We are products of our own history.
I see over and over again in my clients, and in my own life, that the way we were raised as children to think and feel about money significantly influences how we think and feel about money as adults. Further, the way we think and feel about money determines our behaviors with it.
Sometimes this is a good thing. The way we were raised can become a strong foundation for healthy money habits. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. At times, the habits we bring from childhood are markedly unhealthy.
More often than not, though, it is somewhere in the middle. The habits themselves are neither good nor bad. For example, if your parents paid for all of your college education then you most likely hope to pay for all of your kids’ college education. Conversely, if you had to work two jobs while attending college to make it through, then you may expect the same of your kids. Neither is wrong.
It is important to recognize your past because it shapes your future. Understanding your upbringing can help inform you and develop an awareness of how you approach decisions for yourself now. That awareness can provide the tools that you need to make changes going forward. Here are three simple steps to unpack the relationship you had with money as a young person and understand how that might be influencing your views and actions today.
Step 1: Talk About Your Upbringing
Understanding how your upbringing impacts your money habits starts with self-awareness. You can draw this out by spending some time talking with someone about your relationship with money as a kid. The following are some questions to answer with your spouse or partner, a friend, a parent, or some other trusted person (like your financial advisor!); each as it relates to money and your upbringing:
What is your earliest memory with money?
What jobs did you have? How did you earn money?
Did you receive an allowance? Was it automatic or earned?
Did you ever give money to your church or a good cause as a kid?
How did you spend the money you earned?
What was the most significant purchase you made as a kid? How long did you save for it?
What was the best thing you did as it relates to money?
What is one thing you would do differently as it relates to money?
How much or little did your parents share with you about their finances?
If your parents were married, how did they manage their finances? Did they talk to each other about money? Did only one manage the family finances? Did they handle their finances separately?
How often did you worry or think about money as a kid?
What principles, lessons, or “rules-of-thumb” were passed down to you regarding money?
A Note To Married Couples
Regardless of who takes charge or how your household finances are managed, it is healthy to have open and regular conversations about finances with each other. If you are out of practice with this, then starting with these questions can be an easy entry point to breaking the ice. These questions can frame a two-way conversation.
Step 2: Make Connections
Talk with your trusted person about the ways your upbringing may be influencing your financial habits today. Consider the questions that elicited the most conversation and use them as a starting point as you address your current habits or views.
Let’s say you had a lot to say about earning an allowance as a kid. You can take that topic and flip the question to talk about how you would implement an allowance for your own kids.
Be open to new ideas and be honest. The goal in this step is not to make judgments or evaluate your behaviors. That’s for the next step. This step is simply about seeing if you can uncover the roots of your behaviors now and link them back to the way you were raised.
A Note To Married Couples
This process creates an opportunity to identify how you are similar and how you are different. Your spouse or partner will bring their own understanding and experiences to the table that may or may not agree with yours. For example, one spouse may prefer buying a new car every few years while the other prefers buying used every decade. Pay special attention to where you are most different from your spouse and seek to understand why. Its roots can often be found by examining the past.
Step 3: Make Assessments
As you gain a better understanding of how your past is shaping your future, you’ll likely discover that there are some things that you like and some things that you don’t. The good news is that the way you were raised does not need to be your default. You have permission to reconcile with your past, to actively decide to try a new way of thinking, and to make those changes. As you go through that process, seek the counsel of your trusted person and other wise counsel available to you.
Most importantly, talk to God about your financial journey! Pray and use your Bible as a guide. Ask God to set your mind at a place of humility and invite the Spirit to give you discernment in this process. If you feel led, you may even consider fasting as a way of giving reverence to God and surrendering your finances in a way that glorifies Him.
A Note To Married Couples
Now is the time to evaluate where you are aligned and where you are different. Have an open mind. Learn from each other, talk through your options, pray and seek the word together, and then make decisions together.
Remember that this isn’t only about working on what to do in the areas where you are different. You should also evaluate the ways where you are the same and make a conscious decision that this is, in fact, what you want to do. You may realize you both would naturally be inclined to buy that new car every year simply because you were raised to do so but then ultimately decide together that there are things that are more important to you. Even if you share the same behaviors, you can change them if they don’t accurately reflect your priorities.
Do You Need Help?
Need some more help with conversations about money? It can be hard. Sometimes you just want a trusted guide or need counsel from an unbiased third party. At Guide Financial Planning, we are here to help you as you figure out your finances. Schedule a call to start the conversation today.
About Guide Financial Planning
Guide Financial Planning is led by founder Ben Wacek, who is a Christian fee-only Certified Financial Planner™ and Certified Kingdom Advisor®. He has a passion to help people of all income levels make wise financial decisions and steward their resources from an eternal perspective using Biblical principles. Based in Minneapolis, MN, he works with clients both locally and virtually throughout the country and abroad. You can follow the links to learn more about Guide Financial Planning and our team and the services we offer.