How to Right Generational Money Beliefs

Whispered words from grandparents, off-handed comments from parents, the barely audible sighs during bill-paying nights—generations past unknowingly impart their financial lessons in these fleeting moments. While some of these lessons serve as sturdy stepping stones, others might feel more like stumbling blocks. Many of us have inherited a tapestry of generational money beliefs, woven with threads of cautionary tales, traditional values, and sometimes, outdated advice. But are we doomed to follow the financial footsteps of our forebears, or can we chart a fresh path that resonates more authentically with our own life story?

Understanding Generational Money Beliefs

As I sat across from Claire, a 32-year-old client of mine, she recounted her memories of her grandmother storing cash in multiple tea tins scattered around her house. “Banks can’t be trusted,” her grandmother would often murmur, a belief birthed from experiencing the hardships of the Great Depression. Claire admitted that, despite growing up in a time of online banking and financial technology, she found herself harbouring a latent mistrust of financial institutions. This, she realised, was an echo of a past not truly her own.

Such generational beliefs about money are often handed down like cherished family heirlooms, with each generation adding its own layer of experience and emotion. Sometimes these beliefs are protective, creating cautious spenders or diligent savers. At other times, they can be limiting, instilling undue fear or risk aversion.

For instance, a family that has historically faced financial hardships might pass down the belief that “money doesn’t grow on trees,” leading to a scarcity mindset. On the other hand, families that experienced sudden wealth might cultivate a belief that money is fleeting and should be enjoyed immediately.

It’s essential to recognize that these beliefs, while rooted in genuine experiences of our predecessors, were formed in a different time, under different circumstances. While they offer a valuable lens into understanding our financial foundations, they don’t necessarily dictate our financial futures.

To begin rewriting our financial stories, we first need to untangle the narratives we’ve inherited. The following sections will guide you through introspecting your generational money beliefs and assessing which ones serve you and which ones might be hindering your financial growth.

Identifying Inherited Financial Narratives

As we step into adulthood and craft our own financial paths, it becomes increasingly evident how our family’s narratives about money subtly shape our attitudes and behaviours. Here’s how you can start identifying these inherited beliefs:

a. Reflect on Family Conversations: Think back to your childhood. What did your parents or grandparents say about money? Were discussions about finances taboo, conducted in hushed voices, or were they open and educational? Did you often hear phrases like, “We can’t afford that” or “Money is the root of all evil”? Jot down these remembered statements, as they can provide profound insights into your ingrained beliefs.

b. Recognise Emotional Triggers: Our reactions to money-related situations often stem from deeply embedded emotions. Does the thought of investing scare you because you grew up hearing about a family member’s failed business venture? Or does spending on luxuries make you feel guilty, echoing your parents’ emphasis on frugality? Recognising these emotional triggers can help pinpoint the generational beliefs you’ve adopted.

c. Consult Your Financial Habits: Sometimes, our daily habits are the clearest indicators of our inherited beliefs. If you find yourself hoarding money despite a stable financial situation, it might reflect an ancestral fear of economic instability. Alternatively, if you’re averse to budgeting, it might mirror a familial narrative that sees budgets as restrictive rather than liberating.

Redefining Your Money Mindset

Now that you’ve identified the generational beliefs you’ve inherited, it’s time to decide which ones to retain and which ones to reformulate. Redefining your money mindset isn’t about rejecting your family’s history; it’s about evolving it to fit your contemporary context and aspirations.

a. Separate Facts from Feelings: Understand that the financial narratives of the past were often shaped by genuine experiences but tinged with emotion. Separate the factual lessons (like the importance of saving) from emotional reactions (like the fear of investing) to discern actionable advice.

b. Educate and Empower: Arm yourself with current financial knowledge. In our rapidly changing world, what worked for our grandparents might not work for us. Attend financial seminars, read updated books on personal finance, or consider consulting with a financial advisor. Education is the first step to empowerment.

c. Visualise Your Financial Future: Set clear, personal financial goals that reflect your aspirations and values. Whether it’s achieving debt freedom, owning a home, or building a nest egg for retirement, having a vision can guide your decisions and overshadow outdated beliefs.

d. Open the Dialogue: Foster open financial discussions with your family. Sharing your newfound perspectives can not only provide you with a support system but also help younger generations in the family start on a well-informed financial footing.

Remember, rewriting your financial story doesn’t mean disregarding the past. It means taking the best from it, learning from its lessons, and tailoring it to create a prosperous and fulfilling future.

Continuous Growth and Adaptation

Money beliefs, once identified and understood, don’t automatically transform overnight. Like any deeply ingrained mindset, it requires consistent effort, reflection, and adaptation. Here’s how you can ensure your newfound beliefs mature and evolve with you:

a. Regular Financial Check-ins: Just as we have regular health check-ups, our financial beliefs need periodic evaluations. Set aside time, perhaps biannually, to reflect on your financial decisions, understand the motivations behind them, and ensure they align with your redefined money mindset.

b. Stay Curious: The financial landscape is ever-evolving, with new tools, technologies, and opportunities emerging regularly. Keep an open mind, stay updated, and be willing to adapt your strategies when necessary.

c. Celebrate Small Wins: The journey to reshaping deep-rooted beliefs is challenging. Celebrate the small victories, whether it’s sticking to a budget, making a wise investment, or merely having a productive conversation about money with a loved one. These moments of triumph will motivate you to stay the course.

d. Seek Support: Consider joining a financial community, whether online or offline. Engaging with peers, sharing stories, and learning from others’ experiences can provide fresh perspectives and encouragement.

Generational money beliefs offer a treasure trove of insights, grounding us in history while pointing out patterns that might have gone unnoticed. As we stand at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, we have a unique opportunity – not just to be passive recipients of financial legacies but to be active crafters of our own.

The process of introspection, education, and evolution allows us to take control of our financial destinies, ensuring that the stories we pass on are not merely tales of caution but narratives of empowerment. By actively engaging with our financial beliefs and reshaping them, we set the stage for a legacy that future generations will be proud to inherit and eager to build upon.


  • Lily Kensington

    Lily Kensington is a financial psychologist, a proud member of the ANZA Psychological Society, and a passionate advocate for financial wellness. A former high school English teacher and psychology graduate, Lily brings a unique perspective to her writing that blends the intricacies of psychology with the world of finance.Over the past decade, Lily has dedicated her life to helping individuals and couples navigate their emotional relationship with money. Her empathetic and intuitive approach, honed through her counselling practice, breaks down complex financial concepts into relatable and practical advice. Lily's writing often reflects her personal journey as a single mother, providing valuable insights and support for fellow single parents navigating the world of personal finance.In addition to her numerous contributions to wellness and personal development blogs, Lily is the author of the book "The Heart of Money: A Psychological Guide to Financial Wellness."In front of the camera or behind the pen, Lily's mission remains the same: to help others achieve financial peace by understanding the psychology of money.

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