If you’re heading home for the holidays, here’s a little homework assignment. Pay attention to your parents’ and family members’ mindset about money, and consider how that affects the way you manage your money today.
Many of our attitudes toward money come from our families of origin. Research at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business shows that the money patterns we observed in childhood become a driver in our financial decision-making later in life.
If you’ve got solid financial habits, you likely learned good lessons from your parents. Likewise, if you tend to make money mistakes, or just avoid dealing with your finances at all, Mom and Dad may be a factor.
Some of your parents’ influence is likely to be subconscious. If your parents fought about money often, for example, you may associate money with conflict. If your parents never talked about money, you may believe it’s is too unimportant to bother with – or too scary and unmanageable to discuss.
Genetics play a role, too. Your ability to delay gratification and save money may depend on your DNA, at least partially, according to research published in the Journal of Finance in 2015. Another 2015 study published in the Journal of Political Economy concluded that about one-third of our approach to savings relates to genetics.
While you can’t change your genes, or rewrite your childhood history, you can learn to recognize harmful money habits your parents passed down to you.
This holiday season, think back on how your parents influenced your money beliefs. Ask yourself some questions: What key values about money did you learn from Mom and Dad? What is your earliest money-related memory? Your most painful money memory? What is your biggest financial fear? To dig deeper, you might start a conversation with your parents, asking what your grandparents taught them about money.
Part of “adulting” involves recognizing habits and attitudes you picked up unconsciously in childhood – and then making rational choices to stop, or continue, those habits, depending on whether they work for you.
For example, say you realize that members of your family tend to overspend when they’re feeling down. If you do that too, now you know why. You can choose more constructive ways to handle emotions. Making the connections between family values and your own is the first step toward creating positive change and forging better habits.