Like father like son?

When it comes to our financial habits, how much are we influenced by our parents?

Our research* reveals that our parents are hugely influential in our formative years. Although, as we get older, we look to mum and dad less and less for help and advice.

When it comes to spending habits, men (80%) are more likely than women (71%) to see their parents as a positive role model. Equally, men are more likely than women to have followed their parents’ lead when it comes to attitudes towards money and spending (73% versus 64% for women).

The habits and skills most likely to be passed down by parents: 

  1. The value of money (61%)

  2. How to manage money and budgets (56%)

  3. How to spend your money wisely (51%)

  4. Planning for the future (38%)

  5. Good shopping habits (36%)

  6. How to save money while shopping (28%)

  7. Career ambition (18%)

  8. Desire to earn a high wage (16%)

  9. Bank security (15%)

  10. How to make money (14%) 

The results are clear. In general, parents have been a positive influence for the majority of Britons when it comes to financial habits. Yet, as adults, how much do we still try to follow in their footsteps and turn to them for help and advice?

51% of 18-24 year-olds still try and follow in their parents’ footsteps when it comes to where they shop, how much they think is acceptable to spend on items and what they buy. Although, this drops to a fairly consistent 39% for everyone over the age of 24.

And when it comes to seeking advice from parents on financial issues, the drop across age groups is even bigger: from 43% of 18-24 year-olds to 12% for people 65 or over.

At one end of the scale, the low number is probably because people’s parents are less likely to be around to ask for advice. Yet, the figures are also much lower for people in their mid-30s to mid-50s (28% for 35-44 year-olds and 18% for 45-54 year-olds).

Julia Jackson, Counsellor MBACP, says:

“As children and young people there are many influences in our lives, our peers, our school teachers and the media for instance, but there is no bigger influence than our parents. For good and for bad, our parents help to shape everything about us, and our attitudes to money and spending habits are no exception.”

“From explicit teachings about money management, such as helping us to budget our pocket money or save for something special, to less obvious influences like whispered conversations or a relaxed/strained atmosphere when bills would arrive, children and young people soak up their parents’ views about money and spending patterns. So, it stands to reason that many people will develop similar financial habits to their parents.”

“However, it’s worth remembering that as adults, whilst we usually seek to emulate our parents, we also face a lot of other influences, opportunities and constraints compared to our parents and even our younger selves, and this can affect the choices and decisions we make. We might also vow to do things differently, particularly if we had a bad experience in our early years. It is therefore certainly possible to break the mould and choose a different financial path.”

Julia Jackson

Commenting on the research Jamie Smith-Thompson, Managing Director at Portafina said:

“It’s great that the majority of us see our parents as positive role models when it comes to money. I wonder if that same positive vibe extends to the in-laws!”

“As a parent I hope that my children feel the same. And while my door will always be open to them, I understand why we tend to turn to our parents for help and advice less and less as we get older.”

“The financial opportunities and challenges we face are often different to those our parents faced. And they are often things that are out of our control. Changes in the housing market and tuition fees over the last 30 years are just two examples of this.”

“There are things we can control, though, such as budgeting, spending and saving. And, according to our survey, parents are generally good role models when it comes to these financial habits. As a parent this is music to my ears. And the best way to introduce these habits to the next generation is by making things as fun and interesting for them as possible.”

Jamie Smith-Thompson

For a quick rundown of the best ways to save for your children, click here.

*Research from a survey of 2,036 adults in the UK. 

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The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article.