Where did your money story come from?
Your attitudes, habits, and beliefs about money didn’t just pop into your head magically. They’re heavily influenced by the events your family experienced both in your lifetime and before. For example, my grandma, who couldn’t drive to town during the Depression because no one had a quarter for gas, was always telling me to just use a dime-sized dollop of shampoo.
Amanda suggests drawing what’s called a Financial Genogram. This is a visual representation of your family history with money. You’ll be listing out your family members, showing their relationships, and writing about anything that happened to them regarding money to better understand where you come from.
When you have the family structure in place, write a few words about their attitudes and experiences with money in the space provided. You might include details on how they earned a living, their lifestyles, and any significant events (e.g., job loss, inheritance, medical issue) that had a major impact on their financial life.
The following questions are provided courtesy of Amanda Clayman:
Questions about People:
For each person in the financial genogram answer:
- What was happening in the world around him/her?
- When and where did s/he live?
- What type of work did s/he do?
- What was his/her lifestyle like?
- What do you remember him/her saying about money?
- What significant financial events happened to him/her?
- What was his/her attitude about earning, spending, managing, saving, and investing money?
- What were his/her goals? Did s/he attain them?
Questions about Relationships:
For each family grouping answer:
- How did money play a part in showing love or approval between family members? How was it used to punish or exclude?
- Who was in agreement about money? Who argued or fought?
Questions about Family Culture:
- What was your family’s attitude about money?
- What kinds of financial behavior were admired?
- What were you not supposed to do or talk about in terms of money?
- What was seen as more valuable than money (e.g., education, art, passion)?
- Is there a particular story about the family’s financial history?
Questions about You:
- What’s your earliest memory of money?
- When did you have your first job?
- What were you expected to do with your income? Did you do that?
- What were you taught about money?
- Did you understand and agree with how your parents approached money?
- Did you feel frustrated with your parents for their financial circumstances or choices?
- Were you and your siblings treated equally and taught the same things about money?
Here are some things I found out about me and my family:
What was your family’s attitude about money?
It was a facilitator of fun. There would always be more where that came from, and we were doing well. Until we weren’t.
What kinds of financial behavior were admired?
“Doing it up,” buying big shiny things, earning good money.
What were you not supposed to do or talk about in terms of money?
We didn’t talk about the fact that we were going bankrupt in the year of it happening. That made it all the more frightening.
What was seen as more valuable than money (e.g., education, art, passion)?
The love we had as a family. I never doubted that I was loved. My mom used to always say, “We rich in love, right honey?”
Is there a particular story about the family’s financial history?
We were living high until the sandcastle came tumbling down, and it took us almost a decade to dig ourselves out of the mess.
What’s your earliest memory of money?
My dad letting me keep the change at restaurants. Ooh, or passing the tithing basket in church. The pile of cash and checks held by my tiny hands for just a moment.
When did you have your first job?
I started working at an ice cream store with a few of my best friends when I was still 14. We made minimum wage and our creepy old boss complained that he would pay us less if he were legally able to. Maybe he was right, considering how much ice cream I helped myself to.
What were you expected to do with your income? Did you do that?
By the time I was making any money, I was so desperate to just have some spending money of my own. No one talked to me about saving it. I lived paycheck to paycheck, because I was a teenager.
What were you taught about money?
Once we went bankrupt, my mom would call me over to see the outrageous interest rates on the credit card offers we were sent.
Did you understand and agree with how your parents approached money?
We all realize we weren’t living right.
Did you feel frustrated with your parents for their financial circumstances or choices?
I did at the time, but I’ve fully forgiven my parents for the mistakes they made. My mom has since done a lot of work to get to a better place.
Were you and your siblings treated equally and taught the same things about money?
I think my dad was a wee sexist and favored my brother a bit. But also, I was a daddy’s girl, and in high school, I could pry a twenty from his wallet with just a smile.