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Financial Health is Generational

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

The second principle of Positive Money is that it is generational. When you’re aware of the beliefs and behaviors you inherit and pass along, you’re more intentional about your actions today.


Our financial health is influenced by the beliefs and behaviors we have about money whether we pay attention or not.


If you have a one-size-fits-all attitude that money is bad or that you do everything right while others do everything wrong, then this mindset will likely get passed along or be tied to your legacy. Even if you justify your behavior now, one would wonder if it would suit the next generation or do more harm than good. In some cases, when you aren’t aware of the impact, you might learn the hard way.

Family eating healthy
Our relationship with money is inherited and passed along.

The Impact of Past Experience

One time I was working with nonprofit leaders during a workshop on money mindset. One leader was the director of a food pantry and was having issues with staff stealing inventory. During the workshop, we explored early childhood memories around money. She shared that in her early teens, she had gotten into a summer program that she was excited about until the director told her she no longer qualified because her family income was just above the poverty line. Only those below the poverty line were allowed in the program. She was shocked. She had no idea there was such a line or that her family lived so close to it. Later, she found out that her mother would fill cupboards with empty boxes to make it look like they had more than they did. Through our conversation, she wondered if the pain of discovering the truth about her family finances had anything to do with her ignoring what was really going on behind the closed doors of her warehouse.


How Financial Health is Inherited and Passed Along

Like physical and mental health, we can inherit and pass along certain behaviors and beliefs that can influence how we earn, spend, save, and give. Like the nonprofit leader described above, we can miss clues about how our past plays a role in our financial health today. For example, if you were taught that being rich is bad, you might earn less than you're capable of or avoid paying attention to your money. If you feel guilty about your privilege, you might give money away. If money was stressful growing up, you might decide that earning more will make the stresses go away.


The Story of Patagonia

The story of Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, the outdoor equipment and clothing company, is an example of a conscious decision to pay it forward. In 2022, Chouinard and his team decided that instead of going public it was time to “go purpose” by declaring Earth as their only stakeholder. He and his family donated the company to a trust with the understanding that all profits moving forward will be dedicated to saving the planet. For Chouinard, generational awareness means taking a bold stand to improve the likelihood we have future generations at all.


What You Can Do

The first step toward financial health is to decide what it means for you today, keeping in mind the context of class, culture, and other factors beyond our control. A Positive Money approach would be to follow the Principles of Positive Money as they take a holistic approach to our relationship with money. If you want to learn more about them, click here. If you want to purchase a copy of the Positive Money book, click here.

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