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How childhood shapes our attitudes to money

How childhood experiences shape our attitudes to money

It’s generally recognised that the way we manage our money throughout adulthood is influenced by our experiences of it when we’re growing up.

Mark Anstead spoke to some well-known people to discover the extent of this lasting impact, whether good or bad – from learning how to save as well as spend to preferring to buy second-hand, from learning how to prioritise to not relying on credit.

There’s no right or wrong way for parents to introduce their children to the concept of money, but for some suggestions on how to help to teach them how to manage financially, see our previous article.

If you have your own story, email us at letters@virginmoney.com – we’ll pay £100 to the writer of the letter we publish as our ‘star letter’.

Josephine Cox, best-selling author

I was the sixth of 10 children. At the end of every week my father would receive his wages and most of the money would go on drink before he got home.

As a result we were very poor. I would sometimes scramble for vegetables from the floor of the local market, and we kids slept six in a bed.

My father was a lovely man during the week and life would have been a lot better if he hadn’t drunk. As a result of all this, I now prioritise my family financially.

Stephanie Beacham, actress

I remember vividly the sharpest lesson that my parents taught me about money. When I was six I saw a mechanical walking dog in a toy shop and I begged my mother to have it. In the end she gave in, but she said it meant I wouldn’t have any pocket money for six months.

I was so taken with the toy dog I didn’t care, but days later she came into my bedroom and found me weeping and I just said, ‘Six months?’

Of course, I was suffering with buyer’s regret, and this was a great way to learn the truth of that old cliché – never a borrower be. Since then, I have always avoided hire purchase and debt of any kind.

Karren Brady, Vice-Chairman of West Ham United and The Apprentice star

My father worked very hard. We started off in quite a small house, but moved up the ladder as he became more successful. I got from him the understanding that what you put in is what you get out.

My older brother and I were never given pocket money – my parents thought if we needed anything they would pay for it, but I took the view that if I had my own money, I could buy whatever I wanted.

So we were always cooking up schemes to make money. That was where my entrepreneurial spirit was born.

Alys Fowler, Gardeners' World presenter

I had a rural, outdoor childhood and didn’t think much about money. My parents rarely bought new things – they were good at recycling. I grew up with a sense that having old stuff handed down was more interesting than buying new.

My mum’s sister would regularly send parcels of her cast-offs and I really used to look forward to receiving them.

This has all stayed with me into adult life – I still love going to flea markets and charity shops and finding old clothes. I get a lot of furniture off the street too. If you’re open to looking, you’ll find it in skips or by looking for house clearances.

Toyah Willcox, actress

Initially my childhood was very affluent. Then, when I was seven years old, my father was hit badly by a slump in the stock market and he lost everything.

It affected me by contributing to my strong drive to be financially secure and independent, but I’m also incredibly cautious with money because I’ve seen how easily you can lose it.

Back then stocks and shares were phenomenally successful, but he didn’t spread his investments and I have learned from that.

Camilla Dallerup, former Strictly Come Dancing star

I think I was slightly spoiled because my parents paid for my expensive dance training, but my mum always presented it to me as a choice. If I wanted a big party with all my girlfriends including a cinema dinner, for example, but I also wanted to go to a big dance event, then she would tell me I couldn’t have both – I had to choose.

I still live that way today: I think, if I buy a new handbag then I can’t go out for dinner. That’s how I saved for a deposit on my flat. I decided my home was more important to me than other expenses and it’s amazing how much you can save when you think that way.

Alan Titchmarsh, TV presenter

My mother was very prudent. She used to keep little cash boxes and put small amounts in one to save for insurance, in another for the milk and so on. I grew up with a strong sense that you should only spend what you have actually saved.

Her attitude bred in me a similar wariness about credit. I have only one card and I pay the balance off every month, and I’ve never gone overdrawn.

David Ginola, former footballer

My mother gave me a lot of tips about money. When I was 19 or 20 and signing my first football contract, she told me if I have money today, that doesn’t mean I will have it tomorrow – I must put something aside.

At that age I wanted to show off so I bought a few fast cars and things like that. I soon learned to think about the future and realised it was wisest to invest in a roof over my head, though, so I decided that for every £10 I earned I would spend £5 and keep £5.

Thanks to my mother’s advice I have never spent more than I have earned.

Related article
There’s no right or wrong way for parents to introduce their children to the concept of money, but for some suggestions on how to help to teach them how to manage financially, see our previous article.

Links to external websites are for information only. Virgin Money receives no income from them and accepts no responsibility for the website content. The information in this article is correct as at 5 April 2012.

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