My Family Money Story

Updated: Mar 3

By Loveleen Rai

We all have a particular relationship with money. This relationship was formed while we were growing up partly by values instilled in us by our parents. By the time we reach adulthood, we have a concrete set of ideas about money that aren't quite our own.

Looking back to my childhood, I can pinpoint my growing relationship with money; I have to say it would have been during my early school years. My parents planted the proverbial seed about the money tree early in childhood (6-7yrs old). Growing up as a 1st generation South Asian Canadian born in the ’80s from immigrant parents who were new to Canadian Culture themselves, going to friend’s birthday parties was not a priority. At the end of the day, they had to work, save money and provide for their family. Playdates, birthday parties, having relationships with my schoolmates' parents, was last on that list. There was definitely no “ Hey mom, Jessica’s parents are taking us to Chucky Cheese for her birthday. Can I have twenty dollars to play the arcade?”. It was more like, “ You don’t need to go, you see your friends at school; also, that's a waste of money.”

That is where it began for me—the symbiotic relationship with money and self-worth.

In my need to research how to navigate my emotions with money, I came across Financial Therapist Amanda Clayman.

“Our Family Money Story is the “original software” behind the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours we bring to our financial life. For some of us, our Family Money Story is all too familiar. For others, it percolates under the surface, influencing our choices without our conscious awareness. Some of us work to modify that programming as we run into limitations in how it serves us. But before we can do that, we have to get clear on what the story is.”

— Amanda Clayman in GOOD Money


Your Family Money Story shapes the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours you bring to your financial life.

To further explain, Clayman, says “ it is based on events, messages, feelings, and meaning. These make up your experiences surrounding money, as well as the beliefs and feelings surrounding what your parents said (or didn’t say) about money.” These experiences can create patterns or a set of beliefs that affect your relationship with money in one of two ways:

  • You repeat it

  • Or you reject it

“If you found your parents’ frugal view that “There’s never enough money,” to be restrictive, you might take the opposite, “Money is meant to be enjoyed,” point of view,” she explains.

The challenge that I had with my Money Story growing into adulthood was my perception of it. I perceived spending money as a complete luxury and that I was never worthy of spending it on myself. Taking trips with my girlfriends to Mexico in my early 20’s was always shadowed under the feeling of anxiety and stress about how much this would cost and if I worked “hard enough” to earn the trip. Needless to say, I would always have an amazing time, but that feeling of shame loomed over me. This feeling in itself comes from my childhood. We rarely went on vacations; eating at restaurants was a rare luxury( I could count on one hand the times we did in my childhood). It had nothing to do with my parents not having the means, but their value of money was not associated with pleasure. They valued money in terms of tactile possessions.

Home, Car, Education. I can say I hold some of those values with my relationship with money as an adult, so thank you, mom and dad. What I struggled with was the feeling of worth and the idea of money being spent on pleasure. For example, it's only when I got married did I indulge in a massage. I think to this day; my 65-year-old mother has never paid for a massage. She would tell me, “that’s a waste of money.” I think in her mind, she holds herself in higher regard because she never had to get a massage, “she’s one of the stronger ones!!!” (I'm assuming her thoughts here, but I feel this rings to be true). If I looked further into my parents' money story to give me a clearer understanding of who they are, I would better understand my behaviours about money.


First off, my parents are from the Baby Boomer Generation, children born from depression-era parents themselves. My parents also immigrated from India, with no more than $100.00 in their pocket in the mid-’60s. These facts alone have already created the pathway to my current Money Story. Money was viewed as a means to live. And I mean literally LIVE. Without it, you didn’t eat, there would definitely be nowhere to sleep, and without it, how could you possibly create a space for a family. It’s no wonder my parents' views of enjoyment have such a huge price tag attached to them. So I grew up with the feeling of Shame when I spent money on myself.

“How could I be so frivolous when my parents worked so hard and never bought a Starbucks in their life,” that would be insane, make coffee at home.

When the idea of Self-Care became mainstream in 2015, my eyes opened to a world that taught me it’s ok to indulge a little in yourself. It's ok to spend some money on self-care. These are a means to help with the mental, emotional and physical self. It took baby steps, and I had to break out of my guilty feeling for spending money on myself. I still struggle with this notion today, but at least when I go on vacation now, I'm living in the moment and not having a looming cloud of shame over my head.

Anjali Pradhan, a Financial Analyst based in Montreal, @dahlia_wealth, gave some great tips on breaking out your “Familiar money story’.

First, you need to identify your relationship with money. Pradhan says to ask yourself these questions: “What visceral thoughts does money bring up? What feeling does it bring up in the body?” After you can identify and acknowledge your emotional ties to money, you can rework how money affects you, says the analyst.

If you want to break out of your “familiar money story,” the next step is to erase all your old feelings toward money.

  1. Write down the things you want to change about your money story on a piece of paper. Burn this paper.

  2. Write out new money affirmations you want to see in your life. “I will embrace abundance in my life,” “My wealth will grow through investing,” or “I deserve a better salary.” Write these out on cards, and put them in places you will constantly see.

It takes work to break out of your own money story, but it is possible. You need the time to really evaluate your relationship with money and how it has played a role in your life.

What's your Money Story?

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