Raising generous children

Upcoming event teaches parents about financial literacy, tzedakah

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Ron Lieber will headline JUF’s upcoming Raising Generous Children event.

When Ron Lieber's older daughter was four years old, she asked him a question: "Why don't we have a summer house?"

As Lieber pondered the answer, he realized that she was in fact asking a much deeper question: Why were her parents making the financial choices they made?

Lieber--who grew up in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago and was a JUF Lewis Summer Intern--saw many nuances to the question: The professions he and his wife chose, the neighborhood of their home, and where and why they spent money in other places instead of a second home. "Those questions are about values as much as they are about personal finance," he said, and he wanted to ensure he was giving her the best answer.

In addition to his background as a former Wall Street Journal reporter focused on efficient and fulfilling consumer lives, he consulted with many parents and gathered the questions children were asking. He started a blog on The New York Times website to address these, question by question, to engage children in financial discussions.

At JUF's upcoming Raising Generous Children event, Lieber will discuss these issues as well as how to include children in financial decisions, encourage them to save money, and tie their financial decisions back to Jewish values with charitable donations. By using tangible examples, he will untangle the complexities of these topics and make them accessible to parents and grandparents of children through age 18.

As part of the event, he will review important concepts from his book, The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money . "One of the best ways to help kids understand these things is to give them a lot of practice with money and their own financial decision-making," Lieber said. This includes walking them through basic decisions on financial tradeoffs and cultivating the patience to save for a longer time.

One of the most crucial topics to Lieber is which charitable contributions are most important for the child and the family. Rather than "giving," he uses "helping" to describe the way tzedakah money can improve others' lives. "Every family has some instance of having been helped," he said. "If you tell your kids those stories, they will adopt them as their own and adapt them as they see fit, and it's the best way to inspire them and be generous." As part of the event, JUF will share opportunities to help those in need.

"It's not just about financial literacy. It's about a lot more--what our families stand for and how we make decisions. That, for me, feels distinctly Jewish," Lieber said.

His book also tackles the topics of allowance, restrictions on kids' spending, materialism, and the importance of talking to children about money in the first place, while honoring their questions like he did with his daughter years ago.

"Don't be scared of the topic of money!" he urged. "Money does make the world go 'round and if you try to shield kids from it, they'll fill the void with whatever they hear at school or look it up on the Internet. There is a direct connection between talking about money and teaching kids values, so who better than you to guide them?" 

The Raising Generous Children event will take place virtually on Tues., May 11 at 8 p.m. The cost is $18. The event is geared for parents and grandparents of children through high school. To learn more or to register, visit juf.org/RGC .

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