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Are Bad Spending Habits Hereditary?

“Is bad spending habit hereditary?”

I received this question from a forum member this morning while I was at the office. But I couldn’t answer right away so I just typed in the question on my cellphone and thought of just answering it when I get home.

Anyway, the truth is I was still reflecting about the right answers by doing a self-assessment of my previous and current spending habits.

I knew my parents were very frugal as far as I could remember but I still asked myself, “did I inherit any bad spending habit from my parents?”

How My Parents Struggled Financially

I was often sick when I was a child. Most of the time, my father’s savings/emergency fund would oftentimes go back to zero as they always had to send me to a doctor and buy expensive medicines in the process.

Couple that with my school fees and other needs that my parents found really difficult to sustain. So spending above our means was not in my parents vocabulary.


But the worst happened when my father lost his managerial job at the Philippine Ports Authority after the People Power Revolution. If only my father “went with the flow” and accepted bribes and “gifts” from their clients, we would not have struggled financially. But that never crossed my father’s mind at all.

While the rest of his officemates and staff drove cars and lived in big houses, my father just continued riding the jeepneys and tricycles and rented an apartment shared with other relatives.

He used his relatively small retirement pay to start a couple of businesses that both failed in the process.  The first business (office furniture distribution) was a flop as his business partner just disappeared in thin air together with my father’s money. The second one was destroyed by a typhoon (a fishpen in Taal Lake).

So there really was no way my parents would have spent beyond our means because there was no money at all. We lived a very simple life. Very simple that our house was just the same size as a regular bedroom.

And because of this experience, we’ve learned to be content. Most of the times we would have one tuyo (or hawot in Batangas) each and one cup of steamed rice each per meal. Sometimes we had to settle for talbos ng kamote or malunggay for lunch or dinner.

We’ve Borrowed and Borrowed Money

Because we didn’t have a steady source of income and we had no more savings, my parents began to borrow money from relatives and friends to pay the bills. And this was the main reason why my mother had to leave the country and worked in Qatar for two “long” years. I was 10 years old and my younger brother was only 7 then.

While we learned how to take care of money we regularly received from our mother, it just wasn’t enough for our needs.  My parents kept on borrowing and borrowing money for our needs because we lacked other sources of income. We borrowed until my father went really sick.

So even if i did not inherit any bad spending habit from my parents, it was poverty, lack of proper financial education, and the most difficult moments in life that eventually developed my small wallet mentality.

I inherited the utang culture.

Overcoming the Hereditary Curse

And although my parents lived frugally and taught us not to buy things (and food!) that were not necessary, I was always praying that we will be able to settle all our debts and be financially free again.

Debts can be addicting and destructive at the same time. You lose trust of the people who believed in you. You become a talk of the town for not paying money you owe to someone. People curse you for being in debt.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, I’m still looking for the people I owed money before to apologize for not being able to pay them back immediately. But I hope to meet up with them again soon and restore everything, our friendships the most.

Bad money behaviors can be hereditary. But you need not point fingers at your parents or put all the blame on them for the hardships in life. It’s all a matter of decision to appreciate your net worth and your true intrinsic value. Use your core gifts to generate money and become responsible financially. Learn from people who went through the same situation as yours but have become successful today.

See your problems as a whole. Mend your past lack of financial responsibility. Your financial freedom is up to you and nobody else.

You can continue receiving motivational messages on personal finance by subscribing to BurnGutierrez.Com for free.

Join the OFW UsapangPiso Facebook Group and Forum to learn how to plan your finances the right way and how to grow your money in various financial instruments and investment vehicles such as stocks, mutual funds, UITF’s, bonds, money market, real estate, and others.

P.S. 1. Bro. Bo Sanchez appointed me as an investing coach for our young and new investors at the TrulyRichClub social site. It’s a fun, learning family with the purpose of “helping good people become rich”. I’m inviting you to join the TrulyRichClub too and email me at if you have any questions.

P.S. 2. Angelpreneur and EntrepChamp Paulo Tibig will be gracing our next webinar called “Make Your Business Idea Happen” on November 15, 2013 , Friday at 3PM (Philippine time). Paulo will be answering your questions about your business ideas, how to start or expand one, and how to successfully sustain it. To attend this FREE and LIVE Q&A sessions, please register here.

P.S. 3.  I’m inviting you to attend our financial coaching/Q&A session with Jess Emerson Uy, a Filipino financial consultant based in Singapore who conducts financial literacy seminars at the Philippine Embassy there, on October 9, 2013, 7PM at Starbucks Paseo de Roxas in Makati City.  This Q&A session dubbed as “Starting in Global Investing” will also be webcast LIVE over at the OFW UsapangPiso Webinar site. If you are based abroad and want to interact with Jess Uy live online, then register here. Those who are in Metro Manila may get in touch with Mr. Mon Lao at 09173262077 if you want to attend the coffeetable coaching sessions for FREE with Jess Uy at Starbucks Paseo de Roxas.

Photo credit: HowStuffWorks

4 thoughts on “Are Bad Spending Habits Hereditary?”

  1. Its one of those articles wherein the reader can feel the author’s thoughts and what a lot of us had gone through. Point is, there is always hope. Bless you sir for this eye opening article.

  2. nice one. actually I remembered talking to someone before and I said that like disease. bad financial habit is also hereditary… Now I know I said the right thing after reading your article…

  3. It’s good that you made it clear that it’s not hereditary in terms of genes where we have no control but hereditary in terms of influence. We must be careful what kind of example are we to our children, we don’t want them to inherit bad behaviour. Children’s behaviour are often reflections of how they perceive their parents.

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