She’s shakin’ what her mama gave her. He’s stuntin’ like his daddy. Man you’re the spitting image of your mother. Wow, temper like his father.
We hear different variations of these comparisons and contrasts all the time, linking us to our predecessors and ancestors. To say nothing of what we look like, so much of who we are is wrapped up into where we came from. This is true across the board and not just geographically, but psychologically, anatomically and physiologically.
For every story about a person who comes from humble beginnings, is the first person to go to college -- blah, blah, blah -- there are 10,000 stories about someone failed by inclination, chasing the same dreams and nothingness as their parents. Just as some parents live vicariously through their children, many children seek to correct past mistakes and distance themselves from antecedents and in doing so, trip the switch that makes them what they loathed or feared.
Okay, Okay I know, paging Dr. Point, Mr. Premise B. Please is here for his appointment. Here goes: carrying both the stain and shine of those who physically and scientifically gave you life can have either a devastating or complementary as well as complimentary effect on your attitudes toward money. This includes splurging and pinching, spending and saving, growing and blowing.
For instance, members of the so called “Greatest Generation,” who were teenagers during the "Great Depression" and then went off to fight fascism and foriegn imperialism, came home to the G.I. Bill and came to value family, normalcy and growth. Those before them had been parents during the depression and probably had a mistrust of financial institutions, picked up every penny they saw and stowed it away, re-sewed their clothing, pitched in with neighbors, learned the value of money, scrimped and saved.
The baby boomers that followed were the first to have a sense of entitlement, the first to be proud, television-watching, interstate-traversing members of a lone industrial and military superpower. And naturally their kids, with Speak ‘N Spells, Cabbage Patch Dolls and much later, $100 sneakers, went forth into the world with skewed biases and unprecedented demands.
What we are today are walking subjects of an experiment in marketing, consumerism and calamity in the post-nuclear, post industrial, pre-singularity age. If sociological ramifications weren’t enough -- say a mother buying a leather coat instead of paying the light bill or a father who lost his shirt trying to flip a house – it has recently emerged that our different strokes when it comes to attitudes toward personal finance may be nothin’ but the genes.
As part of a social and scientific micro test, Northwestern University finance professor Camelia Kuhnen gave her students a certain amount of money to make as many as 96 separate investment choices. Once the eager students’ pockets were fattened, she told them to say "ahhhhhhhhh" and got some DNA from their saliva. What resulted was that students who carried specific variations of certain genes and had certain balances of dopamine and serotonin, made risky investments -- 25 percent more of the time than those without these genetic traits.
Interesting stuff, yet we know that the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. Even with the findings from Kuhnen’s “The Neural Basis of Financial Risk Taking" and other experiments, the question remains: How would Arnold Jackson have faired if not for Phil Drummond or would he have been fine? (Let that marinate).
In the end, Kuhnen said in an interview on the public radio program Marketplace that based on her findings, only 30 percent of “variation in risk-taking behavior is due to our genes.” The other 70 or so percent is based more on sociological stressors and stimuli such as cultural heritage, region and neighborhood or perhaps whether your father carried money in rubber bands, in a wallet or disbursed expenditures using a pen or computer.
When managing our money, these are not things that should keep us up at night but are definitely factors to consider. Are you doomed to repeat the past that came before your existence? Are you making your family proud with wise bread traits? Or is it something intangible? Can you simply not help buying the limited edition copy of Halo, those sleek, jet-black, Salvatore Ferragamos or the new fourth-generation Pomegranate
phone that allows you to make coffee, shave and play the harmonica. All this despite the fact that your student loan and credit-card balances are gaining more interest than if Rihanna, Britney, Paris and P.Diddy showed up at a House Banking Committee hearing.
What’s your motivation? This may be really personal. It may be gut wrenching. There may be an ugly truth you discover about your origin and how it informs your decision making, whether it compels you to be a miser or stunna
What we should remember in the throes of self-examination puzzles such as these is that money squandered can be earned back by working harder, saving more, finding ways to improve our social and economic conditions as well as bring our wants into parity with our needs on this life’s Bell Curve. But as for time spent and wasted acting a fool with our dough, well, that’s history. Or is it?