Identifying and Instilling Family Money Values

Whether you realize it or not, you have family money values.

The way parents talk about money, save money, and spend money affects their children.

Business Insider explains, “Often times, the way we understand and deal with money as an adult comes from watching our parents or parent-like figures handle them. These are called ‘money scripts.’”¹ 

When children grow up, the money scripts they grew up with shape their own family money values.

So, what exactly are money values?

According to Chime, “Money values are a set of external and internal factors that determine how you feel about money. Your money values help shape the financial decisions you make in your life – for better or worse. Money values, for example, are shaped by your childhood experiences with money, your current income, your social groups, and your goals and ambitions.”² 

Unfortunately, most people don’t spend time thinking about their family money values. They simply accept them and then are surprised to discover others have a different relationship with money.

This is the reason money is the number one thing couples fight about and one of the main reasons couples file for divorce.³ 

Andrea Woroch told Business Insider, “Unfortunately, [not understanding each other’s values] can cause frivolous fights between two people who have completely opposite views toward money. […] If one partner spends without thought and the other frantically saves every penny, there’s bound to be tension. The spender may feel that his or her partner is constantly nagging and cheap, while the saver may feel vulnerable to the effects of overindulging.”⁴ 

Family money values are more important than people realize. 

Some of these values are so deeply ingrained that many people don’t even know they have them – until they are put in a position where they have to defend them. 

Don’t get it wrong – people can have opposing family money values, and it doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong. It simply means they view money differently. 

Take time to peruse this list of family money values and see which ones fit your family’s attitude toward money.

Money Is for Security

family money values

For many people, money equals security. These individuals view money as a tool that allows them to put a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.

It also provides them the means to cover the costs of an emergency and retire comfortably. 

The key for these people is financial stability, which means they don’t take too many financial risks, budget accordingly, and save as needed.

Money Is for the Future

family money values

For some people, money is for the future. These individuals put a heavy focus on saving for the future – college funds and retirement accounts.

Rather than spending money today, they choose to put money aside so their children and grandchildren can live well. 

They also focus on preparing for their own future during their retirement years.

Based on numbers, this is not one of the most common family money values.

A study by Northwestern Mutual found, “More than one in five (22%) Americans have less than $5,000 saved for retirement, and 15% have no retirement savings at all. […] While 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, nearly one in five (17%) have less than $5,000 saved for retirement and 20% have less than $5,000 in personal savings.”⁵

Money Is for Today

family money values

In contrast to those who believe money is for the future, some people would rather live today than save for tomorrow.

These people value enjoying experiences and things while they can.

They believe they work hard, so they should play harder. They have a “spend it if you’ve got it” mindset. When they go shopping, they are comfortable splurging.

Money Is for Others

family money values

Some families value philanthropic giving. In their eyes, they have more than enough, so they are happy to give their “extra” to help someone else.

For example, Warren Buffet, one of the richest people in the world, shares this philanthropic view of money.

He pledged, “More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death.”⁶ 

According to The Conversation, “Buffett says he has given very little money to his three children, Howard Graham Buffett, Peter Buffett and Susan Alice Buffett, aside from hundreds of millions of dollars for the foundations they each run.”⁷ 

Warren has also said, “Society has a use for my money; I don’t.”⁸ 

It is important to understand that this family money value isn’t dependent on the wealth of one’s family. 

There are many families who will never see anything near Buffett’s wealth but prioritize giving.

Money Is a Personal Responsibility

family money values

Do you remember receiving your first real paycheck? The pride you felt when you realized you’d earn that money from your hard work?

For some, that feeling never goes away.

These individuals value money because they earn it. It gives them a sense of pride.

As a result, they believe money is a personal responsibility. 

They don’t like handouts, and they don’t like giving money to people when it hasn’t been earned.

Money Is for Status

family money values

Money is a status symbol for some. Those who believe this is true also believe money brings respect and power.

Therefore, it is a priority to get more and more money.

And to spend it on things that let others know they have it, such as luxury goods, fancy vacations, and high-priced cars.

It’s important to note that this value is not always taught in the family home. Children (and adults) often pick up this value from their social groups.

Money Is for Buying Happiness

family money values

We’ve all heard the saying, “Money can’t buy happiness.” But people often believe the opposite is true – money is for buying happiness.

These people get a thrill when they leave a store with several shopping bags.

They get a jolt of pleasure when they click “buy now” online. 

They believe if they buy this item, they’ll be happier. 

They spend on items that bring them joy (even if it is fleeting).

Money Is Not to Be Wasted

family money values

Others believe that money should not be wasted – especially not on things that are frivolous. 

Money should be spent on things that are necessary and practical. 

They value quality over quantity. 

They look for opportunities to save money by doing things themselves rather than hiring others to do it for them.

Money Is Not Talked About

family money values

According to the Stress in America survey, “Eighteen percent of those surveyed say money is a taboo subject in their family, and 36 percent say talking about money makes them uncomfortable.”⁹ 

Family money values even include those about which you don’t talk. 

For example, kids who grow up in a home where money is never discussed learn this is a value.

They may also believe “money is the root of all evil” because of the silence surrounding it.

Money Is Spent On…

family money values

It is wise to take note of how you spend your money. This represents another family money value.

  • Do you spend money on things or experiences?
  • Do you value quantity or quality?
  • Do you focus on yourself or others?

Those whom you live with are aware of how you spend your money, and that sends a message.

Sometimes We Go a Different Way

family money values

It’s important to understand that your family money values may not be shared by your kids when they move out.

Especially if you are too extreme. 

We can all think of examples where people have taken things too far, such as Ebenezer Scrooge hoarding his money.

People who grow up in environments where the family money values were harsh may grow up to value just the opposite.

A child who grows up with a parent who spends money frivolously but can’t pay the utility bills may grow up to be someone who values money for saving and security as opposed to spending. 

Likewise, a child who grows up in a home where parents constantly say, “No. We can’t afford it. We’re saving for XYZ” may grow up to be someone who enjoys spending the money he earns rather than saving.

Next Steps

family money values

Take some time to go back through this list. Identify what your personal money values are. Have your spouse or partner do the same.

If you have older kids, ask them to participate. Have a discussion about it.

Knowing each other’s money values will help with fights about finances and help you better understand where the other person is coming from.

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