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[Financial literacy month] 5 questions you must ask yourself about your parent’s ‘money’ role modeling

The road to a healthy money mindset

I once interviewed a woman who was experiencing a lot of stress in her marriage about money.  She and her husband were having a hard time talking about money and integrating their money – they even filed separate tax returns–but their finances had taken a turn for the worst. She realized their inability to communicate about their financial life was taking a toll on the marriage, and wanted help.

Things really came to a head when the couple was asked to disclose their assets and financial statements to a financial planner. The couple both knew that the wife had higher income – she was a lawyer, he was an artist, but her reluctance, and near refusal to share her finances were clearly being driven by something deeper.

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First impressions

The planner, who also had training in psychology and therapy, was savvy enough to start asking questions about how the couple saw their parents behave with money.

It turns out that the woman’s father would always yell at the mother, sometimes threatening violence about her spending. In order to avoid these brutal confrontations, her mother would buy things and not tell the father, hide new purchases in the car, for example, often enlisting her daughter’s help.

The child fell into the ‘hide money’ mode as an adult, and it felt perfectly natural to her.  Once she became aware of this pattern, however, it no longer ran the show.  She could call herself out when the feelings and tendencies surfaced.  Now that she and her husband knew what was really happening, he could provide compassion and support when she needed it, and she could redirect her energy towards her true goal, which was creating the financial foundation she and her husband needed to achieve their goals.

“We simply filter information through the mechanisms we developed as a child,” says financial advisor Susan Galvan. “Those deep imprints influence every decision we make, and we use them as a reference point.  If we don’t go back and look at those operating systems, we will fail.  We will remain at that level of understanding if it is not revisited,” she adds.

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Don’t Blame Mom & Dad

Chances are, your parents or primary caregivers didn’t realize that their unspoken words and unexamined actions were speaking volumes.  And you certainly didn’t have the presence of mind to tell them, “your behavior and patterns are literally programming my brain in ways that will hurt me financially as an adult.”  I definitely want to hear from you if you did!

Most important, remember that the people who raised you were dealing with their own conditioning about money from the people who raised them and the environments they were raised in.  Think about that for a moment.

“This conversation is not about blaming mom and dad. It’s really about discovering the messages that you got, some recognizable and some unspoken, that have formed you now,” says Marty Carter, a family counselor specializing in financial behavior and licensed clinical social worker.

“If they’re good, you want to keep them.  If not, instead of blaming mom and dad, see what you can do differently.”

A Look Inside

The point where you are bound is also the point where you will be set free.  Think about the following questions 5 questions and see where you may need to rewrite your early scripting about money.

  • What was your family’s attitude about the following: saving, spending, debt, and investing? Are their beliefs having an impact on your choices today?
  • Did you see healthy discussions about money, or was there stress around money in your household when you were growing up?
  • What do you admire most about your primary caregiver’s financial behavior? Why?
  • What do you consider your primary caregiver’s greatest limitation when it comes to money? How do you think this has affected them?
  • Imagine yourself achieving your goals. Which of your childhood money scripts would need to be re-written? What would the new messages be?

Freeing yourself

As you examine the role your childhood conditioning is playing out in your finances today, come up with 3 things you can do to step away from those early scripts and act in ways that are consistent with your goals.

For example, if you see that your early scripting has not helped you become a good saver, set up automatic deductions:  have an amount that is within your budget taken out of your paycheck and automatically deposited into a savings account each month.  Pick a date to start the process.

While conditioning, like those imprints we take from our role models, is powerful, it is no match for your superpowers.  Instinct, intuition, the ability to change your mind, for example, are skills you were born with – skills that will light the way on your road to abundance.

Stacey Tisdale, a more than 20-year veteran TV broadcast financial journalist, and financial behavior expert, is one of the first women, and the first African-American to report from the New York Stock Exchange, in her role as a reporter/anchor for Dow Jones' Emmy Award winning, Wall Street Journal Television. She then went on to become one of the first on-air reporters for CBS MarketWatch and business/personal finance correspondent for CBS News, The Early Show, CBS Evening News, and CBS Radio. From 2002 to 2004, Stacey filed business and consumer reports for all of the CNN networks, including, CNN, CNNI and HLN. Stacey also reported for “Inside Africa,” a weekly news magazine show on CNN International, where one of her reports, identifying a rape camp in the hills of Liberia, brought attention, funding, international support, and helped bring eventual freedom, to women and girls imprisoned in the camp. Stacey - named by Top 100 Magazine as one of 2019's Top 100 People in Finance - was Business Correspondent for Al Jazeera America from 2013 to 2014. Before joining Al Jazeera, she reported for PBS national news magazine show Need to Know, and PBS Newshour Weekend, as well as hosting her own live daily show, Tech Live, on Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Tech TV cable news network. Ms. Tisdale, former senior editor of personal finance for Black Enterprise, was also a financial expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is an expert for O magazine. After a 6-year research project into what drives financial behavior, Stacey authored the critically-acclaimed book, The True Cost of Happiness:The Real Story Behind Managing Your Money (John Wiley & Sons), and became one of the pioneering journalists in behavioral finance and financial psychology. Soon after, she became a financial expert on NBC's Today Show. The research, which focused on financial behavior, also inspired her Winning Play$ financial education program, winner of the U.S. Department of Education’s Excellence in Economic Education award, and the National Association of Black Journalists Community Service award. Stacey’s broadcasting career came after her work on Wall Street as a cash manager for the commodities firm Balfour Maclaine International, investing as much as $90 million per day in global financial markets on behalf of the firm. In addition, she has created a personal finance curriculum for college students on behalf of the White House, and conducted research for the United States Congress on the financial behavior of professional athletes. Stacey creates financial education and life skills programs for professional sports teams and corporations including the WNBA”s Washington Mystics, the NFL Super Bowl champion, New York Giants, and the female employees of Microsoft. In 2019, Stacey joined the prestigious ranks of The HistoryMakers, - the United State’s largest African American oral history collection. Her story, as well as a documentary about her life, will be forever housed in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. She is a graduate of Marymount College, winner of the 2018 Marymount College Alumna Achievement award, and a member of the Butler Society. She also attended Polytechnic of Central London in England. Stacey is on the advisory committee for The Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair for Media, Culture, and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University, and she sits on the communications committee for the gender parity movement, Paradigm for Parity. Stacey is the co-chair of Take the Lead, aimed at preparing women for leadership positions. As founder and CEO of multi-media content provider, Mind Money Media Inc., international speaker, contributor and expert for some of the leading media outlets in the world – including Time Magazine, Good Morning America, the Breakfast Club, and AJ Impact - Stacey uses her personal finance and media platforms to educate her audiences about all aspects of our complex relationship with money, as well as the ways in which socioeconomics, gender, race, age, orientation, and culture, play out in our financial experiences and careers. She also co-hosts the monthly social media personal finance event, Wealth Wednesdays, with IHeartMedia, Power 105.1 Breakfast Club host, Angela Yee. Stacey is the daughter of renowned educator Jettie Tisdale, whom there is a school named after in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Charles Tisdale, executive director of ABCD, the largest anti-poverty agency in the state of CT, former economic policy advisor for U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and former field director of World Vision, which brings humanitarian aid to refugees worldwide.


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