The money lies we tell
Superheroes have origin stories.
Batman’s parents were murdered by a gun-toting mugger.
The Hulk was zapped by gamma radiation.
Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider.
There’s a tendency among people with money to have wellhoned origin stories too.
And like superhero origin stories, they’re often not very believable.
I don’t think people always lie about the origin story of their wealth on purpose.
Humans have a natural tendency to take credit for their success with money, and forget the help they had along the way.
And these days everyone wants to be seen as ‘‘self-made’’.
Perhaps you’ve noticed how people will happily tell you everything about how they came to own their home, except that their mum helped them buy it.
As most of the research from the Harvard University Equality of Opportunity Project suggests, more often than not, people with Try to have an honest origin story Confess your errors Acknowledge the help you had
money should start their origin stories with the words: ‘‘Thanks to mum and dad, I…’’ So why am I telling you this? Because at some stage, you’ll find yourself telling your origin money story to someone you care about, like your children, or grandchildren.
You will be trying to be helpful, but you may end up doing more damage than good, if you choose to peddle myth over honesty.
Massey University’s FinEd Centre shows young people’s most important money advisers are parents.
Just under half of youngsters (aged 22-27) said they had learnt most of their money smarts from elder family members.
The financial advice of fathers, mothers and grandparents is valued and needed.
So, feel free to share you lifelessons, but don’t begin by claiming impossible virtues like super-prudence or an iron savings discipline you never really possessed, or you risk leaving your young people feeling disheartened.
Don’t over-egg the hardship of your upbringing either, or gloss over your relative privilege when telling your money origin story.
Be especially careful to avoid claiming you were from a superior generation.
There’s a bit of a myth in circulation that 30 to 40 years ago young people worked harder and were more prudent.
Previous generations didn’t have access to today’s easy credit and 24/7 shopping, and yet they weren’t spectacular savers. Most over 65s are getting by largely on NZ Super, not savings.
And when sharing your financial wisdom, make sure you acknowledge the help you got in achieving your successes.
Be especially honest about what you did wrong, or regret.
A Horizon poll from 2017 reported that four in 10 people aged 65 or over regretted not getting financial advice.
Youngsters can learn from your mistakes, if you have the courage to admit them.
And listen before talking. They face some challenges you didn’t.
Then go for gold with your advice.
Hopefully, if you do a good job, there’ll be more gold piled up in your youngster’s future.
We are often the super-powered heroes of our own money ‘origin’ stories.