5 Family Financial Traditions Passed Down Through the Generations

5 Family Financial Traditions Passed Down Through the Generations

With Thanksgiving almost here, many of us have unpacked the holiday decorations and are sketching out our shopping and wish lists.

For some, it's also the season for embracing our favorite family rituals.

But we're not just talking about the usual stuffing recipes or Secret Santa exchanges—we're focused on money traditions.


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Because when it comes to building smart money habits, it turns out that family rituals can make a pretty big impression.

So we scoured the country to find folks with a special financial habit to share—ranging from new traditions they've started in the past decade to others dating back to grandparents and even great-grandparents.

Read on for five one-of-a-kind money rituals that are still going strong. You may even be inspired to adopt one for your own family.

James Fletcher 1

"Checking Company Stock Prices With My Children"

James Fletcher, portfolio manager and senior research analyst, Agoura Hills, Calif.
"When I was a boy, my grandfather would scoop me up onto his lap and teach me about the stock market, from making investments to deciphering quotes.

By the time I was a teenager, I'd officially moved on to mock portfolios. I guess it isn't all that surprising that I grew up to be a portfolio manager.

Now that I've got kids of my own, I'm keeping my grandfather's tradition going strong. My 9-year-old daughter is saving to buy her first share in her favorite doll company. And my 7-year-old son has his eye on buying stock in a sneaker manufacturer.

Every day when I get home from work, one of my favorite routines is cozying up with my kids and checking to see whether these stocks have gone up or down—then we talk about why. I love that their eagerness to learn about investing has translated to extra quality time with dad."

RELATED: Blending Families? 7 Money Questions to Answer Before You Tie the Knot

Hailey Lanier

"Always Keeping a Stash of 'Mad Money' for Just-in-Case"

Hailey Lanier, account executive, Chicago

"This quirky family tradition started with my great-grandmother—and a $2 bill, which she called 'mad money.'

When my grandma was a young woman, her mother gave her $2 and explained it was in-case-of-emergency money to be kept on her at all times.

This way, no matter what, she'd always have cash on hand to see her through an unexpected situation, like if a friend or significant other made her mad and she wanted to take a cab home.

My mother and I still carry around $2 bills as a reminder of this bit of family wisdom.

But what my great-grandmother really taught us is that nothing is more important than having emergency savings. This lesson has made me prioritize building up my own rainy day fund. And when the time comes to have children of my own, I'll definitely be empowering them with their own 'mad money.'"

RELATED: The 3-6-9 Guideline for Emergency Savings

Bridget 2

"Helping Others Get an Education"

Bridget Cramer, marketing specialist, River Falls, Wisc.

"My husband's grandfather was an amazing community leader and local volunteer for over 50 years.

When he passed away in 2011, his wife started a memorial scholarship in his honor. Every year, the fund awards $500 to a local student athlete who goes above and beyond to help the community.

Shortly after we got engaged, my husband's grandmother passed away. As a family, we all stepped in to keep the scholarship fund alive. We even donated the funds from the dollar dance at our wedding reception, which was enough to fulfill the 2015 scholarship. (It's made up entirely of donations.) Selecting the recipient and presenting her with the award was an incredible experience.

When we have kids, you can bet that the scholarship fund will be something we pass onto them. Not only will they be making a difference in their community, they'll also be honoring the memory of their great-grandparents.

Kristen Stone with kids

"Saving as a Family for an Annual Vacation"

Kristen Stone, children's ministry leader, Wheaton, Ill.
"Celebrating the holidays with a mini-vacation is one of our favorite traditions, dating back about 10 years to the winter when I was pregnant with our first child.

But the truth is, if we didn't start saving for it ahead of time, it would never happen.

We start by socking away cash in a special envelope at the very beginning of the year. Each pay period, we make a small 'deposit'—and then watch it grow. By the time December rolls around, we've got enough money saved for a stress-free couple of days of Christmas fun in downtown Chicago.

Our two kids (ages 9 and 11) love staying overnight at a hotel, sipping cocoa, going ice skating as a family, and exploring the magic of the holidays in the Windy City.

One year, we scaled back and didn't save ahead of time to stay overnight. When the holidays came, we just couldn't swing the expense and ended up missing out.

That experience nudged us to really prioritize our Christmas envelope—we've been enjoying the tradition ever since!"

RELATED: How to Escape the Bad Money Habits You Picked Up From Your Parents

Dan Grech

"Setting Aside Spare Coins for College"

Dan Grech, VP of marketing and public relations, Miami
"One of my earliest memories from childhood is lying on my bedroom floor, eagerly counting piles of change.

The money, which I'd scraped together and stored in an empty wine jug of my father's, was more than just a coin collection. It represented a portion of my college fund.

Since my dad never went to college, sending me and my sister off to earn degrees became an important priority for him. And to teach what it means to save, he introduced the wine-jug method when I was very young. It took years to fill and added up to only a couple hundred dollars each time, but it really motivated me to sock money away for a long-term goal.

Now that I've got a 3-year-old daughter at home, my wife and I are brainstorming ways to update the system for the digital age—which makes sense as I work for a technology company. Doing it the old-fashioned way is proving hard as we never seem to have any spare changing lying around!

But the tradition has definitely inspired me to put a modern-day twist on encouraging our little one to dream big—and save big—for college."


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