The Kenwood Press
: 08/01/2014

More like Mom or Dad?

Donna Colfer

It’s fairly common to pick up habits about money from both your mom and dad; you want their love equally. This is a story about how one woman’s parents were complete opposites around money and her struggles to find her own way.

Nancy’s mom had three children and she worked hard to support them on her own. She was often anxious, tense, and worried around money. Nancy wished her mom could have some fun; she felt bad about the sadness and tension.

On the other hand, when Nancy would visit her out-of-state dad, it meant she would fly to meet him and the adventure would start. They would eat at restaurants all the time, which was unheard of at home. There were no rules on what you could or couldn’t order. It was all about having fun without talk or concerns about money. Nancy felt a bit indulged and, over time, a bit entitled with her dad. But even with the lack of money worries, when they spent time together, they were never close.

Nancy grew up and eventually moved out on her own and began to realize how hard it was to make ends meet, even with a good job. Thinking back, she marveled at her mom’s ability to pay all the bills, mortgage, food, and send all three children to college. She realized how disciplined and self-sacrificing her mom was.

The only thing Nancy knew about money was how to earn a good living and how to spend it. She couldn’t figure out why she had nothing at the end of every month. No savings or money left over, only credit card debt, overdraft fees, and that same anxious, tense, worried feeling her mom experienced. Working hard at her day job and taking a second job to make ends meet was exhausting. Even though she continued to earn more, she spent more. Not having fun was not an option. Going out with friends after work, hosting dinner parties, and giving gifts was how Nancy felt good about herself. Because life with her mom had been so frugal, she wanted everything now … just like it was with her dad. Once she realized her money behavior was like her dad’s, she knew there was work to be done. It was more important to feel safe and comfortable, so Nancy was determined to understand action for change.

Which money archetypes ran the show in Nancy’s life? The Martyr showed up when she worked hard for years (workaholic) causing exhaustion that led to long-suffering and worry, like mom. The Fool came along for the ride when Nancy compensated by spending like dad, without any discipline or knowledge in handling the money. She was also over-spending on her friends. Since none of this generosity was reciprocated, she still wasn’t receiving any of the love and attention she needed.

After a couple of failed attempts to enroll in financial classes, she called me for help. She felt powerless and stuck in a self-sabotaging cycle. “If I deny myself something, I’ll be living like my mom. If I buy what I want when I want it, I’m living like my dad.” With two extremes as her only examples, finding the middle ground was tough.

Since Nancy doesn’t like guidelines or rules, we took it slowly, but eventually created a Cash Flow Statement so she knew exactly how much her monthly income and expenses were. From there we created a Spending Plan (she didn’t like the word “budget”) so she knew how much money she could spend in every area of her life without incurring overdraft fees. I introduced her to a free online tool called Mint.com which helps track her income and expenses, bank statements, credit cards, and gives her reminders when she’s playing it too close. She loved it!

Nancy slowly developed discipline and focus, just like her mom. She created goals: now she owns her own home, contributes to monthly savings, has reduced her spending across the board, and is able to go on weekend getaways. She continues to receive raises at work and hasn’t had an overdraft fee in a year! That’s the Warrior money type. Are you like your mom or dad, or have you found your own way?