Greenwood | How Do You Break Generational Financial Curses? Teach ’Em Young.
Updated: Mar 9
Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®
Hi, I’m Rianka, Greenwood’s Official Certified Financial Planner.
I recall the first time I truly saw financial freedom in action.
The neighbors who lived next to my nana in Norfolk, VA used to sit in dual rocking chairs on their porch every morning, relaxing and watching the day start in earnest. I would see them from the sidewalk as I walked to the bus stop. It was an idyllic setting, but not one that I knew personally. Although they were the same age as my nana, their lives were completely different.
At the same time of day as these neighbors were enjoying their morning cups of coffee and perusing the paper, my nana was already at her place of work. Even in the fifth grade, I could see the difference between how their lives were set up: both in retirement age, but only one in retirement.
It’s been making me think a lot lately: How have the lessons we were taught, and the catchphrases that permeated our households growing up, impacted our financial futures?
For me, three lessons come to mind.
1. That’s grown folks’ business. Stay in a child’s place.
Was this phrase ever uttered in your home growing up? It was in mine.
At its core, the desire to let kids be kids is a natural reaction. Childhood innocence is often too short before the realities of life kick in. But I’d argue that children should begin being brought into adult conversations about finances earlier on. Many times, shame can enter and dominate conversations about money, either because adults don’t want to display their lack of knowledge or are embarrassed about their current situation.
Yet, it can be equally harmful down the road if we do not expose our children to these concepts in their formative years. Let’s reframe the conversation as learning opportunities instead.
I was 19 years old the first time I had a conversation about finances with my nana. Despite how I was raised, I felt compelled to address the elephant in the room. I was motivated by the lessons I was being taught in college. I had recently learned about social security benefits and at a high level, retirement planning. After taking an estate planning course with a lawyer, I could begin to understand the severity of not having a plan in place. I grew concerned that this was the fate awaiting our matriarch.
Nana was on dialysis, yet while her health continued to fade, she continued to work. I couldn’t quite grasp why at her age and ailment this was the case until I realized that she couldn’t afford to retire.
As she opened up to me, it became clear that while she was drawing social security, there was nothing else saved up to help support her retirement.
My nana was an impressive woman. When she bought her beautiful brick home in the 70s, we became one of the first Black families to move into, and integrate, the neighborhood. She lived in that home and raised her children and their children for three decades. It was the most incredible example I have of what it takes to move the next generation forward—the sacrifices we make as parents and caretakers to do more for the next generation than we had for ourselves.
Yet, when she passed, she owed as much as the house was worth on the mortgage. Although she had many insurance policies in her name, they were a hodgepodge of coverage not appropriate for her circumstances and we couldn’t put a claim on any of them. Without the proper Estate Planning documents and financial foundation, our family lost the home to foreclosure in the months following her death.
From that day forward, I made it my business to understand what road brought her to this situation—so I wouldn’t repeat those same mistakes. I also made it my career.
By not creating a legacy or succession plan, we are requiring the next generation to start over.
Are you ready to break generational curses?
2. Be still. Be silent. The Lord is doing His work.
During the warmer months when a thunderstorm would roll in, my nana would make us turn off the television and open the front and back doors to the house so the Lord could pass through. She would say “Be silent. Be still. The Lord is doing His work.”
I’ve taken that fond memory with me as I’ve grown older. While I may not use it in the literal sense as my nana did, I think there is an incredible power to harnessing our intuition.
For example, when your personal finances are a constant source of disruption in your life, think: what is the universe trying to tell us? Should we be bolstering that emergency fund to prepare ourselves for leaving a job that is wreaking havoc on our mental health? Do we need to be introducing a bit more risk into our personal investment portfolios to achieve the larger than life goals that we have ten years down the road?
Our world continues to move at a breakneck pace as we juggle instability and uncertainty against our hopes and dreams.
We don’t always have to be in motion. While it’s great to identify and put a plan into action, sometimes just sitting with our storm allows for cooler winds to prevail.