April 18

How Our Upbringing Affects Our Money Mindset


From childhood, we are influenced by the financial attitudes and behaviors of those around us – parents, guardians, and even the broader cultural context. These formative experiences shape our beliefs, habits, and attitudes toward money.

Childhood Observations

From a very young age, children are often witnessing their parents' reactions to bills, moments of financial stress or abundance, or being told "money doesn't grow on trees." These seemingly mundane occurrences are the building blocks of our financial mindset. If a child grows up in an environment where money is a source of tension or scarcity, they may internalize fear or anxiety about finances. Conversely, if money flows freely without much discussion or restraint, they may adopt a more carefree or spendthrift mentality.

Cultural Context

Beyond the family unit, cultural influences play a significant role. Different cultures have varying attitudes toward saving, spending, and wealth accumulation. In some cultures, frugality and saving are prized virtues, while in others, conspicuous consumption is the norm. These cultural norms often shape our perceptions of what is considered "normal" or "acceptable" when it comes to financial behaviors. Social media of course increases the pressure of what we feel like we "should" be doing with our money and how much money we should have and children are being exposed to this at a young age. 

The Influence of Adversity

Experiencing financial hardship or adversity during childhood can have a profound impact on our money mindset. Those who have endured periods of poverty or instability may develop a scarcity mindset, always fearing a return to financial insecurity. This can manifest in behaviors such as hoarding money, avoiding risks, or being overly cautious with spending. This can also affect our relationship with others leading to disagreements or withdrawing from others.  

Role of Education

Education – both formal and informal – also plays a crucial role in shaping our financial beliefs and behaviors. I remember taking one class in middle school that had one section on financial literacy, and I'm pretty sure it only went over budgeting and writing checks. Whether through personal finance classes, parental guidance, or life experiences, we acquire knowledge about budgeting, investing, and managing debt. However, the quality and extent of this education vary widely, leaving some better equipped to navigate the complexities of personal finance than others. In the United States, money tends to not be talked about. I would have loved a class on doing taxes! 

Breaking the Cycle

While our past experiences undoubtedly influence our money mindset, they do not determine our financial destiny. Recognizing and understanding the roots of our beliefs and behaviors around money is the first step toward effecting change. By examining our attitudes towards saving, spending, and investing, we can identify areas for growth and development.

Cultivating a Healthy Money Mindset

Building a healthy relationship with money requires intentionality and self-awareness. Here are some strategies to cultivate a positive money mindset:

  1. Reflect on Your Money Story: Take time to reflect on your upbringing and how it has shaped your attitudes towards money. Identify any limiting beliefs or patterns that may be holding you back.
  2. Educate Yourself: Commit to ongoing learning about personal finance. Books, podcasts, and online resources abound, offering valuable insights into budgeting, investing, and wealth-building strategies.
  3. Set Clear Goals: Define your financial goals and create a plan to achieve them. Whether saving for a home, paying off debt, or building an emergency fund, having clear objectives can help guide your financial decisions.
  4. Practice Gratitude: Cultivate a mindset of abundance by focusing on what you have rather than what you lack. Expressing gratitude for the resources and opportunities available to you can shift your perspective towards one of abundance.
  5. Seek Support: Don't be afraid to seek support from financial advisors, mentors, or support groups. There are even therapists who focus on finances.

Anne Rice, LPC, LMHC, CPCS

About the author

Anne is a licensed therapist in both New York and Georgia. She is the owner of Firefly Wellness Counseling located in the Atlanta area. Her team works with all members of the family struggling with anxiety, depression, and big life changes. Anne loves helping adults and teens navigate life's difficulties by creating a comfortable and safe place to share anything and everything that is on their minds. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Princeton University and her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College.


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