How Do Your Money Memories Affect You Now?

What is your earliest memory of money? A piggy bank, the tooth fairy, your mom’s change purse? This summer, Mindful Monday will focus on money memories: those incidents, messages, habits, attitudes, and beliefs we gather from an early age.

I remember talking to my mom from the back seat of her Ford LTD stationwagon. My little sister Jill was probably riding up front so Mom could hold her. I don’t remember what I had asked for, but she had replied that we didn’t have enough money for it. I remember feeling confused and asking, “But doesn’t Daddy go to work and make money?”

“Yes,” she said, “But sometimes we have money, and sometimes we don’t. We can’t buy everything we want all the time.” I was even further confused, so much so that I don’t remember if I knew what to ask next.

Ah. My first memory of learning that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” I guess the shock of that reality was so painful, it stuck with me.

It’s difficult to say for sure how this one memory has affected my decisions, however, I would say that my attitude toward money as a young adult leaned more toward scarcity than abundance.  I began saving for retirement in my 20s, and became debt-free around 40. That was great, but it wasn’t until that age that I realized some things I missed out on for the sake of “saving enough” money. I stayed in a lucrative job that cost me sleepless nights. I declined some fun opportunities with friends and family that I now regret. I hesitated to ask for professional help to take care of myself physically and emotionally in difficult times. In all of these, my concern about my bank account balance came before my concern about me.

So money memories may affect our decisions about money, but more importantly, they may affect our decisions about ourselves. Now I believe I have a more balanced perspective. In my career I am more choosy about how I spend my work time, and who with. Even if it means giving up revenue, I don’t lose sleep over it. When it comes to having fun with close friends, cost doesn’t enter the equation. And I make it a priority to take care of myself, even it means spending some extra bucks for a professional opinion. My balancing act isn’t perfect, but I know it’s better than before.

For more on money memories, check out the questions in Chapter 2 of The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future. Or, let me know how you might change your balancing act for the better: post a comment here, or email me privately at

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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