Try to break free of your parents’ money patterns


You can likely thank (or blame) your parents for some aspects of how you turned out. Maybe you have your mother’s eyes or your dad’s habit of chewing with your mouth open.

How you manage money is another thing you likely picked up from your parents — whether they intended you to or not.

While nearly 90 per cent of parents believe it’s important for their kids to grow up with good financial habits, almost half don’t know how to discuss money with their kids, according to a 2019 survey of 1,000 parents conducted by Edelman Financial Engines, a financial adviser firm. Further, 25 per cent of respondents never or almost never talk to their children about household finances, the survey found. If your family avoided financial topics, you may find yourself uncomfortable managing money and unaware of the effect your parents had on your financial behaviour. But part of growing up is acknowledging what you learnt from your parents — both good and bad — and correcting course as needed.

To claim your financial independence, define what your money goals are, understand how to achieve them through daily actions, and focus on long-term financial freedom.

Know your history and your ideal future

If you don’t already, track your money management for a month. Document your income, bills and savings.

Now think about how your parents managed money while you were growing up. Look for areas of overlap to understand the money habits you learnt.

Did your parents carry loads of credit card debt or run behind on bills? Maybe they were frugal savers. If you aren’t sure how your parents handled finances, ask them.

“I think having the money conversation with your parents is important, especially if you come from a household where money wasn’t actively talked about,” says Paul Golden, managing director of communications at the non-profit National Endowment for Financial Education. “Ask about the challenges they dealt with and how they managed them.”

Next, think about where you want to be. “Put financial goals in perspective of life goals,” says Kristen Holt, CEO of GreenPath Financial Wellness, a credit-counselling and financial-wellness organisation. “Maybe you want to retire early, or spend time writing a book, or spend time with kids when you have them. What’s the life that you want to have?”

Tip: compare your money history to the financial future you desire. If you dream about being a homeowner, for example, but find that you aren’t saving enough monthly to build up a down payment, see how you can adjust your spending habits.

Rework your money habits

As you reviewed how you handle money, you probably started to see some patterns. Financial habits are built on daily actions. Identify those you can take to meet your money objectives.

“Once you have your goals articulated and prioritised, understand that you can’t make everything happen all at once,” says Levi Sanchez, founder of Seattle-based Millennial Wealth, a financial planning firm. “But you can start the better behaviours and habits that can get you there.”

Budgeting is a simple, powerful habit. The 50/30/20 budget, where half your income covers needs, 30 per cent goes to wants and 20 per cent covers debt payments and savings, is an effective method to ensure you channel your money in a way that supports your vision.

Sanchez recommends automating habits so your goals are easier to achieve. If you want to increase your emergency fund, set up regular transfers from your chequing account or paycheque so you don’t have to think about it.

Tip: break your goals into smaller, easily achievable actions. Each of these steps will help you build the money habits that create financial independence.

Focus on the long term

The point of carving out your financial independence is to ensure you are making informed money decisions that reflect your values. But it’s also about setting yourself up for long-term financial success. That means sticking to healthy habits but being flexible enough to respond to life changes.

“Part of your money habits should be regular assessments of how you’re doing,” Golden says. “We all need to be realistic that things financially are not always static. You’re going to ebb and flow out of different circumstances.”

Tip: your financial goals and priorities will likely change over time. Check to make sure your habits are on track every quarter. And re-evaluate your goals annually, so your money management evolves along with your priorities.

Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. E-mail: spyles@nerdwallet.com

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Published Nov 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 29, 2019 at 11:59 pm)

Try to break free of your parents’ money patterns

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