Passing Down Money Values, Part 1: Starting with You

1 May


“One theme was made clear – families united by values survive for generations.” Doug Box, Box Family Advisors.

Doug Box, Box Family Advisors, states, “Far too often when people think of an inheritance, they think of money and, in particular, “how much will I get?” without realizing they have already received their real inheritance – the values passed down to them.  A number of case studies show that the families who remain together through successive generations are united by a common set of values.  Their sense of purpose is defined by the family history and by the values which they hold sacred.  These values are passed down from generation to generation.”

What values around money are we teaching our children? Do we want our values (financial and otherwise) to survive to the next generation?

It begins with you.

Step 1: In everything I have been reading, and it makes sense, the first step in teaching our children about money is first to identify our own money values. For instance, do you think of making money as merely a means to an end while your spouse equates making money to happiness? Do you view savings as an absolute while your spouse views savings as optional? Why do you value what you do (high quality, deep value, paying with cash, bargain shopping)? What stories do you have around your money values— meaning, why are they your values? And last, what values do you and your spouse share and conversely, conflict upon?

Exercise 1: Separately, you and your spouse/partner should identify your “money values” around:*

  • Earning
  • Spending
  • Savings and Investing
  • Philanthropy

Please note, this is a sensitive subject and the exercise is not for the purpose of judging who is right and wrong, but to better understand the often conflicting money messages you are sending your family.

My husband and I have been working on this exercise, I have been writing my values in a grid on the white board in my husband’s office. Since we process things differently, he has been able to take a bit of time and respond with his own set of values. Our values differ in several ways. While I spend all the money I have budgeted, he is much more frugal and would rather not spend anything at all (I have discovered it is a trait he and my father share— see the upcoming blog “Papa Frey and the PT Cruiser”). This exercise has allowed us to talk openly about financial values in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way. Mostly. No one is perfect.

Step 2: After you have identified your money values, the next step is to determine what values you are modeling….what actions are you taking to either uphold or undermine these values?

Do your actions reflect your values? Joline Godfrey in her book Raising Financially Fit Kids asks the reader several enlightening questions and highlights subsequent activities regarding your parental role as a money model. For instance, if one of your values is “philanthropy” or “giving back”, do you feel the obligation to give back? An exercise would be to tally up your volunteer hours and the philanthropic dollars you gave last year. Do your values match your actions? Or, do you value the environment (who doesn’t)? What do you do around the house to support this value? (Recycle? Reuse? Etc.) You get the idea.

Exercise 2: Take a few minutes to re-evaluate the money values listed in Exercise 1. What actions do you (and your family) take to support these values?

So, hopefully you agree that first understanding your own financial values and how you model these values is crucial to the overall success of purposefully passing them down to the next generation. This is work isn’t an “event” but a continuous process. Start now (no matter the age of your children) and keep at it!

I have listed below the resources used in this blog post. I bought these most of these books from either Amazon or my local bookstore. You can also see if your library has them.

Resources highlighted in this blog (also found in the Resource Section):

*Raising Financially Fit Kids by Joline Godfrey

Silver Spoon Kids: How Successful Parents Raise Responsible Children by Eileen Gallo, PH.D., and Jon Gallo, JD. Has a great chapter on values.


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