Are Your Parents To Blame for Your Poor Money Habits?

Managing money can be tricky. Adopting good money habits while getting rid of the bad ones can be a struggle. But these habits might be learnt before we even know it.

We interviewed 1,000 Singaporean adults to find out how our parents influenced the way we manage our money later in life.

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Our research found that Singaporeans often follow in the footsteps of their parents when it comes to forming financial habits, whether they want to or not.

believe their parents have had a strong influence on their financial habits.

actively try to go against their parents' bad financial habits.

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How we often copy our parents’ behaviours

We looked at specific behaviours around money and found Singaporeans often copy the same patterns and behaviours that they saw from their parents when growing up, even when these habits are detrimental.

59% of those who stated their parents overspent, say they tend to do the same.

63% of those who said that their parents shopped impulsively, also shop impulsively.

58% of those whose parents had struggled with debt before, also reported having struggled with debt.

Thankfully, it’s not just the negative habits that we pick up though. Our study found that those whose parents demonstrated good financial habits, are likely to mirror these in later life too.

78% of those who said that their parents regularly saved money each month, say they do the same.

75% of those who said their parents regularly budgeted their spending, also budget their own spending.

62% of those who said that their parents regularly invested their money, also regularly invest themselves.

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Financial coach and expert, Michelle Howell, at Frolic for Life says that these behaviours are often learnt subconsciously as child, then carry through to later life:

“Fundamental money habits can start to become formed from as early as 6-7 years old. At this age, we tend to absorb and internalise what our parents do and say about money, with habits developed by watching how parents behave with money whether consciously, or unconsciously.”

Our parents' spending or saving habits, adherence to societal norms, or unique money behaviours can therefore shape our own beliefs and behaviours in later life.

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Why it’s important to talk to children about money

Talking about finances can be difficult at the best of times, even amongst adults. But our research shows just how essential teaching children about money can be when it comes to setting them up on the best footing for later life. 

We found that those whose parents didn’t teach them about managing their finances as a child, were twice as likely to report that they have been struggling to keep up with bills and less likely to save and invest their money overall.

Lessons passed down from parents

Two-thirds of those interviewed said that their parents actively taught them about how to manage their money as a child. The majority (53%) of those we spoke to believe that they have picked up good traits from their parents when it comes to managing their finances.

In fact, we found that those who were taught how to manage their money as a child were 1.3 times as likely to report being financially secure in later life.

With parents’ important role in the formation of money habits, we dug a little deeper, to explore which lessons parents most commonly passed down to their children.

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Six tips for talking to children about money from Michelle Howell

Explain what money is and how it’s used as soon as your child is able to understand the concept (around 6-7 years old).

Provide ways for your children to earn pocket money in exchange for doing chores around the house.

Set age-appropriate saving plans with your child.

Discuss smart spending tips such as avoiding impulse purchases and explaining that more expensive isn’t necessarily better.

Involve your children in planning spending experiences like going grocery shopping and researching purchases before buying online.

Change the language you use when talking about finances to foster a healthy relationship with money. Replace phrases like “we can’t afford it” with “I choose not to spend my money on that”.

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Setting your children up for the best possible future

The majority (84%) of people we spoke to, believe that parents have a responsibility to teach their children how to budget and save. Whilst 83% believe that it’s important to teach children about financial products such as credit cards and personal loans, when appropriate to do so.

Whilst our study highlights just how important educating children about money is in setting them up for later life, this isn’t the only way that parents are supporting their children.

said that their parents provided them with financial support on big expenses such as weddings or purchasing a home.

planned to provide their own children with support on big purchases.

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How can we break bad habits?

With the availability of online support and financial portals such as ours here at MoneySmart, it does appear that detrimental habits can be broken.

consider themselves to have good money habits.

say that they strive to be better with money than their parents were.

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Breaking bad financial habits can be challenging. But you don’t have to do it on your own. There’s plenty of information available to you on MoneySmart’s portal, whether that’s learning how to budget, career advice or gaining a better understanding of financial products such as personal loans and credit cards.

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Improve your financial knowledge with our guides

How to Apply for and Use a Credit Card in Singapore

What are the Best Credit Card for Young Adults

7 Ways To Use a Personal Loan in Singapore

Guide to the Best Health Insurance in Singapore

How To Start Investing With $1,000 In Singapore

Guide to CPF in Singapore: Contribution Rates, Ceilings, Retirement Sum & more


This research was conducted by independent market research agency, 3Gem on behalf of MoneySmart. The survey was carried out online amongst 1,000 Singaporean adults (aged 18+). The survey was conducted between 3 – 13 February 2024.

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