How’s your relationship going? Successfully happy in a relationship? It’s complicated? Non-existent? Oh wait, we’re on the same page and talking about your relationship with money, right? Money, just like anything else, can have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on your life. It’s similar to your relationships with family, friends, drugs & alcohol, diet, exercise etc. where it ebbs and flows as you grow, yet has a lasting and continual influence on your life. It’s important to look back and see how your relationship with money was created and decide for yourself how it will continue in the future.
We all have the power to choose and determine our relationship with money.
My financial relationship started the day I was born; just as I started imitating my parents by attempting to walk and talk, I was also internalizing their financial views. I subconsciously noticed my parents’ spending habits, openness to discussing money, frugality, and tendency to save. Like other aspects of my childhood, I gathered this information, analyzed it, determined how to act, and it has created who I am today (did I mention I’m an engineer?? Analytics started young for me J). This learned behavior and relationship with money affects my current day-to-day habits and needs to be something I am aware of in order to have a positive financial relationship.
Let’s Get Real
Stop for a minute and think about what you noticed about money as you grew up. Did adults around you discuss money? If so, was it discussed positively or negatively? Did you have an allowance? When did you first open a savings account? When were you first aware of the necessity of money? Is your current relationship with money similar or dissimilar to influential figures in your life? Think back to all the interactions that have contributed to your current relationship. Just like personal relationships, financial relationships can (and should) be worked on if we are willing to be real with ourselves and get to the root cause of issues.
Like Father, Like Son. Like Mother, Like Daughter.
I was very lucky to grow up with financially conservative parents who are extreme savers. They were growing organic food in their backyard and composting before it was the “cool” thing to do (and still continue to garden to this day!). Growing up, we always had enough (and often excess) of everything yet my parents made sure my sisters and I appreciated the amazing free things around us like nature, a good book from the public library, and conversations around a campfire. Some of my best childhood memories are from hiking nature trails stumbling upon snakes, animal footprints, and fossils. Even now when I return home I look forward to hanging out in the backyard around the campfire my Dad built just talking about life and being in the moment with my family.
Many of my financial habits come from my parents, particularly my saving behavior and frugality. I remember opening up my 1st savings account when I was in 1st grade (back when interest rates were ~5%) and depositing $1 in it every Tuesday. I loved watching it grow and adding more money as I worked at my 1st job. I still get that same feeling of pride each week when I see my paycheck hit my account. For me the key in saving is consistency. Just how 7 year old me put $1 in my savings account each week, now twenty-something me puts a set amount in my retirement account each week. This is greatly helped by having automated deposits into my retirement account and gets me into a savings routine.
As far as frugality goes, my parents were always ones to pack picnic lunches to events, use coupons, wait for things to go on sale, reuse, and say no to consumerism. Being older, I applaud my parents for not giving into societal norms and living exactly according to their values. It can be difficult to resist getting swept up in the latest craze when all around me I see people constantly craving more stuff and then “needing” a bigger home to put all the stuff in and then “needing” the newest cell phone to post on social media all the new stuff/new house they just bought. It is a never ending cycle of consumerism. The real question is does the consumerism truly make us happy? Maybe that’s the key to all of this. Find what makes you happy and live that to the fullest. I’m starting to find happiness in simplicity. Now it’s time to align my values with my lifestyle. It’s amazing how out of whack that alignment can get. It all goes back to choosing my life, living my values, and actively working towards that which makes me truly happy.
Create a mindful relationship with money.
I don’t foresee myself ever having a life where money becomes irrelevant, but if it is a necessity then I am going to choose to have a positive and open relationship with my moola. I already have a great base to build upon (huge thanks to my parents). It is up to me to mindfully grow my financial relationship in the future such that it aligns with my values, goals, and dreams.
- Make a savings routine. Automate if possible.
- Find what makes you happy and live that to the fullest.
- Own your relationship with money and make it a healthy one.