Inheriting Money Attitudes – Are Financial Habits Learned?

teaching kids about money

Whom we become as adults is largely influenced by how and by whom we are raised. Our parents shape us in many ways. If you are given chores as a child, you are more than likely to become an independent worker as an adult. If you live in a house where there are lots of arguments, you are more likely to struggle to form healthy relationships on your own.  As we consider that these types of characteristics are often learned as we grow up, does how we are raised also impact our finances?  A recent survey gives us a better understanding of how certain financial upbringings can shape our money attitudes as adults.

EARLY INFLUENCE

According to over three-quarters of those surveyed, parents influenced their financial habits as adults and those in good current financial standing were the most likely to have had some parental influence at an early age.  Those with bad financial standing also claimed that their parents influenced their financial habits.

For some reason, many parents shy away from money conversations with their children, even though it could have a positive influence on their financial habits. Over half of those surveyed said their parents never talked to them about the value of their financial accounts or life insurance or whether they had investments or debt. If these topics were discussed, it typically wasn’t until the children were adults themselves. Of the parents who did talk to their children about money, it was most commonly about their general financial standing and occurred around age 15.

FINANCIAL EMERGENCY DISCUSSIONS

Research suggests that talking to your children about the scarier side of money can be quite impactful. Respondents whose parents talked to them about the possibility of financial crises or recessions as children were more likely to be in good financial standing as adults. A key component of financial security is having cash resources you can tap in case of a financial emergency. This is why it’s important to talk to your children about financial crises or recessions, like the “dot-com bubble” that changed the way many baby boomers viewed investing, or the Great Recession that scarred millennials. Now, the COVID-19 global pandemic is likely to have a similar impact on Generation Z. Discussing these worst-case scenarios increases the likelihood that your children will plan ahead with an emergency fund as adults. 

PRINCIPLES FOR FINANCIAL STABILITY

Teaching your children financial life lessons could reduce the possibility of entering into credit card debt. According to our respondents, people whose parents taught them basic financial life lessons had less credit card debt than those whose parents didn’t teach them anything about money. The most common financial lesson parents taught their millennial children was the difference between a need and a want.  Despite having received the most financial education from their parents, millennials reported the highest instance of being worse off financially than their parents.  However, the majority of millennials thought they would eventually be better off than their parents. Their financial optimism may be due to the fact that nearly one-third of millennials received a pay raise in the past 12 months. 

The least commonly imparted financial lesson for all generations was how to invest, which is unfortunate given those whose parents did teach them how to invest typically reported having the highest income and estimated net worth. When it comes to gender, parents were especially negligent in discussing investing where their daughters were concerned; men were 35% more likely than women to have been taught to invest. Men were also more likely to have been taught about financial goal setting. One reason for the discrepancy could be that mothers are more likely to teach their daughters about finance, thus causing traditional gender roles to get passed down from generation to generation. However, when it comes to generational changes, many millennial women have made strides in income and now earn more than their mothers.

SPENDING STYLES

The survey results suggested a connection between parents’ spending style and their children’s style. The more responsible a parent is with his or her spending, the more likely their children are to be responsible spenders themselves. Over half of respondents whose parents only spent money when they could afford it reported being debt-free today, compared to only 42% of respondents whose parents often spent beyond their means. Children whose parents were conservative spenders, often choosing to forgo luxuries even when they could afford it, were the most likely to have an emergency fund as an adult and children whose parents only spent when they could afford it were slightly less likely to have emergency funds as adults. Having a parent who often spent beyond their means can lead to more debt and less in emergency funds, but the majority of children brought up in such households said they’ve done better for themselves as adults. Children of responsible and conservative spenders were far more likely to emulate their parents’ spending habits as adults. 

CREATING A BETTER FINANCIAL FUTURE

How we raise our children has a formative impact on who they become as adults. If you teach them how to save and invest, they are more likely to become financially responsible adults. A financial education should be a key aspect of any child’s upbringing. It is important to facilitate healthy conversations about money with our children so they are prepared for the important financial life lessons as they grow up.  Teaching key financial tools to our children will enable them to budget, manage their finances and plan for their futures as adults.  If you have any questions relating to teaching your children about early financial habits, please contact us – we are here to help!

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