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Do Our Parents’ Spending Habits Affect Us As Adults?

We live with our parents for the first two or three decades of our lives, so it’s no surprise that we pick up some of their good (and bad) habits and opinions.

Our behaviour and attitudes are also influenced by them, as well as our likes and dislikes. Our parents’ spending particularly impinges on our lives as children, because it supplies the holidays and food we enjoy, and how nicely our bedroom is decorated.

As we approach our teenage years we start handling money ourselves, and make our own decisions on saving and spending – decisions which may then affect our life direction: do we continue to study or go to work? Do we learn to drive, and if so how do we finance it? Should we save to buy a home and, if so, what’s our budget? Should we borrow money from lenders such as Avant Credit or GiffGaff to consolidate debts and pay bills, or do we manage to scrape through in some other way?

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According to an article on the This Is Money site, our bad financial habits may be a direct representation of the spending behavior that we witness when growing up. The survey, carried out by TSB, found that a third of adults who spend more than they earn admit their parents did the same, as did the half who spent their pay before their salary even appeared. 

The irony is that these spenders approach the bank of mum and dad when they run into difficulties, thus continuing the circle of borrowing that might originally be set by them. The study also found that adults are now more likely to dip into their savings, with more than a fifth now making regular withdrawals compared to 17% of people from the previous generation.

However, it should be noted that this is one study, and children are contrary creatures. For every child that replicates their parents, there will no doubt be another that deliberately rebels and follows a different path. For example, those who grow up in a Spartan, austere environment are sometimes the most generous people one could ever meet. Conversely, those that see their parents spend money freely (and recklessly) are sometimes more guarded, for fear of losing it all.

There’s also another factor. The actual cognition of spending might be set by observing our parents or talking to them about money, but the world is different now. We can buy whatever we wish, from anywhere in the world, at the click of a button, and there are ways of saving and investing that didn’t exist even ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty.

New York Times money expert Ron Lieber says that one of the best ways children can learn about money is by being allowed to make their own spending decisions. They’ll regret buying some items, and regret not buying others. They’ll learn what they need, what they can do without, and what they never want again. And, perhaps most interestingly, Lieber advises letting children from a young age have a say in how the household money is spent – showing that learning might be a two-way path.

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