Many of the decisions you make about your money today have their roots in things you experienced or observed decades ago as a child. Your parents may not have realized it at the time, but the way they handled money would form your attitudes about money. Did you have a father who would not spare any change for a treat under any circumstances? That could explain your extreme frugality.
Was every other day in your childhood an occasion to party or eat out? That could be why you spend every extra coin on self-indulgence. On the other hand, if your parents taught you the importance of rewarding yourself but also putting away something for a rainy day, you have likely found the right balance.
Here are some of the ways your childhood could be contributing positively or destructively to the way you handle your finances today.
Perhaps your parents struggled earlier in life or grew up in poor households themselves. Later on, when their station in life improved, it would have been natural for them to want to give you the best money could buy. They may have tried to compensate for their rough start by indulging in their newly acquired wealth.
They could have taken you and your siblings out every other day to the best restaurants and spoiled you with expensive toys during the holidays. They may have had the best intentions, but in the process they got you used to a lifestyle you will want to maintain at all costs.
Whereas your parents may have been able to afford those indulgences and still put something aside for a rainy day, you may not be in such a position. Yet you still find yourself splurging with your meager earnings, to the point of entering a cycle of debt.
Savvy parents will teach their children the importance of saving money from an early age. They will get them a piggy bank and encourage them not to spend all their gift money on candy. Instead, they will show them how to deposit the coins they don’t spend through that slot from which they won’t be able to easily take them out.
If you didn’t have parents who passed on these values, it’s not too late to learn them. You can open a savings account or a money market fund account, which earns better interest. To make sure you’re not tempted into not contributing, you can give check-off instructions to your bank so that the money is deducted from your paycheck before you can think about diverting it.
This savings account can act as a payday loan alternative, where you can withdraw funds to get you out of a jam after depleting your salary. If you’re a bit more disciplined, your account can accumulate enough funds to be used for more important purchases. Those funds could become the deposit for a new home or your tuition fees for that post-graduate course.
Lack of Financial Education
Many parents do not see the need to educate their children about how to handle money. This could perhaps be because they themselves never received such an education. Sadly, in many homes, talking about money is almost taboo, even spouses keeping each other in the dark about their financial plans and decisions.
The net effect is children who grow up with no clue as to what prudent financial management entails. Even if they grow up to have well-paying jobs, they end up living from paycheck to paycheck with no fallback plan in the event of an emergency. With no motivation to save or invest, they max out their paychecks and rack up credit card debt while maintaining an extravagant lifestyle.
If you’re among those whose parents never passed on any financial nuggets of wisdom, that shouldn’t be an excuse for living irresponsibly. Not with the numerous resources available to educate yourself on money matters. You can buy books or enroll in courses that teach financial management.
You can then use the knowledge you have acquired to break the cycle of money ignorance in your family. As soon as they’re able to count, start to introduce the topic of money to your children. Begin to show them the importance of saving and the ways in which they can invest whatever little they have.
Along with showing your kids how to use money, you need to show them how it is acquired. They should know that everything from the food they eat to the heating and lighting they enjoy costs money, and that money is earned through hard work. Girls should not be raised on the fairy tale of getting married to a rich, handsome so-and-so who will take care of all their needs.
Instead of doling out an allowance, give your children simple chores and reward them for it. Let them begin to understand the correlation between hard work and financial independence. When they understand how hard it is to get money, they won’t be so quick to frit it away.
Righting the Wrongs
Tracing the financial missteps that have their roots in your childhood is just the beginning of the process of fixing your finances. Righting the wrongs involves gaining knowledge that will help change your mindset towards money. Applying that knowledge will be a lifelong process.