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Porttfolio: My Inheritance Journey

From enneagram monthly (October 2012)

….[LCSW Carolyn Bartlett] peppered me with questions about my family history. What did my mother and father do for a living? In what era did my grandparents and parents live? She pointed out how significant it was to my mother’s life attitudes that her whole family lived through the Great Depression. I have half sisters – what was their relationship to my mom’s inheritance? What were my earliest experiences with money? Carolyn used the answers to these questions to draw my genogram –  a large, branching web of family relationships and dynamics.

The visual representation of my family history yielded several important insights that underpin my beliefs about money:

My mother grew up with parents who emigrated from Italy to New York City, and they all lived through the Great Depression. My mother felt a strong need to contribute financially to her family’s welfare and made sure she wasn’t a financial burden on her family once she was old enough to work. (And she told me many times that she did not want to be a financial burden to us in her old age.) She learned how to live through tough times, and although never overly frugal, she was also never overly extravagant. In her later years she was generous with her money when it came to helping immediate family as well as supporting family trips and educational adventures. She blatantly stated, when offered to move to an independent living situation, “I’d rather that this rent money went to my grandchildren’s education.”  The genogram helped me see that statements like this were value statements, which were leading to an overall connectedness with what the giver of my gift might appreciate that I do with her money.

My father started educating me about budgeting from age 10. I received quite a significant allowance for such a young person, and had to allocate the required 10% of it to savings AND cover my competitive swimming expenses and family gifts before I could use any discretionary money. In my college years and early twenties, he issued me loan notes, so that I would get used to paying back what I owed on time, and with the proper interest accumulation. This taught me an ethic of fiscal responsibility, and gave me a special relationship with him around money. Yet, this created a triangle among him, me, and my mother, who was not part of these financial discussions. Was I repeating this triangle by excluding my spouse at times for third-party financial relationships?…..