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  • Writer's pictureRobert Dunn, CFP®

3 Things I Learned About Money When I Was Growing Up

Updated: May 26, 2022

By Robert B. Dunn, CFP®

In light of April being Financial Literacy Month, I’d like to share a few of the most important lessons I learned about money when I was growing up. Part of the journey we take with our clients is to inquire about the money “messages” they receive in their upbringing. Although this may sound potentially irrelevant to future-focused financial planning decisions, we have discovered that it is important to understand how and why you make decisions about money so we can help you develop a strategy that works for you.

Understanding your own money mindset, as well as the mindset of your partner, can help you understand your fears (or lack of fear) regarding money, how you respond to unforeseen financial circumstances, and how your daily financial habits influence your long-term financial situation.

1. Different Money Mindsets

My earliest memory regarding the money messages I received was soon after my parents got divorced. This is when I started to grasp just how stark the differences could be in how people approach their money and financial circumstances.

In my family, one parent was constantly concerned about where the next dollar would come from, while the other parent never demonstrated meaningful concern. The latter parent was always optimistic that more money would be coming through the door and would spend money—it appeared to me at the time—freely.

This experience helped me understand that in the world of finance, there’s no one right answer or one right way to do things. This is what makes personal finances so personal. For me, it’s important to get to know individual personalities—and how they complement or clash with one another in relationships with money—to help my clients create financial plans that work in their favor.

2. Finding Balance

I was fortunate to grow up with both of these outlooks on money habits. I watched one parent achieve security but hesitate to spend on some elements that may have brought joy in the present, and another parent who wanted to enjoy the resources currently available but wasn’t always secure because they sometimes failed to plan ahead.

Because I witnessed two extremes, I now strive to find a balance. First and foremost, I try to be mindful about ensuring that I always have money to provide for the basic expenses for my family. It has always been one of my top priorities to take care of the needs of the household before spending on anything else.

Once the basic needs of my family and household are met, I can start to gravitate toward the other side and spend a little frivolously. If I feel like I’ve gone a bit reckless with the spending, then I pause and take a step back to ensure that all things are in good order and I’m not sacrificing my family’s security.

3. Forward-Thinking Savings Strategies

With that balance in mind, another valuable lesson I learned is to consider my family’s future to ensure that our needs will be met down the road. I can thank my frugal parent for this lesson because they were always concerned about whether or not they would have enough money to pay for emergencies and big-ticket items like a car if the current one went kaput.

I learned that those who can look 10-15 years or more into the future and anticipate expenses will be better able to afford those expenses without sacrificing other needs or taking on high-interest debt. Forward-thinking savers give themselves enough time to save for big expenses like a child’s college education or a comfortable retirement.

People who don’t anticipate these expenses don’t give themselves the time they need to save in manageable increments and allow investments to grow with compound interest. Without years of preparation, you may find yourself in a financial predicament or realizing that your dreams might never become reality.

We believe a very helpful exercise is to ask yourself: What money messages did I receive growing up? And a follow-up question: How did those messages impact the way I deal with money? The answers to these questions can help you prepare for or adjust bad behavior. In addition, if you have a partner, this could help you understand how you each approach money. There are enough matters that add stress to life; eliminating money as a source may not be easy, but there are tools and techniques that can help reduce the possibility.

I should emphasize that this is not a one-and-done exercise. I myself struggle to use my knowledge about how to communicate with my family about money. The point here is to not beat yourself up. Whether it’s acknowledging and accommodating our differences or merely sitting down and going over all the financial elements, simply recognizing when you need to revisit the basics and get back on track can help improve outcomes.

All of the wealth managers at Novi embrace this philosophy. Just as a reminder: Nos Vies (Novi); translation – Our Lives.

How We Help

At Novi Wealth Partners, we like to say that instead of focusing on money, we focus on what money can do for you and your loved ones. When we fully understand your money mindsets and habits, we can create a plan that is more likely to help you achieve your values-based goals for your life. If you’d like to work with holistic financial planners like the team at Novi Wealth, call ​(609) 921-7002 or email to see how we can help.

About Novi Wealth Partners

Novi Wealth Partners is an independent, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to empowering clients to discover their definition of true wealth while providing the confidence to achieve it. With 20+ years of experience, we have found that most people don’t care about money, but instead, they care about what money can do for them and their loved ones. As a result, we focus on guiding our clients to find their unique vision for their life and developing a plan to help them live out their values. Our goal is to truly understand our clients on a personal level and help them navigate life’s many changes.

We are located in Princeton, New Jersey and we service clients both locally and nationally. There are four CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® practitioners in the firm, all of whom are members of the prestigious National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA). We prioritize a team-based approach, which allows us to deliver comprehensive financial planning, investment management, tax planning advice, retirement planning, estate planning advice, risk management advice, and concierge level wealth management. We are committed to providing each of our clients a level of service as unique as they are and we are proud, as Fee-Only™ financial advisors, to offer unbiased financial expertise. To learn more about Novi Wealth Partners or to get started on your financial journey, visit our website or connect with us on LinkedIn.


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