Q: My parents have always had an unhealthy relationship with money. How can I avoid their money mistakes?
A: I have a confession to make: I am turning into my mother. Like her, I rearrange the furniture in my apartment constantly, convinced it will breathe new life into the room if I shift the coffee table five inches to the right.
Along with quirky personality traits, I also inherited from my parents attitudes about money, both positive and problematic. My dad spent Sunday mornings smoking cigars in the basement and scribbling in his checkbook—“Keeping the lights on,” as he put it—which impressed upon me the importance of paying bills on time. Now I have a sterling payment history, but I’m also neurotic about keeping it that way. When I was one day late on a credit card payment eight years ago, it felt like an egregious personal failing I’d never recover from.
“Many of the behaviors that govern how we deal with money are already set by age 7 , which is a bit terrifying, if you think about it,” says Beth Kobliner, author of “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not): A Parents’ Guide for Kids 3 to 23.”
Maybe your parents taught you to overspend, pinch pennies or fear investing in the stock market. You don’t have to relive their money mistakes. You can take steps to craft your own financial identity.
“No matter what your past is, whether your parents were good with money or bad with money, at a certain point you have to say, ‘OK, this is on me,’” Kobliner says.