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Bratproofing Your Children [The Parent Diaries]

Blog entry by Hope Katz Gibbs
The Parent Diaries interviews
Janet and Lew Solomon, authors
Bratproofing Your Children: How to raise socially and financially responsible kids

When college professors Janet and Lew Solomon were raising their son Michael, now 33, they were determined to teach him the value of money. On the morning of his 10th birthday, they got their chance.

Young Michael came bounding down the steps and announced it would only be 6 more years until he could get a car. Lew (a lawyer who taught taxation and trusts and estates at George Washington University Law School), and Janet (a business school professor who specialized in human resources management) gave each other a sideways glance and sat Michael down for breakfast and a taste of reality.

“We didn’t want to burst his bubble—but we did want to set him on the right path for financial solvency,” Janet says today. “So we told him that we’d pay for the auto insurance on that car he was dreaming about, but that he’d be responsible for saving enough money to actually pay for the car.”

From that day forward Michael became the consummate saver. At last, on his 19th birthday, he had enough cash to buy a brand new Nissan Altima—a car he drove long after he’d made a career as a successful hedge fund manager and could have bought himself a finer ride. (When he finally did pass it along to a young man he was mentoring in the Big Brothers organization, it had more than 200,000 miles but Michael had taken such good care of it that the car was still in good working condition.)

Getting a financial grip

“To say we are proud of Michael is an understatement,” says Janet, who with Lew recently published a new book based their own experience and observations of other families in relationship to money. Entitled, Bratproofing Your Children: How to raise socially and financially responsible kids, the book is a guide to help parents get a grip on discipline and fiscal solvency.

“As a parent, you want your children to grow up to be productive, motivated, financially responsible adults,” Janet says. “But that is sometimes easier said than done. This book helps parents raise thriving kids who will grow up to become emotionally and financially mature adults by teaching them to stave off potentially negative influences of affluence from our consumer culture.”

Teaching your children well

The 200-page paperback—which is part common sense, part financial advisor, and part parenting coach—is divided into halves.

The first chunk provides insightful ideas and ideals from Janet, who offers advice on how to protect children from the potentially negative influences of wealth, including:
ß Imparting four personal character traits (high self esteem, joyfulness / optimism, serenity, hard work / thrift),
ß And three interpersonal character traits (loving kindness, forgiveness, integrity).
ß She also offers a handful of strategies to help parents successfully deal with outside influences.

The second half of the book, “How to protect your wealth from being destroyed by your children and grandchildren,” was penned by Lew and outlines some tough love financial strategies.

“Do not expect every one of your children to become a financial wizard,” Lew explains on page 85. “However, all family members need to be responsible for leaning basic financial concepts. Even if a child never develops much facility with finance, he or she should learn the big picture and feel comfortable raising questions and discussing financial matters with your (and later, their) advisors.”

Lew’ advice:
• Talk about money with your children
• Give allowances
• Have them set aside a portion of their allowance for charitable giving
• Don’t give them a credit card or ATM card
• Encourage and promote their entrepreneurial spirit (something that shows up naturally in most children between the ages of 10 and 12)

He also outlines how to better understand and communicate with an attorney, accountant, and financial planner, and how to use trusts to transfer wealth to you children and grandchildren. Additionally, he offers suggestions for handling family business succession.

Accomplishing your real goals

“Our goal in writing the book was to provide specific, practical strategies that parents can incorporate into their everyday parenting to help them raise financially fit youngsters,” Lew explains. “But the simple truth is that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent—or a perfect child.”

However, by using a little common sense and developing our instincts and expertise about spending and saving money, the authors believe they can teach all of us to raise a generation of financially savvy people.

Speaking for all the parents I know—we hope so, too.

Buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Bratproofing-Your-Children-Financially-Responsible/dp/1569803455


More Blog: The Parent Diaries Articles

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• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
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• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.