Earliest memory of money

Earliest memory of money

While trying to understand more about what it means to “manage people and their emotions around money”, I came across some interesting questions this week. One of them was this: “What is your earliest memory of money?”

According to quite a few different people our earliest memories of money often play a significant role in how we view money later on in life. “It’s amazing how much the mind can play a role in creating or destroying financial freedom. These money memories have such a hold on our lives—they directly impact how we deal with our money or we don’t deal with our money.” (Suze Orman)

Turns out that the furthest back that I can remember is to a time when I was about 4 or 5 years old and my grandpa paid me to sit still – I think I lasted longer than both of us expected – 13 minutes seems to ring a bell somewhere and I got 13 cents (it was a lot of money back then) and promptly headed off to the cafe to buy some sweets.

Still trying to figure out the lesson that I would have learnt – after all I got paid for doing nothing! Dig a little deeper though and it is not that I was paid for doing nothing but rather that I was paid for “effort”. As I reflect on that I start to understand why I don’t feel good about getting money for doing nothing or very little. When I earn from clients, I need to know that I can justify that fee to the client in terms of the amount of time and effort that was put in to the work done (and that I am “worth” that fee).

For more thoughts on this you can read the posts from a whole host of people about their earliest money memories on the web…

And here are some other questions that I have found on various websites that are often used to get people started on their search for the money memories that can lead to understanding their relationship to money:

  1. Did your mother have to work when others didn’t, or not have to work when others did?
  2. Did you feel like your friends had nicer clothes than you did? Did your friends’ parents have more expensive cars than yours did?
  3. Do you remember the very first wallet you ever had? Was it given to  you empty, or with a penny in it, or a dollar?
  4. Did you get less of an allowance than your friends or siblings? Did you have to work for it, or was it given to you as your right? What did you do with it?
  5. What did your parents tell you about money that made you feel good? What did they tell you that made you feel bad?
  6. What are the feelings attached to your three earliest memories of money: elation, satisfaction, humiliation, shame, guilt?
  7. When and how did money first enter your relationship with your mother? How did it change the emotional tone between the two of you? What about your father?
  8. When did you first discover that you were richer than some people and poorer than others? How did that discovery feel?
  9. As you were growing up, did you ever make a vow about money (“Someday I’ll have piles and piles of money and they’ll have to respect me”)? What incident gave rise to these vows? What feelings flowed through you at the time? How long did you keep repeating
    those vows? Did your feelings change over time in relation to the vows? What feelings come up in you now as you recall these incidents and the vows you made?
  10. What were your parents’ actions regarding money? Was it a source of constant worry? Did they avoid talking about it? Did they always argue about it? Did they blame each other or you and your siblings for money problems? Did they act as if they never had enough, or maybe as if they had more than they really had? What did this teach you?
  11. What did you know about your family’s financial situation? Was it ever discussed? If it was a secret, why do you think that was so? Was money a source of pride or embarrassment? What did you learn from this?
  12. Did you have to work as a teen? What happened to the money you earned?
  13. When did you first go into debt to get something that you wanted? How did you feel going into debt? Was this the beginning of a pattern?
  14. Did money influence your choice of careers? Was that a good idea?
    Sources:Adapted from George Kinder, The Seven Stages of Money Maturity: Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life ; Suze Orman, The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying ; and Steven D. Strauss and Azriela Jaffe, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beating Debt .

Maybe we shouldn’t just read them, maybe we should take some time to answer some of them too!