Our relationship with money is complex and emotional. When we pay a bill, go to the mall, trade in a car for a new one, hunt for a home or apartment or pass someone seemingly poor or rich on the street, we feel things and harbor certain perceptions.
• Are our attitudes about money inherited? They may have been formed when we were kids. We watched what our parents did with their money, and how they managed it. We were told how important it was – or, perhaps, how little it really mattered. Parental arguments over money may be ingrained in our memory.
This history has an effect. Some of us think of money, finance, investing, and saving in terms of getting ahead, and terms of opportunity. Others associate money and financial matters with family struggles or conflicts. Our family history is not responsible for our entire attitude about money – but it is, undoubtedly, an influence.
Our grandparents (and, in some cases, our parents) were never really taught to think of “retirement planning.” Just a century ago, the whole concept of “retiring” would have seemed weird to many Americans. You worked until you died, or until you were physically unable to do your job. Then, Social Security came along, and company pensions for retired workers. The societal expectation was that with a company pension and Social Security, you weren’t going to be impoverished in your “old age.”
Very few Americans can make such an assumption today. Many are unaware of the scope of retirement planning they need to undertake. An alarming 54 percent of pre-retiree respondents to a 2016 Prudential Financial survey had no clue how much they needed to save for retirement. Additionally, 54 percent had balances of less than $150,000 in their workplace retirement plans. Have they been lulled into a false sense of security? Did they inherit the attitude that when you retire in America, Social Security and a roof over your head will be enough?
• How can pessimistic attitudes about money, saving and investing be changed? Perhaps the first step is to recognize that we may have inherited them. Do they stem from our own experience? Or are we simply cluttering our minds with the bad experiences and negative assumptions of years ago?
One example of this leaps readily to mind. Earlier this year, Bankrate surveyed investors per age group and learned that just 33 percent of millennials (Americans aged 18-35) owned any equities, while 51 percent of Gen Xers did. (That actually represented a dramatic increase: in 2015, only 26 percent of millennials were invested in equities.)
College loan debt and early-career incomes aside, millennials watched equity investments, owned by their parents, crash in the 2007-09 bear market. Some are quite cynical about the financial world. A 2015 Harvard University study showed that a mere 14 percent of respondents aged 18-29 felt that Wall Street firms “do the right thing all or most of the time” as they conduct business.
• How do you feel about money? What were you taught about it when you were growing up? Did your parents look at money positively or negatively? These questions are worth thinking about, for they may shape your relationship with money – and saving and investing – here and now.
Ken Weise, an LPL Financial Advisor, provided this article. He can be reached at (707) 584-6690. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions of this material are for information purposes only.