It’s one of the hardest conversations to have. Our kids ask us a lot of difficult questions about money, from: Why is that person is asking for money on the street? to Are we poor? to Do you make more money than Daddy? On some level, it’s practically easier to talk about sex than money! So how do we do it? How do we answer the tough questions that our kids raise, how do we raise them to be smart about money, and how do we teach them to be grounded and generous about money too?
Enter an expert.
I was lucky enough to hear Ron Lieber speak at the URJ Biennial conference this past November. Ron is a New York Times columnist and the bestselling author of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. As a parent, it was so incredibly helpful to hear his perspective on how to talk to kids about money. My kids are young, so my focus is on starting allowance, whether to pay for household chores, how much the tooth fairy should bring, and how much to give to tzedakah. But his advice works for parents of children of all ages. He had a really fascinating way to talk to preteens and teens about how much is enough. As he wrote in the New York Times:
“Still, there is no overarching, numerical definition of enough, even if you manage to limit American Girl dolls to just one or allow only a single new Lego set into the house each season. And no matter how precisely we may try to define the term, our parental understanding of it will shift even before we try explaining it to our children. Wanting more, as the financial planner Tim Maurer puts it in his new book Simple Money, is an affliction that is nearly universal and has little to do with how much we already have…
“…try two experiments. First, map out your own precise definition of enough in every category of spending that you do for your children. How much is enough when it comes to rain boots? Are the generic rubber boots at Payless or Target just fine, given that little feet will grow out of them pretty quickly anyhow? What if your children want fancy Hunter boots? Would you insist they use their allowance or birthday gift money to make up the difference between the prices of the Target or L.L. Bean boots that you consider “enough” and the luxury product that they want so badly? Or will the high-end goods simply go on a banned item list? Most of us have one, even if it isn’t written down. Perhaps yours has violent video games, double piercings or weapons (real or fake).
“As for everything else, Mr. Maurer suggests experiment No. 2: Forcing children to wait, for a good long while. “I don’t want my kids to buy something just because everyone else wants it,” he said. “More importantly, I don’t want them to want something just because everyone else wants it.” We don’t control their minds, but we can introduce yellow lights and pause buttons.”
We’re really lucky here at Temple Ohabei Shalom, because Ron Lieber is coming to speak to us on Wednesday, May 18 as part of our TOS Talks series. Bring your questions, your uncertainties, and even your kids. It’ll help you open the conversation about money in your house in a grounded and centered way, teaching our own Jewish values as you go.