Are You Destined to Follow in Your Parents’ Footsteps?

This post may contain affiliate links. FinanceSuperhero only recommends products which help Restore Order to the World of Finance.

In life, we receive so much from our parents; overall looks, hair color, height, and a host of other genetically-driven predispositions are largely hereditary. Sometimes, we follow in our parents’ footsteps, and sometimes we do not. With some notable exceptions, we get what we get, and life keeps rolling on – for better or for worse.

Recently, I read an article in The AtlanticRich People Raise Rich Kids – which caused me to ponder the financial impact our parents have upon our life trajectory. The issues explored and conclusions drawn in the article are thought-provoking, to say the least.

If “Rich People Raise Rich Kids,” does that imply that the corollary, i.e. “Poor People Raise Poor Kids,” is often true?

We receive much from our parents: overall looks, hair color, etc. But are we destined to follow in our parents' footsteps in other ways? Of course, life experience shows us the impact our parents can play in financial futures. Plenty of people are born into money, but countless folks create their own wealth. Many of us will learn to manage money, for better or worse, in the same manner demonstrated by our parents. Others will seek their own path, if they bother to pay attention at all.

And all of this says nothing of the fact that our trajectories may change over time, though change can be hard to set into motion. The poor can become rich, and the rich can lose it all, sometimes in shocking fashion. This is America, after all. *Cues chants* USA! USA! USA!

The power and importance of environment is one point which I tend to agree with wholeheartedly from the aforementioned article. My life story bears out this truth every step of the way.

My Story

I grew up in a typical middle class home in West Michigan. My mom worked as a departmental secretary for a reputable regional bank, and my dad worked in manufacturing for one of the largest aerospace engineering companies in the country. Mom earned her Associates degree, while dad entered the work force after completing high school.

We lived in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom ranch home which was conveniently located within a few miles of everything: school, work, shopping, and my grandparents. Our family was solidly middle-class, though I had no idea or even any understanding of what that meant at the time.

My parents made the very best of the overall environment in which I was raised. When I was four, they sold our house and moved to the other side of town so I could attend the best schools in the area. I didn’t know at the time, but my mom often remarks today that this move was a financial sacrifice in may respects.

For reasons which I still do not fully understand, I was born with a sharp edge to achieve, and this desire only strengthened itself as I grew up. I didn’t want to just do something – I wanted to win, to be the best, to get a share of the spotlight. Of course, it didn’t work out every single time, but that internal motivation was sometimes a difference-maker.

Equally important, my internal motivation was complimented by external factors. My grandfather always pushed me toward the improbable and believed so much in me that I began to believe in myself.

My self-belief and confidence was shaken many times, but I survived and grew stronger because my parents were not of the helicopter variety. They allowed me to be independent, solve my own problems, and experience difficulty. I learned to bend without breaking.

My parents supported all of my far flung endeavors – competing in chess tournaments all across the country, basketball leagues and camps, and music lessons – and encouraged me to do my best. I was strong-willed and in hindsight demanded a lot. I was lucky to have good parents who provided opportunities.

The rest of the story is simple. I went to college, got a job, and moved out of state, like countless other people before and since. I am not special, and my life is not remarkable. My parents, extended family, and the environment they cultivated for me, on the other hand, are special and remarkable.

Foster a Great Environment For Your Kids

So how can today’s parents foster a positive environment for children and put them in a position to become successful? The following solutions offer a good starting point:

Get to know your children. A one-size-fits-all approach will never work. In the interest of transparency, I am not yet a parent, but my experience as a teacher illustrates the importance of knowing children as individuals. Spending time with them is the best way to get to know them.

Model a balanced, prioritized lifestyle. Kids are impressionable and form a surprisingly-high number of conclusions at young ages. As adults, they will remember how you spent your time and model their own priorities after yours in many ways, whether consciously or not.

Teach them how to save money. For most children today, spending will come easily and saving will not; our instant-gratification culture is to blame. If you show your kids how to save, they will experience a valuable lesson.

Allow your children to fail and encourage them to persevere when they do. They will learn important lessons as a result. They will become resilient, strong, and unafraid to fail, all of which are characteristics which will help them to succeed.

Related: How to Overcome the Fear of Failure

These practices are not perfect, but they will help you to create a growth-inspired environment for your children. They just may follow in or even exceed your footsteps as a result.

In what ways have you followed in your parents’ footsteps? What did they specifically do to help you in that regard? For parents – how are you helping your children to follow in your footsteps?


10 thoughts on “Are You Destined to Follow in Your Parents’ Footsteps?

  1. We have made more money in our careers that my parents did, but they were also good with their money. Our son, who is 19, seems to be very frugal with his spending and very interested in personal-finance. Like father, like son. I am not sure how ambitious he is in earning money – Seems to have the millennial philosophy that life comes before earning money.

    1. Ah, that wonderful millennial philosophy sinks its teeth into other victim, I see. With any luck, frugality will win out and your son will be parading you around on his private yacht one day, Mr. Firestation! 🙂

  2. I think all four actionable tips are very pertinent, and for me personally, it is timely advice as I am becoming a first time parent this summer. I think especially getting to know your kids, and encouraging them them dare to do and fail, often, and spectacularly, is often overlooked in traditional parenting advice. The sooner the tiny humans learn that failing is nothing but an opportunity to learn, they can start doing all the different things they want to do!

  3. Parents are their children’s biggest example, so its tough not to follow in there foot steps in some way. I recall my dad having an incredible work ethic when I was young.

    We are trying to do more for our three children today to make sure they understand that their are many paths that they can take in life. Educating them about many topics so they can choose what will be best for them as individuals.

    1. Totally agree with Brian here. My parents had an amazing work ethic and they definitely modeled the right way to manage money. We are trying to show our kids that they need to plan far ahead and save, as well as budget. It doesn’t take long for them to get in debt – and fast, with a few bad decisions. Great points here, Hero.

      1. Surely the MSD kids will be great decision-makers. I’m looking forward to reading about your son’s college choice and the financial ramifications.

    2. That’s an important distinction that you and your wife are making with your kids, Brian. Work ethic is unquestionably important, but the broad lessons you are instilling will be foundational for your kids.

  4. Thanks for the insight into the FSH psych. It’s always interesting to know what maketh the man and I can see that your parents were a huge influence in getting you where you are now. Although my upbringing was also solidly middle class like yours, I know that my parents where not as money savvy as they could have been. It’s not that they were spenders or flippant with their money, it’s just that they followed a very traditional route in keeping savings in the bank because it’s “safe”, and not considering investing as a means of financial growth. As a result, they have always had to work even well into their 60s. I realised early on that there were other ways to make a buck or two by making the dollars do the work for me. Not that I’ve been shy of work, I have just seen the light when it comes to investing versus spending. And as a result, that’s got me where I am today….retired early. Do we always want to follow in our parent’s footsteps? Yes and no. Follow the best bits but don’t be afraid to follow your own ideas too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *