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Episode 02 Transcript

Episode 02: Inheriting Family Money (Habits)


Allison Schrager: Hey Mike, I was [music begins] thinking about this childhood memory. One of my very first memories related to money.

Mike Norton: Oh, I'm totally intrigued. Go on.

Allison Schrager: I remember this one time when I was 7, I got a very small allowance. My brother and I both did. And I always saved it and my brother never did. So he wanted money, I can't remember, to buy candy, a video game, something, and so I lent him a dollar, if he would pay me back $1.10 the next week. [laughter] And my parents got so mad at me. Not that I was charging interest, but that I was charging this exorbitant rate of interest. Like I was payday lending to my brother.

Mike Norton: I had this related experience where I always wanted to go and buy baseball cards, except it turns out when you're nine you can't drive [laughter] to the stores. And so I would pay my sisters to drive me to the store. So I would have like a baseball card budget and a transportation budget. And I decided that I would allocate the money across those budgets to optimize my total opportunity to buy baseball cards. But I'm pretty sure they were ripping me off too.

Allison Schrager: I'm just shocked you had enough money as a nine year old to make it worth your sister's while.

Mike Norton: I was, uh, working full time in investment banking at age nine, so I had a pretty reasonable sal-, I mean this was in the 80s so you know, it wasn't that exorbitant, but it was pretty good.

Mike Norton: Leaving aside my former career, I think in general there's this feeling that talking about money is really taboo in our culture, but every single person has stories about how money was talked about or handled or not talked about in their family. And in ways we don't even realize these money patterns and habits are ingrained in us starting at a really young age.

I'm Mike Norton and I'm the host of Talking Green. I'm also a social psychologist at Harvard Business School. And I study the way people behave, and misbehave. On Talking Green we explore how psychological forces drive attitudes and decisions around money and investing. This episode, like every episode, I'm joined by Allison Schrager, an economist, journalist and culture maven. She's the author of the recent book, An Economist Walks Into a Brothel.

Allison Schrager: Hey Mike. Today we're going to look at the ways people who raise us influence how we think about money. The good, the bad and the weird.

Mike Norton: And I was actually raised by wolves, so this should be an interesting conversation I think for both of us.

Allison Schrager: Yeah. I can't wait to hear that.

Mike Norton: This is Talking Green.

Allison Schrager: An original podcast from TD Ameritrade and T Brand Studio at The New York Times.

Mike Norton: I'm a social psychologist and so we tend to study situations where people are struggling in one way or another. Social situations. And I don't know if there's a worse social feeling than the feeling of awkwardness, but I have found that one of the things that's most awkward to talk about is money. That as soon as the topic of money comes up, you can almost see people sort of squirming in their chairs and they're not quite sure what to do.

Allison Schrager: I think it's emotionally fraught. I always wonder if I became an economist because I always felt so much anxiety about money when I was growing up.

Mike Norton: Hmm.

Allison Schrager: I had divorced parents. Like a lot of people in my generation. And I think when you have divorced parents, the other parent always thinks the other should be paying for everything, which means effectively no one's paying for anything.

Mike Norton: Right.

Allison Schrager: And you can end up in the situation where you're always having to go back and forth, and every parent's like, "I don't want to pay for this. The other should." Which just then you, you get this message that if you ask for things around money, it's going to be really stressful.

Mike Norton: Yep.

Allison Schrager: And I still carry a lot of the anxiety today.

Mike Norton: I do think about the, inheritance isn't the right word, but the, it's almost like transmission of financial behaviors from parents to kids in, in ways large and small. Just the way they manage their money gets in our minds and then that, that's sort of how we think about managing our money.

Allison Schrager: I think certainly financial literacy and comfort with money gets passed down. Like if you have parents who are stressed about money, who fight about money, you will get the feeling that money is, you know, as I said, is something that's a source of conflict. A source of shame. If you bring it up, it will be socially awkward.

Mike Norton: And part of those conversations are around, you know, where you allocate your, your money. And then part of them are around, kind of, deeper values that some generations have values that, you know, "This is what money is for." And other ones have values that, that, "This is what money is for." And so it's not just a conflict of, you know, where do we write the check? But it's a conflict of how we even think about what our, what our money is supposed to be and what it means to be a successful person.

Allison Schrager: I mean, I think it's hard at the generational divides is 'cause there's different markers of adulthood.

Mike Norton: Hmm.

Allison Schrager: So, Mike, my mother just found out I'm still paying off student loans. And she was like, horrified. I'm like, "Why? I get a tax write off."

Mike Norton: Right.

Allison Schrager: You know. It's fine. Because by the time she was my age, she had two grown children and a home.

Mike Norton: Uh-hmm.

Allison Schrager: So I think the markers for adulthood are different now. So I think that makes these conversations harder. That, and I said there's [music starts] this history within every family, of, of sort of a fraught relationship around talking about money.

Mike Norton: Yeah. And it's so different family to family, but we've all got these experiences and beliefs that we absorb from the people who raise us, starting when we're really, really young. Like you said, your experiences with your parents' anxiety around money could actually be part of the reason you became an economist in the first place.

Allison Schrager: And do you think having to pay your sisters to drive you to get baseball cards is one of the reasons why you became a psychologist?

Mike Norton: I think it's one of the reasons why I started seeing a psychologist. But that's a different conversation. [laughter] But I, I do think both of our stories show that we all have these belief systems around money, almost like scripts that we follow because we think they're the right way to manage our money, or behave with our money. I got the chance recently to talk to Brad Klontz and Faith Salie, two people that had, I didn't know this before I chatted with them at all, two of the most different possible scripts around money that you could possibly imagine.
Mike Norton: I'm joined today by Dr. Brad Klontz, a professor of financial psychology, whose work focuses on generational patterns of financial behavior, and by Faith Salie, a comedian, media commentator and author of Approval Junkie: My Heartfelt (and Occasionally Inappropriate) Quest to Please Just About Everyone, and Ultimately Myself. Thank you both for joining me.

Dr. Brad Klontz: It's great to be here.

Faith Salie: Thank you Mike. And thanks for reading the entire subtitle of my book. [laughs]

Mike Norton: I was hoping it would be longer. I was going to add more. [laughs] That's pretty good. So this issue of families and finances, I realize that a lot of what I do ends up being because of some weird thing that my mom and dad did with their money, or how they approached their finances. Do you guys have any, I have so many because I'm Irish Catholic and I have four siblings, but I'm wondering [laughter] if you guys have any stories about kind of, your own financial behavior as grown ups suddenly realizing it's all because of your parents?

Faith Salie: When I was in college, I was out with my college boyfriend, and we were eating, and he sat right down and ordered a Diet Coke. And I remember thinking, "Wow, that's really splashing out," because we hardly ever went out to eat when I was a kid. My mom made all our meals. And then when we did go out, it was just assumed that you're going to sit down, you're going to order water. And it was so ingrained in me that when he ordered a Diet Coke, I thought, "Wow, maybe I'll order a Diet Coke." And it was so strange 'cause this was, when did I go to college? Like a hundred years ago, right?

Mike Norton: Uh-huh.

Faith Salie: The Diet Coke was probably a dollar 15 cents. But I remember thinking, "Hey, I'm going to be in charge." It was, I felt like I was breaking the rules.

Mike Norton: I feel like your parents would be so pleased that your act of rebellion in college [laughter] against them was just drinking a Di-, a Diet Coke. And no other negative behaviors at all.

Faith Salie: Isn't that sad?

Mike Norton: It's like the biggest parenting win.

Faith Salie: But it's such a small, weird example, but it's kind of a microcosmic example of how, as I grew up, I decided I wasn't going to hold my purse strings as tightly as my parents.

Mike Norton: It's so interesting because if you think about the, sometimes when people think, you know, what did you learn from your parents is, you know, saving for retirement, these huge decisions that we make. And often, in fact, it's these little teeny things, you know, just, I decided to buy that instead of that, sort of, to show them, you know, that I'm an independent person, but also to show myself who I am. You know, that, that these are my spending habits. Not your spending habits.

Faith Salie: Yeah, that's exactly right. And then as, as I got older and had kids, I have, I have two little kids, they're five and seven. And I remember my parents always said, "We would never take you all overseas until you're young adults because that's just a trip that's wasted on kids. And, uh, we started taking our children to Italy, where we got married, a special place to us, as soon as they were born. And yeah, it's expensive, but you know what, we became parents in our forties and we wanted to roll our kids into our lives, and live the kind of lives we wanted to. So yes, I guess my act of rebellion went from Diet Coke to trips to Italy. It got very, it got very much more expensive.

Mike Norton: Brad, as a financial psychologist, does Faith need help?

Dr. Brad Klontz: Well first of all, she's right on to blame her parents for everything. [laughter] I know we're, we're joking around it, but it's so, it's so interesting, isn't it? Like, when you create a sense of deprivation in somebody, it's almost predictable that they're going to rebel. And for me, it was around sugar cereal. Like I wasn't allowed to have sugar cereal growing up.

Mike Norton: Um-hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: And then it became this thing that I just had to have. And I probably spent a decade just consuming mass quantities of, you know, Fruity Pebbles. A really important thing to consider in your own relationship with money and talking to your kids around money, like one of the things that I, I do my best to avoid, is to not tell my kids, "Well we can't afford that."

Faith Salie: Hmm.

Mike Norton: Hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: And there are certainly things that we probably can't afford, but technically, I could sell my house, cash out all my 401(k) plans, and go buy whatever it is that, you know, we're wanting. Just that as an example of a money message that can really set a child on a, on a lifetime of behaviors, trying to compensate for this belief that there's not enough of something.

Faith Salie: So, Brad, what do you, what do you say instead? So, I live in New York City. My kids always want me to get a car. And it's easiest to say, "Well, I, I can't afford that." Because in New York City, it's not that you can't afford the car. You can't afford to pay $700 to park it every month. So what's, what's better language to use?

Dr. Brad Klontz: I think that those are opportunities to pass along your values. It's like, "No, I understand that that's a nice car. And look it is really shiny, and it goes really fast, and a lot of other people have it. And sure, we could stretch and, and make that happen. But here's the reason why we're not. We're setting aside money for X, Y, and Z." And then talk about your values, you know, maybe you're saving for college or vacation or you've made some choices around your career.

Mike Norton: I think this, this issue of the transmission of our attitudes towards money, and our financial behaviors over the generations is, is so powerful. I, very randomly, just was reminded of a, of a study that I read a little while ago about, of all things, rats, but I'll try to make it relevant in a second, which is, so they'll train a generation of rats on different shapes. They'll show them shapes. And some shapes they associate with like, yummy food and other shapes, when they see it, they associate it with like an electric shock. And they train these rats to like, "Oh, now there's, that's the good symbol. That's the bad symbol."

And then they see those rats who have children and then they see the children of those children, and the children of those children. So the, the mom, when she sees that shape, freaks out because it's an electric shock shape. And she teaches that to her kid, who then teaches that to her kid, who teaches that to her kid. Even though no one knows what the shapes are anymore. Right? They're just shapes on a wall. But that transmission of anxiety, that seems so profound, in, in acknowledging and understanding it in ourselves and also, as we were saying, communicating it to our kids. Can we interrupt the cycle when we notice things? Can, are there ways that we can sort of, short circuit that so we can make new habits?

Dr. Brad Klontz: Well, a lot of the research that, that I've done has really been focused on money scripts. And money scripts are these, they're typically clanking around in our subconscious minds, but they're beliefs around money. They get passed down to us from our parents, grandparents, et cetera. And they're, the studies have shown that they're extremely powerful. I mean, they predict things like your income, your net worth, your credit card debt levels. You know, I got interested in financial psychology, coming out of graduate school, I owed $100,000 in student loan debt. And you know, I grew up lower-middle class, and a lot of anxiety around not having enough that's been around for generations. And so one thing I was taught was never have any debt. And so I was, I was really upset about having this debt. And so in the year I got out of grad school, I saw a friend make $100,000 trading stocks. And so I was like, "Oh my gosh. This is a great way for me to get out of debt." I sold everything I had of value. And I put it all in the stock market. And then the tech bubble burst.

Mike Norton: Um-hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: And I sat and watched my, you know, it was meager, but for me it was everything I had, just dwindle to nothing. And I, I sat there pretty depressed and ashamed, and embarrassed, and I was, I was, the question I asked was, you know, "Why, why would a reasonably intelligent person like, do something so stupid with his money?" And so I sat down with my mother. I started to interview her. And she grew up in inner city Detroit. And then I found out that my grandfather lost all of his money, lost all of the family money in the Great Depression when the banks collapsed. So he went to the bank one day, and it was all gone, and it wasn't coming back. For the rest of his life, and he died in his nineties, he never put a dollar in the bank. He kept it in a lockbox in his attic. He passed this belief down to my mother, who I knew was extremely anxious around money.

Mike Norton: Um-hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: And then I came along, and I call it the dysfunctional pendulum swing. I'm like, "I'm not, I'm not going to do with these poor people are doing." I switched to the totally opposite direction. And I put all my money in the riskiest possible asset class, and then watched it crash. And so for me, linking my current behavior to this past script that I had been playing out, was a tremendous relief because I also realized of course I landed where I landed. Anyone would.

Mike Norton: I'm sort of playing through, in my own mind, my family history of money scripts now and learning about myself even as, even as we're speaking. I'm wondering, Faith, if you're doing the same thing.

Faith Salie: I am totally doing that. Yeah. I, I um, I have a, a sort of strangely traumatic relationship with money because when I was 26, my mother died. And my older brothers and I each inherited a lot of money from her. Not so much money to set me up for life, but enough to set me up for my young life and allow me to be a performer. And the way I got money as a very young person was so devastating to me. I even feel emotional talking about it now. I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want to think about it. But I only really cracked how emotional, and sort of stunting, that was for me maybe a year, or two ago, when my husband was trying to talk to me about money and our, and our finances. And he could just see me kind of like get dead eyes. And I was like, "I don't, I don't really want to know." And he got really frustrated. And I finally realized, I had to tell him that 20 years ago, my relationship with money was that it came to me through the death of the person I loved the most.

And then I was always in a career where money was always a question mark. It was feast or famine, when it came to money. And so money makes me anxious. It still does. I feel more relieved about it because my husband has a reliable income. But it took a long time to get to the point where I could sort of feel like I can approve of myself with my own independent financial decisions.

Mike Norton: Brad over to you for the diagnosis.

Faith Salie: [laughs] Yeah. What do you have to say Dr. Brad?

Dr. Brad Klontz: You know, you know, Faith, I would just say that money is the biggest source of stress in three out of four Americans. And there's an added burden too, to receiving money because you, you get the message that, "Well, you shouldn't have any problem with this, Faith."

Faith Salie: Yeah.

Dr. Brad Klontz: Like, "What's wrong with you?"

Faith Salie: That's right.

Dr. Brad Klontz: You know, "This is what everybody wants."

Faith Salie: You can't tell people that you inherited a bunch of money when you're young.

Dr. Brad Klontz: Exactly.

Mike Norton: Is that, this conversation actually made me think about, so, I've always been struck by, perhaps is because I have siblings, this idea that even within the same family, objectively speaking, the kids had the same financial experience and yet the lessons they drew from their parents, and from each other are, are so different. I wonder if, if both personal experience, but also from the research, how we think about that? How, how it can be so similar and yet lead to such different psychological experiences?

Dr. Brad Klontz: Yeah. Absolutely. So for example, let's say you grew up in poverty. Poverty can be an extremely traumatic experience. And so the belief that there'll never be enough, let's use that as an example. So you've got two kids and, they're getting this message either through direct experience or they're, they're picking up from your rat behavior, that there's not enough money. So, you're probably gonna see some extreme behavior when you see that, when there's a lot of emotion attached to it. This could lead somebody to becoming an Ebenezer Scrooge-type total workaholic, who is incredibly stingy, lives a life of poverty while having millions in the bank. Okay? That, that's one potential outcome. Another potential outcome is learned helplessness.

This sense that no matter what I do, it's not gonna matter. You know, there'll never be enough money. This could lead to somebody who, when they get credit, they use it. When they get money, they spend it. They don't save anything because it doesn't matter anyway. So, a good example of the growing up in the exact same experience with the same belief can lead a totally different behaviors.

Mike Norton: And I think these, these threads of, of values go through all of this conversation because you think about talking to your kids and trying to explain to them literally what money is for, is a way of sharing values, right? You, you start talking about money and suddenly it shows how different your values can be from somebody else, just like that. You, you thought you were pretty similar and then you talk about what you're using your money for and boom, we realize we're really, really different people.

Faith Salie: That's really apparent. It's starting to be more and more apparent for my kids in their questions, because, as I said, we live in New York City. We are a family of four with, plus my husband's dog, and we live in a two bedroom apartment. And, um,

Mike Norton: Wait, can I, can I interrupt and ask you, you specifically said,

Faith Salie: Why it's my husband's dog?

Mike Norton: Yes. That was very,

Faith Salie: Because, because,

Mike Norton: Carefully worded.

Faith Salie: Because that dog was around before I was. And I don't walk it or, or pick up its poop. But that, it is my husband's dog, who lives with us.

Mike Norton: Okay.

Faith Salie: Um, it, it's a rescue, everybody. Um, so, so we recently spent time, a couple months, in Atlanta, where I rented a five bedroom house for half the rent we pay in New York City. And my kids had a yard. And they just thought it was incredible. And they wanted to know why we couldn't have a house. And I explained to them that living in houses is really, really nice and a lot of people love to do it, but our family really values, I used that word, values the, the opportunity when you live in a city to, you know, we can walk to Lincoln Center. We go to Broadway shows. Central Park is our backyard.

Mike Norton: Hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: You know, imagine hundreds of those conversations and those opportunities over the years,

Faith Salie: Yeah.

Dr. Brad Klontz: And how you really are instilling at least your values. So they're going to have a clear picture about why you're spending money the way you're spending it, but only if you tell them. And that's a huge mistake that a lot of parents make is shutting down that conversation or not approaching it very consciously because we live in an age where it is really easy to have no understanding about money. I mean, we, we don't even touch money anymore.

Mike Norton: Hmm.

Faith Salie: You know, there's, there's a message I, I am really deliberate about giving our kids, you know, who have two working parents who work for very different reasons. My, my husband works because he came from, uh like you, Brad, he came, he came from almost nothing. My husband often tells the kids, "I work really hard so that you can go to this school. Or so that we can go on this vacation." And I travel a lot for work, and when the kids feel upset that I'm leaving, I tell them, "I'm off to do my job and I'll miss you and I'll think about you. But I love what I do." And, "I'm off to help tell this story." Or, "I'm off to go perform this show. And I feel really, really lucky that I get to do something I love." So I, I really try to make sure that my, sort of, financial message around working is, it counters my husband's, which is that you don't always just work to make money. You can work because it's meaningful to you.

Mike Norton: It sounds like both of you are fairly good at having difficult conversations with your respective partners and perhaps even with, with your children. And Brad, I love this idea that you have of money disorders. Can you tell us a little bit about this, this research on, on money disorders and what we can do about them?

Dr. Brad Klontz: Yeah. So, a money disorder is a sort of chronic self-defeating pattern of behavior around money. And it can, it can happen in many different ways. You know, workaholism is actually one of them, something that I'm currently in recovery from. And part of that workaholism for me is, similar to Faith, your husband's, in the sense that, you know, I come from generations of people not having enough. And I have this, this script that lies very deep inside of me. Even though I know co-, you know, consciously, I know it's not true. Like I know I'm going to be fine,

Faith Salie: Hmm.

Dr. Brad Klontz: But I have this, this deep belief that, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to have nothing and I'm going to be in poverty." But workaholism is, is a tricky one too because if you're a really good workaholic, you get promoted. Everybody loves you. I mean, except your kids, who grow up resenting you. But you get rewarded for it. And then other ones play out relationally, like one, one that we need to be aware of as parents, especially people who are self-made if you will, is something called financial enabling. And quite often it's parents who are trying to support adult children. And so they do this by giving them money. And money is a incredibly powerful reinforcer. So if you get money for doing nothing, you are going to continue do nothing. I mean, that's just how we're all wired. It doesn't mean you're lazy. It means you're a human being and you're not stupid. And so, financial enabling can be really devastating. And, and it always comes from a place of trying to help, or perhaps you know, a sense of guilt.

Mike Norton: Andrew Carnegie, or as I've learned recently, "Andrew Carnegie," one of his biggest worries in life, this is the guy who was worth probably $10,000 then, but that's like $9 trillion now. Anyway, he was a very rich guy. And his biggest worry in life was that his kids would be worthless. There's actually a word for it. It's called the Carnegie Conjecture, which is, he wrote and thought a lot about what was he supposed to do with his kids, 'cause if he gave them all this money then they, exactly as we've discussed, they wouldn't want to do anything and they wouldn't have any motivation because everything was all set for them. I'm wondering from both of you, if you think about this idea of when you are able to provide for your kids, and again, is it the biggest problem to have? Not nearly as bad as not being able to provide at all, and yet many people do think about this, which is, "How do I make sure my kids have work ethic? And really figure out what's important to them? And make sure that they have to overcome things in life?"

Faith Salie: That's such a great question. I'm never worried about spoiling my kids because I don't, I don't think we have the means to spoil them. But I am worried about their feeling entitled. And especially, we're in a kind of anomalous situation 'cause we live in New York City, and while we are very, very fortunate to have what we have, my kids are surrounded by friends whose families are worth ridiculous amounts of money. But the thing is I, I, I really want to make sure that my kids recognize that while they don't have, and never will, remotely what their friends have, we are really, really lucky. And that's how we're at least trying to make sure our kids aren't spoiled.

Dr. Brad Klontz: So I think it's being really careful around giving money with no strings attached. And, and one of the huge missed opportunities for parents is around allowance. So, you know, don't give your kid who has a, you know, undeveloped prefrontal cortex, they have no judgment, they have no impulse control, don't give him a bunch of money, and then complain that they spend it all. Of course they did. You know? You need to structure your allowance along with your values. So for example, let's say you give them $3 a week, just to make it simple. They get to spend a dollar. They have to save a dollar. A dollar goes in a bucket for charity at the end of the year. And you help them choose which one you want to give it to.

Faith Salie: I love that idea. But we, I, I think I've heard that you're not supposed to give your kids an allowance for doing stuff around the house because they should just know that doing stuff around the house is part of the responsibility of being in a family. Is that right? So the allowance should not be a monetary reward.

Dr. Brad Klontz: I lean on that side only because I've done so much work with adolescents. And so if you're going to pay them money for doing chores, you just have to prepare yourself for age 14 when they're like, "You know what, no thanks. Keep your money."

Mike Norton: Uh-huh. [laughter]

Dr. Brad Klontz: Um, so you just want to be conscious of that. Right? You don't want to make every transaction a monetary transaction with your kids. What does that teach them?

Faith Salie: Yeah.

Dr. Brad Klontz: You know, so, is their spouse later going to have to pay, give them five bucks to mow the grass, you know, or whatever? Um,

Mike Norton: But you can just,

Dr. Brad Klontz: But I think it's an,

Mike Norton: Sorry to interrupt, Brad, but it is possible to pay them to love you for who you are as a person, right? Isn't that, that, that's ok?

Faith Salie: Wait. Do you do an allowance with your kids?

Mike Norton: Too little.

Faith Salie: Oh.

Mike Norton: Probably would eat it. [laughter] Probably, which is, a lesson in and of itself, but not the one that I think Brad's trying to communicate.

Faith Salie: Money means nothing to them.

Mike Norton: Unless you were, Brad. Right. Yeah. It's interesting to me during this conversation that we're able to discuss money in a way that we all share our values actually, and share our, our life histories and we're able to discuss it with each other. And yet it's so difficult to go home and discuss it with our family and our friends and our parents and our children. So I guess the, [music starts] the, the final advice might be, even though it, it seems like it will be completely horrible to discuss money, maybe if you get through that initial awkwardness, there's really some advantage at the other end about connection and un-, and understanding. Brad and Faith, thank you so much for joining me. This is really such an interesting conversation.

Faith Salie: Thank you.

Dr. Brad Klontz: Thank you. Good fun.

Allison Schrager: I'm really impressed that you got past the awkwardness and got Brad and Faith to open up about their family money histories. Clearly, social psychologists have a lot of skills that economists don't.

Mike Norton: You know, it's interesting that these conversations can be so hard, but it's almost as though people are, are dying to have them, just not with the people in their lives. I think that, that's what makes them so hard is that you can talk about money with a stranger, but when you want to talk about it with your family, then it gets really, really hard. I think three things that really struck me in that conversation. So one is exactly this family history seems so, so important in shaping who we are today and how we act toward our money today. And I think even more important is this idea that we're often completely unaware of how our family history is affecting our beliefs, and our behavior about money. And I think it's really important to start thinking about how those scripts that we got when we were little are still influencing us today, sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse.

Allison Schrager: Yeah. And it's not often obvious simply because it's not something often think about. But, taking the time to do some accounting of your own family's history with money, and how your parents talked about money, can actually be really illuminating.

Mike Norton: I've just been scheduling a week-long retreat with my parents to [laughter] demand that they explain all the damage they've done to me with my financial habits.

Allison Schrager: We'll have a special therapist for that one day. [laughter]

Mike Norton: The second thing that really struck me is how emotional these conversations can be. The words that come up are things like anger and anxiety and fear and nervousness and things like that. They're really difficult conversations to have. And I think it's because it's not just talking about money, it's talking about really deep values underneath money. So when I have a different attitude toward money than you, I also have a different value system than you often. And these conflicts can be really profound because we're talking about really deep values. But you can absolutely get better at talking about money if you kind of suck it up and have the conversation about values as well.

Mike Norton: The third thing that really struck me was that because all of these beliefs and behaviors about money are really surfacing deep values, it means that the way we talk about money, and the way we act toward money is actually transmitting not just beliefs about money to our kids, but beliefs about really deep values to our kids. And that I think is another reason why it's so important to be more aware of how our family history affects us currently, so that we can make sure that with our kids we're transmitting the values toward money and toward life that we really want them to have.

Allison Schrager: What values do you think you'll transmit to your daughter, after she's past the phase where she just wants to eat money?

Mike Norton: I think I want her to know that it's perfectly fine to eat money as long as you put some of the money away so that it will accumulate more money that you can eat later. And also make sure that you share the money so that everyone can, at the table can eat some. [laughter]

Allison Schrager: Talking Green is an original podcast from TD Ameritrade and T Brand Studio at The New York Times. Learn more about family and money at

Mike Norton: And subscribe to Talking Green now, so you don't miss a single episode. Join us next time as we turn an extremely discerning eye on the nature of fake news, financial crazes, and the psychology of pseudo profound bullshit.

GP: So one example is "Hidden Meaning Transforms Unparalleled Abstract Beauty." That sounds pretty good, actually, if you, you know, if you just don't think about it.

Mike Norton: That one just changed my life.

GP: It was just constructed, literally, without any concern for the truth, which is the definition of "Bull-(beep)" put forth by Harry Frankfurt.

Mike Norton: I'm Mike Norton.

Allison Schrager: And I'm Allison Schrager.

Mike Norton: Thanks for listening.

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