Why money lessons from parents are the ones that stick

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Here’s what: Learning from my parents

My parents never sat me down and talked to me about money. It certainly wasn’t an off-limits topic in our house, but it wasn’t openly and frequently discussed either. As a very observant kid who loved to hang around with the adults after dinner, I still managed to learn a lot from what I saw and heard.

Research shows a link between the behaviors of our parents (or similarly involved caregivers such as grandparents) during childhood and how we behave as adults. Luckily most of my early experiences involving money were positive.

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For example, the women in my family have always been frugal — buying for value is a badge of honor; my parents never carried a credit-card balance and I have them to thank for my good credit today; and my mom was in charge of sitting down once a month to balance the checkbook and pay bills, which let me know how important it is to review financial statements regularly.

Although we didn’t talk about money all the time, there was no avoiding it. I saw what my parents valued, such as financial stability, family time, and fun experiences like travel, and how hard they worked to obtain those things. As a high schooler with a $100 monthly allowance, I learned how to budget through a lot of trial and error.

I’m still working on unlearning some negative associations I have about money from my younger years as the child of struggling single parents. But looking back to my childhood has been a helpful, and at times surprising, exercise. 

I recommend it to anyone who is curious to understand where their mindsets, attitudes, or habits around money come from. In my own reflection, I’ve realized which lessons I want to pass on to the next generation and which I can adapt to fit my own definition of financial success.

—Tanza Loudenback, Personal Finance Insider correspondent and certified financial planner

Want advice about a personal money situation? Submit your story here for a chance to be featured in my biweekly column, Ask a Financial Planner.

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More family money advice

Here are 5 of our most-read stories from people who followed in a parent or grandparent’s financial footsteps:

I built a 6-figure net worth by age 25 by following a simple piece of advice from my grandparents

Writer Sarah Sharkey was lucky to get explicit investing advice from her grandparents as a new college graduate.

My dad’s simple savings rule let him retire comfortably at 54, and now I’m using that same rule to take time off work to raise my kids

Katie Oelker, a writer and money coach, listened to her dad when he told her to invest for retirement as soon as possible — he was proof the strategy works.

My grandma’s been retired for more than 30 years thanks to 3 money rules that helped her save and live comfortably

Insider’s Liz Knueven lived with her grandmother growing up and learned the value of a dollar and the power of preparation.

My grandpa Joe retired a millionaire, and he taught me 3 investing lessons I live by

On visits to his grandparents’ house, writer Eric Rosenberg learned how to be diligent and thoughtful about investing.

A man who became a millionaire at 35 says his mom taught him 5 crucial lessons that helped him build wealth

Drock, a lobbyist and personal finance blogger, calls his mom — a three-time divorcée who had to rebuild her wealth after each marriage ended — “the single biggest financial influencer in my life.”

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