Three generations of money mindsets in one home – a survival guide

Lee Hancox, Head: Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, shares her personal survival guide to getting along when money talk gets tricky at home. It’s also a great story to share with your clients.

Your partner is a ‘boomer’ who tends to spend spontaneously because it’s about living life to the fullest. You’re a Generation X-er who wants to save because you have parents and a child to support. Your daughter is a Z-er. She had a savings account from age eight and sees money differently to any previous generation. You’re all in one house with joint financial decisions to make. Inevitably, things are going to get interesting!

It’s all about having open conversations and understanding where each person is coming from. ‘It’s so interesting how many different attitudes to money you can have in one home,’ says Lee Hancox, Head: Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam. ‘As well as being generational, these differences can also stem from how your partner was brought up. It’s vital to understand what makes other family members’ “money minds” tick,’ she says.

Survival tips

Turn to the stereotypes

Although people will always have individual characteristics, Lee says it can help to have an understanding of how different generations interact with finances.

  • Baby boomers (born 1946–63) were brought up by the ‘Silent Gen’ during the ’70s, when there was an exhilarating ‘spend now, worry later’ wave. Boomers were also probably the first generation to use the word retirement and imagine a ‘life post kids’ scenario
  • X-ers (1964–78) are also known as ‘latchkey kids’ as they were the first generation to be raised in two-income homes with both parents working. They tend to be very aware of the value of money – as the ‘sandwich generation’ there’s often an expectation that they’ll support their parents and kids
  • Millennials (1979–95) are frequently job jugglers who earn less than the previous generation did at the same age. They’re known for changing jobs and a DIY approach to money, despite reportedly low levels of financial literacy
  • Gen Z-ers (1996–2010) are extremely conscientious – possibly a reaction to seeing millennials struggling. A report shows that 72% of Gen Z-ers rank cost as the most important factor for purchase decisions. They’re good savers who know the value of money and avoid spending frivolously. They think about financial planning, have insurance and want to invest with impact.

‘You can learn a lot from each other,’ Lee says. ‘My husband has taught me to be more spontaneous and that it’s okay to splash out sometimes. I think he’s learnt from me to have good structure and plans in place.

‘And we’ve both learnt from our daughter. She knows what she wants and she’s pursuing non-traditional ways to make money. She designs tattoos for people or draws them pictures. Once a year, she cuts her hair for CANSA. She’s done a deal with her hairdresser – she’s painting the salon a mural in exchange for free haircuts. She’s finding completely new ways to generate cash.’

Keep talking

Open communication is key. Don’t be afraid to lay your cards on the table and be vocal when you’re not happy. Know your boundaries: what you’re prepared to compromise on and your non-negotiables. Be sensitive to one another. In a relationship where one person is earning more than the other, for example, it’s vital that both feel they have equal right to broach money matters.

Decide on shared values

Lee’s daughter is passionate about impact investing to help create a sustainable planet. This is a value she lives by. It’s important to know this about each other and to have shared values as a family, so you can say ‘this is how we think about money in this home’.

All for one and one for all

Make sure everyone is involved in the big decisions – including your kids. ‘My daughter’s going to a private tertiary institution next year,’ Lee says. ‘We made the decision together, knowing that if we do this, we’ll need to adjust the budget like that. We’ve always included her in these kinds of conversations. I believe kids need to understand the value of money and appreciate when times are a little tighter.’

Have shared goals and compromise

‘It’s important to have goals and aspirations you’re working towards – as individuals and as a family unit. But you also need wiggle room, otherwise the different personality types will get frustrated. It’s about accommodating each other and compromising.’ This isn’t always easy. There will be arguments, but try to make these constructive, with shared goals in mind.

Really, really understand one another

If you wake Lee up at 3am and ask her what’s in her bank account, she’ll tell you the exact figure. She checks it every day without fail. Her husband is different; he checks it every now and again. He carries cash. Lee never carries cash. It’s these little things you start to notice about each other – and yourself.

Much of one’s money mindset is informed by upbringing. It’s important to know how your partner was raised regarding finances and how that’s informed their money mindset. You also need talk about how you want to raise any children you might have in terms of their attitudes to money.

‘Let your finances be a loving journey you undertake together,’ Lee says. ‘Have a budget. Acknowledge that you won’t always agree and that’s fine so long as you can talk about it. A trusted financial planner can also provide an objective roadmap to keep you on track with your goals.’