How Parents Teach About Money

In this article I use the term “women” to discuss the part of our population that was socialized with traditional feminine middle-class values. However this information may apply to men who were raised in this manner and may not apply to women who were raised in other cultures or with non-traditional socialization. So let me say at the outset that I realize I am making generalizations that do not apply across the board and may not apply to many women…..but you may be in relationship with someone who was raised in these traditions and that may be of use to you.

I will begin by sharing with you some of my own confusion as a woman raised in the 50’s and 60’s. Anyone raised in my era may realize that we were raised by a generation that grew up in the depression…and it is important to understand that piece of our bringing up. In my own life it has played out by parents’ confusion : providing me with food, shelter and education was supposed to show their love and guarantee me a happy life. Even today parents get confused about what else is required of them in the parenting process. As I am able to see them within their own history I become much clearer about the messages they sent to me regarding what kinds of appreciation and affection I then owed them and how much sense it made to them. My father was clear to teach me that as a woman I needed to prepare to support myself financially and make a good career for myself. My mother was clear to teach me that as a woman the most wonderful thing that could happen to me would be to marry a generous man and have the freedom not to work. I doubt that my parents ever really discussed how and which messages they would send to their daughters about money and work and were not even conscious that they held few of the same opinions. Few of my female classmates were preparing for professional careers in the 60’s, although many of them have come to that place later. At the time I was among a minority going on to graduate studies. As I married and became a parent, my conflicts about work and motherhood were quite intense and left me unhappy in both areas. It has been with much agonizing that I figured out how to work this through to satisfy both parts of myself.

Even now many enlightened parents never discuss with each other whether they are sending conflicting messages to their children on the issues of work and money. The most powerful messages are not always the ones that are verbally expressed but are more likely to come from our parent’s living of their lives. If one of you spends and the other complains about the spending then, you have divided the money tasks in a way that promotes conflicts within the family. This sends a message to your children that one must choose whether to be a spender or a saver as opposed to showing that both spending and saving are important money tasks to be done with integrity and consciousness. This is a common family split in our culture. In general one member of a marriage is likely to be allocated a childlike, impulsive, spending role and the other is designated as the responsible, parental money planner. At times parents may agree to change roles but often they do not take the time to be sure that both parents are teaching and exhibiting all the major money tasks mentioned in the previous article.