Should We Spoil Our Kids?

I am a long-time fan of the Radical Personal Finance Podcast hosted by Joshua Sheats.  I recommended it as one of the four best podcasts for those of us seeking financial independence in this post I wrote back in summer of 2014, just a few weeks after he started it.  I have since also been interviewed by Joshua, which can be found here. I continue to follow the show regularly and highly recommend it for some unique insights on financial independence.

Recently, Joshua featured an interview with Dan Miller.  Mrs EE and I agree that Miller is the author to one of the most influential books we have ever read.

48 Days To The Work You Love

“48 Days To The Work You Love” has had a profound impact on both of our careers and our lives.  It has shaped how we look at work and how we found jobs we want to do working for great companies.  We have gifted the book to many people over the years and I give it to every student that interns with me when they ask me for career advice.

Mrs. EE used the principles in the book to go from one of several hundred candidates to the final two for a dream job in a dream company a few years ago, even though the employer flat-out told her she was completely unqualified for the job.  This employer then contacted her and offered another newly created position because they were so impressed by her application and interview process in which she simply followed some key ideas in this book.  The book is that good!

I was very excited to hear this interview with Sheats and Miller and I was not disappointed.  It was very informative and entertaining.  However, the biggest thing that really got me thinking was totally unexpected.

I Totally Spoiled My Kids

One of the biggest things that we worry about with our early retirement is how our daughter will perceive our lifestyle.  We want her to learn a good work ethic and know that life is not just handed to you.  We know that no matter what we tell her, more is caught than taught.  We wonder if we retire when she is four or five years old, how will she perceive work and money?

I therefore found it very interesting when Miller very candidly answered Sheats question to how he raised his kids and turned them into entrepreneurs.  He answered he “totally spoiled them”.

As a knee-jerk reaction, we think of being spoiled as being a bad thing.  I associate spoiled kids with never being told no.  I associate it with having whatever they want bought for them.  Their every wish is handed to them on a silver platter.

Redefining Spoiling

As Miller revealed more about how he and his wife raised their children, it really got me thinking.  What he was saying is that his kids only ever knew one lifestyle.  They saw from day one that you can fit in work around the lifestyle that you want to live, rather than trying to fit in life around work as most people do.  Miller’s kids never saw a life that revolved around having one or both parents having to go to a job at set hours.  They were never told they couldn’t afford things that were important to them.  Using his creative style of entrepreneurship, they were able to do essentially whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

As his kids became adults, this was their reality.  It is all they ever knew.  They were spoiled in that they could never live a “normal” lifestyle.  They could never work a job that dictated when they worked or put a ceiling on how much they could earn.  Conventional wisdom about what a job should be didn’t apply to them.  It forced them to raise their game and they are now all very successful in a variety of unique careers.

As I pictured Miller’s version of entrepreneurship, it sounded a lot like our vision of early retirement.  The only real difference is that we will create income with paper assets we have accumulated.  He instead highly leverages his time, investing weeks or months writing a book or developing a course, and then enjoying the fruits of his labors for months and years rather than going to a “normal” job to earn his income.

What We Want Our Daughter To Learn

So as we think about this, we have to ask ourselves questions.  How do we want our daughter to think about work and money?

Would we rather she see her parents continue to go to work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and work until we’re 60+ years old so she knows that “that’s how you do it”?  Or would we rather her see that if you learn how to manage your money and think differently from what most others do early in life, you can design a life that looks totally different?

Would we rather worry that she’ll think we’re lazy because we choose to go skiing on a Wednesday morning because it is a powder day?  Or would we rather teach her that it is totally possible for her to design a life built around what she wants to do if she makes similar or even better and more creative choices?

Would we rather her see us go to jobs that are unfulfilling just to make more money?  Or would we rather her see that we have developed the financial freedom to choose activities that excite and fulfill us and allow us to continue to grow and learn, whether we make money in the process or not?

Would we rather limit our daughters experiences in life because we are worried that she’ll be spoiled?  Or would we rather travel the world with her, expose her to beautiful places, amazing experiences and adventures, and different cultures so that she can see how blessed she is and all that the world has to offer?

Dan Miller, through his book “48 Days” has changed our lives by changing the way we look at work and finding work we want to do.  Now through this interview, he may have just changed the way we look at raising our child.  Here’s to spoiling our daughter!

For those of you who have or are looking to retire early with kids, how do you think about this issue?  Do you worry at all about how your children will perceive your lifestyle?  Do you have any ideas to teach them about money and work?  Share your thoughts below.

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15 comments on Should We Spoil Our Kids?

  1. I don’t worry about how the kids will perceive our lifestyle, but I do worry a little that we may not have enough buffer built in for their future unknown yet to be determined activities with associated unknown costs. Beyond that, I plan on drilling into their head that model that - you do not have to work until you’re 60 or older to retire, and your job doesn’t have to be a M-F, 40-60 hr/week affair to afford you a “good, comfortable life.” I don’t want to be overbearing with it, but just reminding them that the choices they make young will affect them more dramatically than they know.
    We’re already teaching our 4 year old about money, spending, whether things are worth the money or not, giving, and all of that stuff. He’s even gotten the “I don’t want to spend ALL my money for that…” and realized something wasn’t worth it to him.
    I think the fact that we will be a living example of how you can dictate your lifestyle thru choices you make, will help them get the point more clearly. Hopefully anyway… Maybe we’ll even take them out of school for an occasional Wednesday powder day and do it family style. 🙂

    1. I agree with your ideas. One thing that Miller touched on doing with his kids in the interview that we’d like to emphasize with our daughter is to teach her that she can have whatever she wants as long as she can figure out how to obtain it on her own. I think that accomplishes several things. It teaches the kid responsibility and independence by having some skin in the game and teaches them that everything you want has trade offs. It also prevents us as parents from ever saying we can’t afford something so that they don’t associate our lifestyle with having to make sacrifices. Instead they have choices. They can have what they want, IF they want it bad enough.

  2. This is excellent. And I always think about how I want to model for our children that there is a better way. They can hack the world to do what they love and navigate the finances around that. Now, we just have to figure out how to hack them in our favor first so we can spoil them with the benefits! Great point.

  3. Great post. I see it it as creating experiences for them. You can spend 24/7 with them anywhere in the world but it doesn’t mean they can have anything they want, there are still constraints and expectations in terms of how they behave. As with you guys, I’m trying to teach my kids the value of money and spending on experiences rather than ‘stuff’.
    In some ways, the ‘consumer lifestyle’ where they have the latest toys and gadgets seems to me more like spoiling them.
    Thanks fo the thought provoking post … I shall ask my kids today if they think we are spoiling them 🙂

    1. You hit the nail on the head and I think your thought process is in line with what Miller was saying in the interview. In listening to how his kids and now grand kids have turned out I’m not picturing a bunch of spoiled brats who are materialistic or disrespectful, which is my picture of spoiled. Instead they were spoiled by having unlimited love, time and access to amazing experiences which makes them unable to settle for “ordinary”. However a big key is that they have always been expected in making that reality happen.

  4. This post is good inspiration on how education can implant a sense of FIRE… It is on my mind on how to do that. I would love the kids to be more free than me, to be more entrepreneurial.

    As FIRE is only planned when they are ready for college, the question we have: how to feed do this? I plan to show them to be responsible and dedicate full attention to what you decide to do: be it work or community work or self developemnt.

    I have a mild feeling that before FIRE, I will pass via the freelance lifestyle. Maybe that will help.

    1. I think that the key as you’ve identified is to pattern the behaviors and way of thinking that you want to impart on your children. We can say what we want, but kids will learn by what they see and experience much more than by what they’re told.

  5. I don’t envy you having to figure this out — I’m sure it’s a hard balance to strike! Since your daughter won’t really remember the years of you working to save for FIRE, she won’t have that experience to see you earning the lifestyle that you’ll live for most of the years she’s at home with you. But of course you can still tell her all about it! I know we’ve all known people who were the bad kind of spoiled as kids, but given your dirtbag millionaires philosophy, it’s not like she’s going to be living the life of luxury, other than the luxury of time, and will hopefully appreciate that freedom is more important than things either way.

    1. I agree. We have no intentions to ever spoil her with material things or allowing her to get away with things that we don’t approve of. However spoiling her with love, time and experiences, sounds ok to me!

  6. Thanks, I’ve been wondering about this a lot as I intend to FIRE when my kids will be respectively 7 and 3. I think it makes a good point, that we can show our kids that we have a “Good life” as long as we make sure to explain all of this did not come for free. There’s a lot of personal investment, effort, and motivation required to reach FIRE for “regular” people like us

    1. It is a tricky line to walk with kids. If you haven’t taken the time to listen to the interview I referenced, I would highly recommend it. There were lots of little pearls and an easy listen, not technical at all.

  7. Literally, every time I look at your blog I find something that’s interesting and applies directly or indirectly to my own life.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  8. A situation came up this week where my mom asked if she was spoiling me. There is a purchase I am going to make and had arranged funds, with minimal parental assistance (based on a previous agreement ). I was set on moving forward with that, until she offered more assistance. When she asked what I would to with the ‘extra ‘ money: up my 401k by 1-2 %, and be able to save money in my savings account for a yearly payment thus earning interest over the 12 months. Because I was prepared to take on the purchase and never expected, much less asked for the additional help, and my immediate plan is to save more, I don’t think I’m spoiled. Fortunate and massively grateful? 100%!!!

    1. I see no problem with helping out your kids in any and every way possible, as long as you don’t cross a line where you are actually enabling bad behaviors. It sounds like you guys have a great relationship and maybe one day you’ll be in the role of helping your mom in financial or other ways completely unrelated to finance that she will need. That is what family is all about in my book. I would agree you are fortunate and right to be grateful to be in a family that has figured that out.


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