than I expected to talking about them.

Brett McKay: All right, this is great. We’ve talked high level. What I love about your book is that you do high level, I love that, but then you get really brass tacks. You get down to the nitty-gritty and the questions that a lot of parents have about money and their children. I guess the first question we start off is how do you start the conversation with your kids about money, or when do you start them, because money is this really abstract concept. You exchange pieces of paper or digital numbers out there in cyberspace and you get stuff. How do you have that conversation with your children at different stages in their life?

Ron Lieber: Well, quite often, you don’t even have to worry about starting the conversation yourself, because kids are going to want things, and it is going to be your job to not get them for them, the point at which you’re ready to start teaching them the difference between things that they need and things that they merely want. It can be hard to have that kind of conversation with younger children, but you should be prepared for it. For people who are listening who are just about to have kids or contemplating them at some point in the future, you don’t often get to decide when these conversations begin. The questions will come fast and furious starting as early as the age of two. I thought I had it tough at the age of three when my kid wanted to know why we didn’t have a summer house. It wasn’t an accusation, she was just curious.

I was speaking at several months ago, and a woman raised her hand and said, my 2-year-old came to me the other day and wanted to know why it was that I went to work every day when a lot of the other mommies didn’t go to work. What are you supposed to say to a 2-year-old about that? Again, you don’t get to choose when these questions come up, and I’m not a big believer in blowing them off or even brushing them off. You want to get to the root of why the kid is asking and help them feel good about who they are and where they are.

It turns out the mom of that 2-year-old, we drilled down on that, and I said, well, why do you think she was asking? She said, well, it’s because when she goes on play dates, a lot of the times, she’s at houses where the moms are home. I said, okay, well, where do you go during the day? She said, well, I’m an attorney. I said, okay, well, what kind of attorney are you? She said, I’m a prosecutor, and I said, oh, I said, that’s easy. I said, you put the superhero cape on each day and you go and you make the city safe. She said, oh. She said, so I should say that? I said, yes. I said, you’re a hero, and that’s what you go to do every day.

It might be more complicated for somebody who is an investment banker or a … name your high concept job, an accountant or something else that a child might have trouble really understanding, but they are trying to make sense of how the world works when they ask these questions, and we’re not really going to get to choose when they come to it. It is our job to answer them, to answer them truthfully and to answer them at a level that, in some cases, a 2-year-old can understand.

Brett McKay: You say in your book, oftentimes they just ask these money questions; they’re just curious. They’re not being accusatory, even though it might come off as that, they’re just curious. They’re just being kids. They’re wanting to know.

Ron Lieber: Right, and it’s tempting to feel defensive, because quite often, they may be asking about something that they don’t have that they want or something that other people get to do, or they’re sizing you up and sizing their family up and trying to place the family against some other family that might have a bigger house or get to do more things than your family does.

You’ll feel a little bit like you’re being judged, but more often than not, what they’re really trying to figure out is am I okay? How are we doing here? If we’re not like everybody else, because we have less or because we have more, is that okay? What am I supposed to say to people about that if they ask me about the fact that our house is bigger or smaller? Your job as a parent is to think about what the best way is to explain where you are and why that is and to make them feel like it’s okay, because more often than not, it is okay.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that naturally leads to a great question, these issues of social class; it can be really sensitive and touchy. Even when kids are really young, they start to get this sense. They’re like, well, some people have more than me and some people have less than me, and it’s become, I think, really more acute, especially for teenagers with social media when you can see the rich kids of Instagram showing their lavish lifestyles off, or you have these YouTube channels where people just show off what they buy.

I don’t get this. People just watch other people unbox things or see the stuff that they got at the store. How do you help your kids navigate this sensitive, touchy topic of social class? How do you let them know, well, it’s okay that some people have more than us or if you happen to be wealthy, that sensitivity about being envied and people scorning you because you have wealth. Any practical tips on dealing with that?

Ron Lieber: Sure. Let’s start with the first principle, which is don’t lie. The second principle is you should explain to your kids that we can’t always know for sure how much other people have. We may see physical evidence of it or know what they do, but we can’t always be sure. The people who have a big house and a fancy boat and go on nice fishing and hunting trips all the time, maybe are really far in debt and we just don’t know it. The people who live in a modest home without a pool and don’t take fancy vacations or get in the car and drive and go to national parks, they may be millionaires, and they’re using that money to fund things later, charity or college expenses or something like that, so there’s a lot that we can’t know by looking at people.

Then I think the third principle is that we try not to judge other people’s choices, but that we ought to explain our own. Quite often, the question that will really rankle kids is like, well, why did you decide to be a teacher or a social worker or a construction laborer or carpenter when you could have been an oil field services executive or a banker or run a start-up, and then we would have nicer vacations and the bigger house.

It can be difficult to answer those questions if you feel some regret about where your life has taken you in terms of your career. I’m not sure I would be completely honest about that with 6 or 8 or 10-year-olds, but one perfectly good response to that question is I chose the career that would make me happiest because I knew that if I was happy and felt proud of the work that I was doing each day, that that would make me a good person and a good parent, because the most important job that I have is keeping track of you, and if I’m not happy with what I’m doing to make money, then I’m not going to do a very good job of being nice to you and giving you all the things that you need emotionally.

That is not always going to be a satisfactory answer for a kid who feels like their nose is being rubbed in everybody else’s affluence because you’ve decided to buy the cheapest house in the nicest suburb with the great schools because you wanted your kid to get a great education without thinking about what it would be like to be the only 16-year-old who had a car. Our job is not to make them like the answers. As much as we would like them to like the answers and to like us, our job is to tell them the truth and to explain our decision so they can learn how to make decisions themselves.

Brett McKay: Again, you’re using money to explain values and virtues.

Ron Lieber: Exactly. For better or for worse, and I would hope for better, many of us have made decisions about what sort of careers to pursue, not because we wanted to maximize our income in any way we possibly could, but because we wanted to do good in the world or feel good about what we were doing or have more time as opposed to less time to spend with our families, and those are totally defensible choices, and we need not be defensive in explaining them.

Brett McKay: Okay, that’s great, great advice. Let’s go to the next question that you tackle in your book. It’s the question that I think causes so much acrimony amongst in money blogs, parent blogs, discussions on Facebook. It’s about allowance. I wrote an article using research and resources you looked to in your book about when to start paying your kid allowance and how to pay them allowance, how much, and it caused a lot of intense debate. People are really, really passionate about this topic, so let’s go there. Should you even pay your child an allowance, and if so, do you connect it to chores or not to chores? There’s probably some other questions I have too along the way, but let’s start there.

Ron Lieber: Sure. Well, I think the most important thing to do is to step back and ask yourself, why allowance in the first place? What is the point of the exercise? I would encourage people to think about it like this: money, when you’re talking about kids, is for practice. It’s like books, it’s like musical instruments, it’s like art supplies. These are things that we want them to get good at.

In that way, allowance allows kids to practice being good at money. It’s not compensation for work done. There will be plenty of opportunities to send them off into the world as teenagers and let them get practice in earning money. I don’t think we should treat it like a wage and set up our households to be little mini enterprises or whatever.

Money is something that we wants kids to practice and get good at. Chores are something that they should do for free, because they live in the household, and everybody’s expected to contribute to the household. I would certainly not reward kids for biological functions, for brushing their teeth or keeping things clean for hygienicals.

If nothing else, you want to avoid paying for chores for a practical reason, which is that the moment you start doing that, the smarter, older kids start scheming and planning for a point when they will have enough money saved up that they’ll be able to come to you and say, I’ve got enough money for the next three months now and I am not going to do anymore chores until I need more money. That’s a perfectly fair response because you were the one who set up the wage system and packed yourself into that corner. Rather than ending up in that situation, I would just as soon keep the chores and the allowances separate from one another in the first place.

Brett McKay: At what age should you start doing this, as soon as their cognitive of buying things or how much things cost? When’s a good time to do that?

Ron Lieber: I think pretty much the moment they start asking for things that you don’t necessarily want to buy them and that you want them to think about a little harder and not just try and acquire impulsively, as long as they’re at the point where they understand that money is not an art project. I’ve heard about 3 and 4 and even 5-year-olds taking paper money and ripping it up, tasting it, and gluing it places.

You want to make sure that they’ve been able to make that mentally, or an actual time to start, it is the first time the tooth fairy shows up at your house. That may well end up being the first time your kid ever has money that belongs to them. As soon as they have some of it, they’re going to want more of it, because no matter how much the tooth fairy brings for that first tooth, it probably won’t be enough to buy a lot of the things that the kids will want, and then they will be looking for more money to reach their goals, and that’s probably the moment that you start handing it over to them regularly in the form of an allowance.

Brett McKay: Yeah, we started paying my son an allowance when he was four. It’s been interesting to see his progression, because when he first got it, he had a hard time holding off buying things he really, really wanted, like a cool Lego set or something like that. He just wanted to buy the stuff that just cost a dollar, like a pack of stickers or a candy bar. It’d be funny to see him have buyer’s remorse when he got home. He’s like, I don’t have enough money for my Lego set, and I was like, well, then you made a choice. You have to live with the consequences, but now he’s gotten a little more savvy about holding off and delaying gratification and saving up his money.

Ron Lieber: Yeah, we want them to make mistakes and to feel regret. This is part of the process. The more practice you have with mistakes and regret, I think the less likely you are to make those kinds of mistakes in your 20s and 30s when it starts to matter more, because you’ll have these memories, a whole memory bank, filled with mistakes that you made, and hopefully, as you make them, you rewire your brain to think about money a little differently.

Brett McKay: Related to allowance a bit, it’s about spending money. I think this could be a challenge for some parents. There’s some parents out there who when their kid wants something, they can honestly say, tell them, well, we can’t afford that, and so the problem is solved, right? It’s not in the budget, so they can’t buy that thing, but there are parents out there who they have enough money, or the kid has enough money, to buy really fancy things, luxury items, really expensive things, but at the same time, as a parent, even though you could afford it, you still want to set limits for your children. How do you manage that? How do you tell your child no, not because you can’t afford it, but because you just shouldn’t for some value-based reason?

Ron Lieber: Sure. These aren’t always easy conversations to have, because sometimes they can feel a little random, so you want to do whatever you can to make sure that they are not random. You start first and foremost with a top line list of banned items of things that are not allowed in your household. You make those lists, and maybe it’s violent video games or actual weapons. Maybe it’s clothing that bares the midrift or skirts that are too short. Maybe you’ve become so overwhelmed by the number of Legos or dolls in your house that you simply cannot abide by a single additional one passing the threshold of your home. Whatever it is, make that list, make it clear to the kids and start there.

When it comes to allowance and setting the amounts of allowance, you want to give the kids just enough money so that they can buy some of what they want or save up for it, but not so much that they don’t have to make a lot of really hard choices. Rather than the parents be the deciders all of the time, as soon as possible, I think you want to get to the point where the kids are making the decisions. Some parents as early as 7 or 8 or 9, they’ll say to their kids, okay, we’ve been at this allowance thing for a couple years now, so from this point forward, any time you want something, if it’s not your birthday or the holidays, you’re going to have to buy it yourself, and then it’s all on the kid to make the decision and to do self-limits.

Now, when it comes to the things that kids need, there’s obviously a whole continuum of what you might spend in any given category, so I encourage parents to sit down and literally put the continuum to paper. Let’s think about underwear and outerwear. Many parents, most actually, I think probably no matter how much money they have, they don’t see any real good reason to spend a lot of money on kids’ underwear. They’re going to outgrow them and they’re going to get all ratty and whatever. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not something that the family prioritizes, and so maybe your family is an Old Navy or a Walmart underwear family, because why should you spend more than $2 for a pair of briefs.

But, on the outerwear side, maybe your family goes fishing and hunting all of the time, or maybe your family likes to ski, or maybe your family are a bunch of hikers. If the gear is not really, really good, everybody is going to be miserable. When it comes to outerwear, you’re actually going to spend a lot of money. You’re an Orvis family or a Patagonia family or an REI family; you’re really willing to spend on that gear, and so you set your budgets and your spending accordingly.

Now at a certain point, 9, 10 or 11, you may be ready to turn the entire annual budget for needs over to your kids. You’ll say, okay, you’re only going to get 20 bucks for ten pairs of underwear this year, or ten pairs of bottoms if you’re a girl, but for outerwear, we’re willing to set aside $150 for your coat for the coldest season of the year, for your raincoat, and then you hand it over in a lump sum and allow them to make their own decisions.

You’ve explained what you stand for, but if your teenaged daughter wants to buy a Victoria’s Secret bra, and that’s not on your banned item list, she should go to it, but she’s only got 20 bucks left for her coat. She’s still going to have to buy that, because that’s part of the stuff that was on your need list, and at that point, she’s going to be shopping at Goodwill. If the Victoria’s Secret bras are more important to her than the coat, and she’s not worried about being miserable when you go out hunting or skiing, well, then that’s on her.

Brett McKay: Let them fail with their choices sometimes.

Ron Lieber: Yeah, let them fail, let them make decisions and let them be in charge of the limits. You’re setting overarching limits by letting them know what the budget is for needs and by setting their allowance, but on a day-to-day basis, if they feel like they’re the ones making the decisions, and they’re the ones with the power, you’ll have fewer conversations and upset moments about what it is that’s available to them.

Brett McKay: Another aspect that I think a kid being spoiled that a lot of parents associate with is that they’re greedy; they don’t share, they’re not generous. Are there things we can do as parents to nudge our children to be generous, not just with money but with their time as well, so that they’re just generous adults when they head out into the real world?

Ron Lieber: Sure. I think it starts with having one of the jars where they store allowance being a gift jar, so that you’re establishing both a visual cue and the weekly dumping of money into that jar, and then the occasional handing out of said money to a worthy cause that this is something you expect them to do and to think about all the time. Even so, some families find that their kids find the whole giving conversation to be somewhat abstract. Maybe you live in an area where there are not a lot of obvious visual signs of people being in need. Maybe you restrict your kids’ media consumption such that they don’t see a lot of haunting pictures or videos of people who are in trouble, and so it can be a little abstract.

In that instance, and really in every instance, I encourage families to talk about their own history of having been helped themselves, because almost every family has one, and quite often, it affects the way that they give. For me, my wife is from a family of Holocaust survivors and I got financial aid, I got scholarship money from 6th grade all the way through college. My mother had premenopausal breast cancer when I was 8 or 9 back in the day when that killed people more often than not, but she was treated at a really great university teaching hospital where there were a lot of research funds available and super smart clinicians, and they saved her life.

Those stories, and we tell all sorts of stories about all three of those major impactful occasions in our family’s history, those stories are really meaningful to kids. It helps them really have a visceral sense of where their roots lie and where the struggles have been and all of the entities and individuals who have reached out a hand to help, and those stories, they stick with kids. It’s part of how kids learn, and once they adopt those stories as their own, I think they understand almost intrinsically why it’s important to help other people.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Ron, there’s a lot more we could dig into, but I’m going to let you go now. Where can people learn more about your book and your work?

Ron Lieber: Sure. My personal home page is, and that’s where the basic outlines of all of this is, but for people who want to participate in an ongoing conversation about these issues, as different ones and nuances come up, my Facebook page is where I’m particularly active. It’s Several times a week we’ve got new stuff up there that we’re chewing over, and the community, it’s about 8,000 people now who follow along. I’m going to have much more to say about these topics going forward and definite lines of reporting that I’m pursuing both at my day job and what I think will be another book some day. I encourage anybody who’s interested to come and hit the Like button and follow along.

Brett McKay: Awesome. Well, Ron Lieber, thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Ron Lieber: It was my pleasure. Thank you.

Brett McKay: My guest was Ron Lieber. He’s the author of the book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart About Money. You can find that on and bookstores everywhere. Also, be sure to check out the show notes for this podcast at, and that’s spelled L-I-E-B-E-R. You can find the highlights as well as resources we mentioned in the podcast as well, so go there.

Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at, and if you enjoy this podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. Really help us out by getting the word out about the show. As always, appreciate your support, and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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