My dad, Dave Ramsey, filed for bankruptcy the year I was born.
My older sister was about three. So, with a brand-new baby, a toddler, and as dad says all the time, “a marriage hanging by a thread”, things hit rock bottom. Hard. It took them a good five years to climb out of that hole—right around the same time of my earliest memories.
Because of my parents’ hard work after that soul-crushing bankruptcy, I was able to learn firsthand the value of managing money well. I learned that my income is my biggest wealth-building tool, so I never took on any debt—and I never will. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, but to show you what a big impact our parents can have on our money outlook.
How you grew up, and the environment you were raised in, shaped your money beliefs and your habits with money in very specific ways.
That’s why when I help couples get on the same page with their money, I start with their childhood. As children grow, more is caught than taught, meaning children absorb a lot about money without even realizing it. For some, money is stressful and secretive. For others, it’s peaceful and positive. Each household starts with the same basic ingredients—money, income, bills, and goals—but things can look and feel very different from one house to another.
Your story may not involve something as drastic as bankruptcy, but your childhood household was your money classroom. Now as an adult, you may handle money just like your parents did when you were growing up, or you may have deliberately chosen to do the exact opposite of what your parents did. Regardless, we each learned lessons in our childhoods that we’ve taken into adulthood. Some are good habits and healthy views on money that help us. Some are lessons we wish we could unlearn.
Talking through this with your spouse will be eye-opening. Knowing how your spouse grew up thinking about money might explain why they get buyer’s remorse after every purchase, why you hate budgeting, or why either of you gets uncomfortable talking about money. If you want help getting the conversation started, here’s some more advice to help remove the stress around talking about money with your spouse.
Having an honest conversation about what money was like for each of you growing up will help you understand each other better. And it’ll help you squash your fears together, and align your dreams and goals. Remember, you’re a team—and a team only wins when everyone works together!
Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people to avoid debt, save money, budget and how to win with money at any stage in life. Follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at rachelcruze.com.