Kids are experts at putting their parents on the spot.
So when your little sleuth asks, “Are we rich?” there’s a very simple answer for families anywhere on the economic spectrum:
“Why do you ask?”
This is New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber’s go-to answer for any money question from a child, according to his upcoming book “The Opposite Of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Generous, Grounded, And Smart About Money.”
The simple response does two things: It buys parents a minute to collect their thoughts instead of spitting out a reflexive “yes,” “no,” or “none of your business,” and it gets to the root of why your child is asking in the first place.
With “Are we rich?” in particular, Lieber writes that the question can lead to discussions on possessions, wealth, and what it actually means to be “rich.”
He recommends asking open-ended questions to steer the conversation to the conclusion that we don’t know much about our neighbours’ money, and that being rich isn’t as important as having other qualities, like kindness and creativity.
Or, you can leave the more in-depth conversation for later. One mum and sociology professor whose story is recounted in the book took a straightforward approach when her third-grade son asked if his family was rich. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do as a parent, but I looked him in the eye and said ‘yes,'” she told Lieber. “And that was the end of it. You’re supposed to wait for them to follow up and get into it, but that was it. He wanted to know, and I told him the truth.”
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