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November 20, 2019

Do We Inherit Money Beliefs from Our Parents?

Written by Barry J Swaim, CFP ®, Posted in

Learn How Your Childhood Impacts Your Financial Outlook as an Adult

As children, we’re all like sponges. We pick up on our parents’ habits and values related to everything from sports teams to food preferences. And, whether we intend to or not, we often inherit our parents’ attitudes about money, too. We call this your money personality.

If your parents were disciplined about saving, you likely have strong saving habits, too. If they were skeptical about the stock market, chances are you’re hesitant to invest in it, as well. Some of our inherited money beliefs are healthy, and others are harmful. Often, it can be valuable to look at your financial upbringing from a fresh perspective in order to determine which beliefs may be limiting you. You can do this by asking yourself four key questions.

1.     What was money like in your house?

Your money attitudes are made up of both big experiences and small details. For instance, it’s common to observe the comforts of your friends’ homes growing up, gauging how comfortable they are compared to your family. You probably also noticed things like how often your parents got a new car, whether you took family vacations and what holidays and birthdays were like for you.

If you think back, you can probably even remember small details like whether you watched your parents balance the checkbook each month, or whether they budgeted carefully for trips to the grocery store. If your family ever experienced a major event like an unexpected job loss or debilitating medical condition, it likely had a profound impact on you and informs your views about money even today.

2.     What was money like in your parents’ houses when they were growing up?

If your parents are baby boomers, there’s a high likelihood that they were raised in households impacted by the Great Depression and World War II. Their parents probably impressed upon them the importance of saving, the value of hard work and even anxiety about money. Your parents may have inherited all of these attitudes and passed them on to you, though sometimes that inheritance presents itself in an opposing form. For instance, your parents may have grown up with so much apprehension about money that they work to make it as stress-free for your childhood as possible.

If you don’t know much about your parents’ upbringing and they’re still living, consider asking them questions about your family’s money history. It’s a valuable way to gain insight into how their past experiences may be affecting you in the present.

3.     What money lessons did your parents impart to you that you have continued to live by?

Your parents may have taught you both negative and positive money lessons, either directly or indirectly. For instance, on the negative side, many people who grow up in blue-collar households learn to view wealth with suspicion or resentment. It’s possible that there are valid reasons your parents felt this way, of course, but it could also be a simple matter of underestimating how much discipline and hard work go into building significant wealth.

On the positive side, your parents may have imparted money lessons that illustrated their true values in life. For instance, maybe they made decisions that taught you certain things were more important than money. Did they sacrifice creature comforts for themselves in order to send you to a costly private school? Did they stay in a job that earned a modest living but directly impacted people’s lives and made your community a better place? Chances are, you absorbed these same values yourself.

4.     What is the single best thing you were taught about money?

Whether your parents talked to you about money frequently or just once in a while, you may have found yourself rolling your eyes as a kid. Now that you’re an adult with financial responsibilities, the lessons they tried to impart may have begun to ring true to you. Ask yourself what the most meaningful lesson was. For example, it may have frustrated you to hear them say, “Live on less than what you make” when it meant no family vacation that year, but this type of learned discipline is probably serving you well as an adult.

Final Thoughts

As you’re asking yourself the above questions and working to make sense of your inherited money beliefs, you’ll see that the sum of your memories and experiences act as a sort of blueprint for your financial outlook as an adult. Embrace the positive and consider how to improve any negative or limiting beliefs as you move forward into a prosperous future for you and your family.

If you would like help regarding your financial plan please reach out to Accruent Wealth Advisors for a complimentary consultation. Please call (336) 760-4829 or email us at You can click here to schedule your consultation today.

About the Author
Barry J Swaim, CFP

Barry J. Swaim, CFP is the founder and president of Accruent Wealth Advisors. He received his BA degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Barry has also earned the professional certification of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards.