This is part of a series of content inspired by the chapters of my book. I will be releasing excerpts of my book content on my website for you to read for free, the first being this about understanding your money mindset. If you would rather support my business and buy ‘The Money Guide to Transform Your Life’ then you can buy it direct from me here. The hugest of thank you’s if you buy my book, your support really does mean the world.
You can also listen to me talk about money mindset on my podcast Mrs Mummypenny Talks.
I was surprised to find out when researching my book that our money beliefs are formed by the time we are seven years old according to a study from the University of Cambridge. Seven years old. In this post we’re going to look at our formative money memories, bringing light to a subject that I believe is rarely touched upon: How did we get to our current attitude towards money?
My Little Pony Stickers
My earliest memory of money is linked to my dad. He would collect coins in silver tankards that he kept in our feature piece wooden dresser where the china dining set, was kept, for best. The dining set that was only used for Christmas dinner. He would put every 20p and every 5p that he brought home in change from the daily newspaper and cigarette run (The Mirror for reference) in the tankards. I often did that paper and cigarette run for him to the bottom of my road. It was the early 80s and Penzance, much safer than now!
My job as a six-year-old was to count it for him every few months, bag it up and we’d take it to the bank together. I had full responsibility for the counting job. I also had an addiction to My Little Pony Panini stickers and was desperate to complete the 600-strong collection. My mind whirred: Could I miscount the money, slip a few 20p’s into my pocket and get an extra few packets of stickers?
So, I did. Every few days I would take a couple of 20p’s and buy my stickers. I kept going until I completed that sticker collection. No one ever noticed.
My earliest money memory is simply that I could do whatever I wanted with money; it was easy to come by. I never felt guilty, sure I worried that I might be found out, but I never was.
Mum was a traditional housewife receiving weekly housekeeping from my dad, but she also went out to work to get extra money, for treats. I remember going on many cleaning jobs with her before I started school. She would clean local offices whilst I sat with books and dolls that I brought along for the adventure. I don’t remember helping!
Despite my early sojourn into theft (!) my overall money upbringing was good in the early years. My dad’s strong money saving ethos, combined with my mum’s spirit to work hard for ‘treat money’ has continued throughout my life.
Fast forward to me as a 16-year-old girl
When my mum died everything changed. In addition to unspeakable grief I landed a huge lesson in managing finances, taking over that traditional housewifely role and, frankly, resenting it. Three years later, dad died, leaving me a homeless orphan.
Those two catastrophic events of my late teens flipped my money beliefs, leading to a life of hedonism, spending on material goods, and developing debts.
The good habits were always there in the background, but the bad beliefs and influences overloaded them, almost like the angel and the devil. Aged 40, having built a business on helping others to sort their finances out, I worked with the angelic side, addressing my debt, making and applying myself to a solid plan to get out of it.
I remember wanting to get a job from as early an age as possible. I was desperate for my own cash for the freedom to buy whatever clothes I wanted and to save some money. Aged 14 I got a Saturday job at Oliver’s Shoe Shop. My parents encouraged me, and I loved it. Setting up the shoe bins and racks in the morning and helping people with shoes all day long. I had some great managers who got me involved in the sales targets, cashing up the till and paperwork: they spotted my mathematical and financial talents and utilised them.
I learnt more about money management from my jobs than from my parents who never talked about money. No one ever discussed how much they earned, what the bills cost, if they were in debt or how much savings they had. The first I saw of income and bills was when I found one of my dad’s payslips hidden in the paperwork cupboard. He earned £30k a year, I remember thinking, ‘Wow that’s good money,’ and made a mental note to earn £30k as soon as I could.
I left for university aged 18, figuring out the whole process for myself. I applied for the place at university, the grant, sorted out accommodation, bank accounts, loans and overdrafts, by myself. Everything was done by me and me alone, so I suppose I taught myself the basics of finance.
Regrettably, this included signing up to a credit card promising me free money: thank you Brunel branch of Barclays Bank. From the tender age of 18 I was introduced to the wonders of credit and the ability to buy things when I did not have the money saved to pay for them. I quickly progressed onto store cards as well and by the age of 20 I had store credit cards with Topshop, Miss Selfridges, Dorothy Perkins and Argos. And an addiction to buying stuff that I wanted, not needed. A credit card and debt problem that I fought with until the age of 42.
There were positives from my self-taught finances. I always knew how to save money on everything I bought. Even if that was a 10% saving on my pile of clothes through opening a Topshop store card account. I was brilliant at getting marked down food. I was always in the bar for £1 a drink night.
More seriously, I knew how to get extra hardship grants from my university, and I worked from my second year through to the end of my fourth year to generate extra income. My fourth-year earnings were brilliant. I did a four-year sandwich degree and worked for Marks & Spencer in my third year, it was a great job, well paid as a management trainee, business placement scheme.
Again, I had brilliant management, whom I asked to carry on employing me in my fourth year if I did my dissertation as a project analysis study for M&S. They paid me something ridiculous (to a then 20-year-old) like £12 an hour to work in their IT systems department two days a week analysing, studying and writing about the cost/benefits of the Year 2000 (Year 2k bug) brand new till system for the whole M&S retail network. It was in Baker Street in London and I was able to get a free bus from their Stockley Park campus near to where I lived to work and back every day.
Ongoing Financial Education
I have spent much of my adult life learning more about the world of finances. Study took over much of my early 20s to become a CIMA management accountant where I learnt invaluable skills about money management for a business that can be absolutely applied to personal finance.
I have embedded myself in the world of money, working in the finance departments of one of the biggest banks in the world, then with one of the biggest retailers, then with one of the biggest telecommunications companies. The people that I have worked with and the environment I have worked in has educated me hugely.
During my career I have attended some incredible courses that have aided my financial development, from leadership skills to women’s development, to Gap negotiation skills training to name a few. All were incredible.
Over to You and Your Money Mindset
Your financial education is important in how you manage money now, and your relationship with money. Understanding that is the first step in money management. Try to get under the skin of what you do and why you do it.
Answering these simple questions will help you with this.
1.Think of your early money memories.
2.How did you manage money throughout your teens/20s/30s/40s/50s?
3.What was your parents’ relationship with money like?
4.Are you a saver or a spender?
5.Have you always/do you live beyond your means?
6.Do you live from one month to the next financially?
7.Do you like to surround yourself with lots of material things?
8.How important to you is your pension?
9.Do you own your own home?
10.Doyou aim for financial freedom or independence?
This is an excerpt from my Book The Money Guide To Transform Your Life. If you would like to read more you can buy my book here.