A Shrink’s Financial Origin Story

Inspired by an amazing post by The Accumulator from December 2020, Indeedably has challenged finance bloggers to pen their financial origin, and the course that led them to blogging about finance (mostly FIRE if we’re honest) (1, 2). You can find the other contributors at his latest venture, the excellent Sovereign Quest (2).

The mix of people’s experiences seems to be split into different camps – exemplified by The Accumulator and The Investor. Some bloggers ended up here because they’re wired to save, they always have, and it feels natural (e.g. Dr Fire, TI) (3, 4). Some have experienced the full-fat lifestyle and found it wanting (e.g. FatBritAbroad, Saving Ninja) (5, 6). Money is not the route to fulfillment. Others have learnt from personal or family experience, bumping against the limits of financial constraint and vowing never again (e.g. Weenie, Cashflow Cop) (7, 8). Or a combination of the above.

My story is possibly a combination of the latter two, but I’ll let the reader decide. I suspect it is certainly different.

Personal motivators

I was brought up in an averagely wealthy family, in an expensive part of the UK. Neither of my parents went to university; one a teacher, the other a tradesperson. I have vague memories of the impacts of economic recessions in my childhood, but my parents never let it effect us. Money was spent when there was some, and the belt tightened when there wasn’t; e.g. holidays camping in Cornwall one year, then a villa in Tuscany the next. Both were enjoyable to me as a child, and I knew no different. My parents have lived fairly financially uneventful lives. They never had a desire to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, but we always had good quality stuff, usually second hand.

When a grandparent died while I was in my teens, my parents used the inheritance from the resultant house sale to pull me out of the very poor local comprehensive, and put me through private school. The cost of this was not hidden, and my parents framed it as an investment. I was not as fish-out-of-water as I could have been, for reasons soon explained. I progressed academically, and went off to study medicine.

Throughout my childhood I was taught the value of money. This went from 50p pocket money on sweets in the village shop, to paper rounds, to pub work in my later teens. My parents fell in that awkward bracket where you don’t receive a student bursary, and the student’s living costs are expected to be supplemented by the parents. Mine didn’t, so I worked to pay my way. I also partied hard (medic, obvs), so had to always keep a rough budget and worked in cash. Despite the budget, when I graduated I had around £2k in a student overdraft and £2k in credit card debt. I paid it off sharpish, and then wondered where to go next with my money. So far so normal…

Family motivators

My family is not wealthy. My extended family is not wealthy. My ancestors were eye-wateringly wealthy. Family crest, motto, estates… the works. My parents are the first in many generations in those family lines not to go to university. One of my grandparents (from the wealthiest ancestral line) used to talk about what they would get the servants for Christmas, and hunting over the estates. Two hundred years ago, on both my mother’s and my father’s sides, my family would have been in the Times Rich List of the day. One side through inherited very old money. The other through banking and investing during the industrial revolution.

It’s now all gone.

My parents’ cousins were the last ones with inherited wealth, the male heirs holding the last farms. Now sold to pay for their retirement.

Those parts of the family didn’t work. The family had never worked. Not in generations. The estates provided for the lavish lifestyle.

When death dues came knocking a few fields were sold off. Then the Caravaggio. When the bills for the 70 room manor got too high they downsized, buying a few farms, one for each offspring. My great-uncle sold off the last of the London estates in the 1960s to pay farming bills.

Multiply this down the generations and there’s nothing left to live off, and no work ethic to acquire more.

Our family get-togethers would involve reminiscing on faded glory. I was brought up on an odd diet of old money opinion; the nouveau riche were to be looked down upon, anyone who needed to flaunt wealth had no class, quality was everything. There was a reason we didn’t keep up with the Joneses. That was for the proletariat.

It cast long shadows on Joe Bloggs arriving at private school in daddy’s Porsche, then skiving the day off to smoke and shag behind the bikesheds. Earning loads of dosh, flashing it about, building a nest egg, multigenerational wealth plans, it all didn’t matter if your kids or grandkids frittered it away. Common sense and financial literacy mattered more than millions in the bank.

I grew up very conscious of all that had led to where we were. As I started earning I set goals to not drain from the family coffers, but to stand financially independent. The wealth of past generations may be gone, but I could acquire more.

And maybe, one day, I might buy back the family silver.

The Shrink

Other posts (also collated at Sovereign Quest):

References/ Links:

  1. https://monevator.com/financial-origin-story/
  2. https://sovereignquest.com/
  3. https://drfire.co.uk/wednesday-reads-financial-origin-story/
  4. https://monevator.com/financial-origin-story/#comment-1232471
  5. https://sovereignquest.com/fatbritabroad-the-financial-origin-story
  6. https://www.1500days.com/guest-post-fi-by-any-means-necessary/
  7. http://quietlysaving.co.uk/2014/04/17/intro/
  8. https://cashflowcop.com/financial-origin/
  9. https://indeedably.com/origin/
  10. https://medfiblog.wordpress.com/2021/02/16/evolution/
  11. https://fireandwide.com/playing-the-cards/
  12. https://centbycent.co.uk/financial-origin-story
  13. https://fireplant.net/origins/
  14. https://mortgagefreebythesea.com/a-life-less-ordinary/
  15. https://achatwithkat.com/financial-origins-always-a-saver-new-to-investing/
  16. https://myquietfi.com/my-money-story-part-i-a-prologue-to-the-preamble/

5 thoughts on “A Shrink’s Financial Origin Story

  1. Fascinating origin story! You hear so much about people who want to build up generational wealth, but so little about the families who had it in the past.
    “Multiply this down the generations and there’s nothing left to live off, and no work ethic to acquire more.” This is my biggest concern with generational wealth. Growing up in a reasonably affluent area of Switzerland, I know lots of people whose parents have moderate to great wealth, and few seem motivated to work hard and build up their own ‘stash’. Hopefully, the FI crowd is different because we’re all so fascinated with finances and will surely pass this on to our children.

    Thanks for including me in your list of other origin stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Kat,
      My parents have some fairly wealthy friends, who have come from generations of wealth. Few of their kids work, and many live playboy lifestyles. At some point the bills will catch up with the lifestyle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was very interesting in part because I don’t know anyone with or had generational wealth. The stories to reminisce must get old and repetitive as the years go by. Generational wealth potentially means generational mindsets which is very difficult to change. I see this in my work involving criminal families. It’s not just the kids, but the parents and grandparents who were/are criminals.

    It’s something I think about a lot and conscious of by exploring the pros and cons and trusts.


  3. I don’t know how I managed to miss this post TFS – interesting and fascinating that you had that kind of history in your family. I see my nieces and nephews being brought up in middle-class households and I wonder what their work ethic and financial thoughts will be as they have so much more (money and opportunities) than we did when we were kids.

    Liked by 1 person

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