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3 money lies your parents told you that will keep you broke

A mother looks concerned about money while looking at a laptop with her child in the background.
Money habits - good or bad - are often passed down through generations. (Source: Getty) (JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images)

Don’t tell my mum I said this but… your parents may not have set you up for financial success.

As children, we pick up on things our parents say or do, or how they behave with money themselves, and those things form our very first ‘money lessons’.

Also from Paridhi Jain:

So, if your parents weren’t particularly financially educated or good with money, chances are a little bit of that may have accidentally rubbed off on you.


I see this a lot in my line of work.

A few years ago, I started a financial education platform to help people take control of their finances. I worked with financial professionals to pull together our Mastering Money program, which today, has helped hundreds of people save and invest tens of thousands of dollars.

Part of what we do with our students is help them ‘unlearn’ some of the less helpful money lessons they may have picked up along the way.

And hey, the point isn’t to blame your parents. But once you become aware of the unhelpful lessons, you have a better shot at unlearning them and changing them for future generations.

Here are three common ‘money lessons’ that might be worth reconsidering:

1. To be financially successful, you have to go to university and get a ‘good job’

Once upon a time, going to university gave you a ticket to a more highly paid profession than you could get without a degree. Nowadays? Not necessarily.

I’m not saying that going to university has no value. What I am saying is that it doesn’t guarantee a more financially successful future.

You can have multiple degrees, or work in a highly paid profession and still be living in constant financial stress because you have no idea what you’re doing with your finances.

(By the way, if that’s you, there’s no shame in that because why should you be expected to know something you’ve never been taught? Give yourself a break.)

Being good with money is a separate skillset on its own. To create financial success, you have to do three things (and none of them require a university degree): earn, save and invest.

If all you focus on is earning more money, you still won’t be able to create sustainable long-term wealth unless you also know how to save and invest.

Our students are sometimes surprised at how dramatically their financial lives change (without increasing their income) simply by learning to save and invest their current income better.

People think: “I’ll earn more first, and then figure out my finances.”

But often, you’re better off doing it the other way around. If you learn how to save and invest on whatever income you’re on today, you’ll make much better use of future pay increases.

2. It’s selfish, shallow or greedy to want lots of money

There’s a lot of mixed messaging around money.

On one hand, we hear that rich people are evil, money corrupts you, wanting more money means you’re greedy, shallow, materialistic or selfish.

On the other hand, who wouldn’t want some more money and all the ease, freedom and peace of mind that comes with it?

This creates a lot of internal conflict.

You want freedom from financial stress, but feel bad asking for a pay increase. You’re sick of worrying about money, but the idea of having lots of it seems selfish.

Hands holding a wallet with Australian money.
Having a good relationship with money is crucial to creating financial security. (Source: Getty) (Daria Nipot via Getty Images)

It’s funny, we don’t think that way about oxygen, right?

No one’s feeling bad because they breathe more oxygen. No one is shamed for inhaling too much air. No one’s scared of taking a deep breath in case they’re labelled “a rich snob”.

It might seem like a ridiculous comparison, but I’m trying to make a point.

We create all these narratives around money, and it’s worth questioning them. Is it helpful to think of money as evil, corruptive and bad? How is that helping you?

If you had more money, you could give more to charity. Or perhaps you’d be able to better care for your family? Or maybe it could free up some time for causes that are important to you?

Money itself is neutral. It’s the choices people make with money that can be constructive or destructive. You get to choose.

So, having more money can be a beautiful, enriching, generous experience. That’s your choice.

3. Money doesn’t buy happiness

Ready for a harsh truth? Nothing on its own can hand you ‘happiness’ on a silver platter.

Loving friends or family? Plenty of people with loving friends or families are unhappy. A dream job? Plenty of people who have their dream job are unhappy.

Yet, we don’t chuck those things out and say they aren’t important, right? Those things are important in their own right. They can’t be compared or substituted.

So, why do we walk around saying “money can’t buy happiness”?

It’s almost nonsensical. Yeah, of course, nothing on its own can just inject happiness into your bloodstream. (I mean, sugar does get pretty close but… you know what I mean.)

But that doesn’t mean it’s not an important part of life.

Close up of a multi-generational family celebrating together.
It takes more than money to create happiness. (Source: Getty) (Marko Geber via Getty Images)

Money is a basic survival need in our society. The lack of it can create enormous stress, and the abundance of it can help facilitate a lot of ease, peace of mind and freedom.

Many of our students come to us wanting to fix their finances, and then experience a ripple effect of benefits throughout the rest of their lives.

Their marriage improves (because they’ve stopped fighting about money), or their health improves (because the desire to save money inspired healthier eating habits), or their mental health improves because they’re no longer stressed and anxious about money.

So, don’t put money on a pedestal and expect it to magically solve all your problems. But also, don’t diminish its importance and place in your life.

Paridhi Jain is the founder of SkilledSmart, an independent financial education platform helping adults learn to save and invest their money. For more money tips, you can get a free e-book on 5 Money Mistakes Costing You Thousands via their website, and follow them on instagram.

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