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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: The Opposite of Spoiled

I checked out The Opposite of Spoiled hoping for practical tips on how to teach children about money. I got more and less than what I bargained for.

In particular, the people this book are written for aren't anywhere close to my profile. These parents are white, privileged, have ridiculous amounts of money, and don't spend time with their kids. If you're Asian, come from an unprivileged background, and don't take private jets to fly to your vacations, you're probably in no danger of needing to read this book whatsoever. To be fair, I've met a large number of people who meet the above category, so this is not to say that the book is useless. It's probably very useful for white rich people in the 1%. It just makes no sense to read or follow its prescription if you're not.

Here are a few examples: the book describes a common problem of over-parenting as parents waiting in line outside summer camps rushing to their kids with all sorts of goodies, seeking to outdo each other. These summer camps seem cushy compared to the kind of trips I've already taken my 3 year old on. I can't imagine that I'd ever worry that my son couldn't make it a few days without his iPad. He's made weeks without any kind of electronic device. I imagine parents who have no idea what backcountry camping is would have the kinds of challenges described in this book.

Another example: the book presumes that you want to teach generosity to your kids. If you come from an immigrant background, especially if you were brought up in Asia, you learned to value society over the individual. Your problem isn't teaching your kids how to be generous and nice, Your problem is teaching kids how to be sufficiently selfish that they wouldn't get stepped on in the extremely competitive (by comparison) American society. I remember being horrified by story after story ex-Googlers told me about political behavior from my peers all in the name of getting ahead. Most of those stories involved people of privileged stepping on H1B holders or taking advantage of people who valued societal niceties over every man for himself. (I myself have had people tell me that it was my biggest barrier to succeeding)

What are my recommendations? If you're a white person, please read this book and apply it to your kids. If you're Asian, you'd do far better by pretending this book doesn't exist. And don't worry about teaching finance to your kids. Just by being Asian your example would probably be sufficient.

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