Deep in Our DNA: The Generational Impact of Our Ancestors’ Money Stories
by Connie Vanderzanden
In the US, March is National Women’s History Month. For the past few years, I have used this month as a reminder to pause and reflect on those who came before me and to be grateful to them for their strength and voice that help craft the world we live in today.
Not only have women experienced amazing strides in the last 50 years, it is remarkable when you ponder what the life of a woman was even like, way back when. You may be able to remember stories from your grandmother, I know I do. (I also remember meeting my great-great-grandmother, but I don’t know much about her life.)
The work I have done in the last five years around mindset, and how that plays with our relationship with money, has brought to light another reason to be aware of our history... specifically around how our family lineage interacted with money.
We learned how to “do” or interact with money from the people who raised us. First, we watched, then imitated the action, often without considering the reason or why behind the action. It became an ingrained pattern, like brushing teeth or washing hands.
Our parents learned that behavior from their parents, who learned it from theirs, and so on. In fact, my Somatic Money coach recently taught me that we carry up to seven generations of subconscious beliefs around with us.
Seven generations! My world was rocked when I first heard this.
For me that would be my family lineage starting in the early 1800s. My awareness of my family history only goes back to the 1930s and even that is a bit scattered. Even if we don’t have our family’s exact stories to guide us, we can use historical events to fill in some of the blanks.
Today I invite you on an adventure of exploration. To explore how history shaped our families’ experience with money creating the subconscious beliefs that we carry in our DNA today. Once you are aware, then you can start recognizing where that story pops up in your own relationship with money.
Below, I’ve listed out a few historical items that I know have shaped my DNA and subconscious beliefs around money. I have also included a couple of questions to ask yourself -- perhaps even journal around -- to increase your awareness. Read through the rest of the article and then start your exploration process. That may include talking with some family members or doing some online genealogy research (if that’s of interest to you). It could also be as simple as journaling and some meditation or conversations with your spirit team.
Remember, our families may not have been in the United States seven generations ago. You may need to look at some historical facts from other countries to get the full picture.
United States Historical Facts
As you take a moment to consider what subconscious beliefs are hiding in your DNA, take a look at these historical facts. How did these items affect your family? What stories or beliefs were created about money? Do you recognize any patterns or behaviours in yourself?
Between 1819-1896 there were eight times the U.S. had a recession resulting in several bank failures. A recession is when economic growth is slowed or decreases. Businesses react to this by cutting costs, lowering wages, or ceasing to hire new employees. Lower wages, less money to live on. We can survive a recession but it is definitely about tightening our budgetary belts and postponing “things”. To have that uncertainty though AND the failure and closure of banks, it is no wonder we may have had family members saving money under mattresses and not trusting banks. The sad thing is, historically recessions happen several times during a century.
Mentor Moment: The Suffrage movement of the 1800s is still playing out in my DNA. Showing up in my subconscious stories as the fierce desire to have my own money, my own resources. Even having a bit of anger around it. There is still a piece of my story that questions whether or not I have equal rights to the resources I have with my husband. All of this comes from what the Suffrage movement fought so hard for. If you want to learn more about this time check out the 2015 movie, Suffragette. A story based in London that follows Maud, a working wife and mother as she becomes an activist alongside women from all walks of life. This was a time when women didn’t have rights to their children or to own property, and the power of men controlled EVERYTHING. Eye-opening movie.
1878, the Woman Suffrage Amendment was proposed in the U.S. Congress. It would take forty-one years later for the 19th Amendment to pass, in 1919 - it would take almost another year for ratification before it went into law. Did you know that even 41 years later, it is worded exactly the same as the original 1878 Amendment was? Consider - more than 41 years women fought for equal rights. How is that fight showing up in your story?
1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany. Another U.S. economic recession followed the end of WWI 1920-1921. Not only does each of the wars have an effect on our money stories, so did the recessions.
August 26, 1920 ratification of the Woman Suffrage Amendment was finally completed and American Women won full voting rights. That means as of this summer, it has been 100 years since we won the right to vote. Women finally have a voice, but after being kept small for over 50 years when the Suffragette movement began, did ALL women step firmly into that space? In my family’s stories the answer was no. What about you?
October 1929, the worst economic crisis to happen in the United States occurred when the stock market crashed resulting in the Great Depression (1929-1939). Leading to a quarter of the U.S. workforce unemployed by 1933. Besides the Suffragette movement (fighting for our rights and voices to be heard), this is the next major societal event to affect our money DNA. My grand-parents experienced this historical moment. This is where my definition of hard work comes from. How did this impact your family?
Mentor Moment: For me, this shows up in how I buy food and household resources. It is unreasonable for me to not have extra on hand, to have reserves “just in case” of a disaster. My grandmother who experienced the Great Depression passed this mindset down to me. Now that I realize where this comes from, I have backed off having so much “extra” sitting around.
1932, Amelia Earhart flies solo across the Atlantic. While this may not have an impact on your money story I do wonder if this had an impact on women stepping up into saying yes to their passion for adventure and into the areas once dominated by men. What do you think?
1939, World War II begins after Germany invades Poland. The United States didn’t enter the war until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Again, shortages and men leaving their families to fight the war had a major impact on our economy, on money, and on the roles, women now played in society. What stories do you recall from your family about this time period?
From 1954-1968 the African American Civil Rights movement took place, resulting in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. During that time we saw strong women rise to the cause and fight for a level of independence they still didn’t have, despite the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Women like Rosa Parks, who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks’ arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted 381 days and ended segregation on buses. This happened during the time my parents were becoming young adults, had gotten married and I arrived in 1967.
1981, Sandra Day O’Connor is the first woman on the Supreme Court. Now I actually remember this historical moment. Finally, a door is open to having a woman’s opinion and voice as part of the legal system. O’Connor is best known for being THE vote that upheld the court’s earlier decision around Roe vs. Wade. While she voted in line with her conservative nature, she consistently considered the cases based on the letter of the law and how it followed the intentions set by the U.S. Constitution.
1988, HR 5050 -- the Women’s Business Ownership Act -- is passed due to the support and efforts of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). While there were no laws prohibiting loans to women entrepreneurs, the facts showed that banks were simply not issuing loans to women business owners. Probably because at the time women were required to have a male relative as their co-signer on business loans. What spurred this into action was when a widowed woman was able to qualify for a loan with the help of her 17-year-old son as co-signer. If you want to learn more about this, here is a pretty good article about it. I can’t even imagine having my husband co-sign a business loan with me. Remember, my Suffragette DNA was boldly claiming this business as my own, and I would be damned if I took help from a man to do it!
The Financial Crisis of 2007-08 wreaked havoc in financial markets around the world. Triggered by the collapse of the housing bubble in the U.S., resulting in the collapse of one of the biggest investment banks in the world and required government bailouts.
Mentor Moment: This last historical event is still impacting people today. With the housing bubble collapse, many families filed for bankruptcy that could be impacting their current relationship with money. I even spoke with someone that remembers the increased gas prices that occurred. She mentioned that event still impacts her buying decisions. For me, it shifted my business from providing services at the clients’ office and traveling all over the Portland Metro area, to a virtual office. Clients didn’t like the change, but they also didn’t like paying the new travel fee I had to add to help cover the extra costs. Often businesses are slow to react to a financial crisis or recession, wanting to be a low-cost option so they don’t lose business, resulting in a nominal profit margin that’s unsustainable over the long term… often forcing businesses to close. Are you using the numbers of your business to help determine factors that a slow-down in the economy is happening?
In honor of National Women’s History month, I encourage you to explore how historical events influenced the lives of your family and how that affected their relationship with money. I realize this is not a “normal” conversation to have with your family and there may be some discomfort from them to have an open conversation about money. By asking about historical facts (how did they live, what did they experience) you ultimately uncover words and actions that involve their thoughts and reactions to using money as a resource.
Awareness is the first step required to shift our relationship with money. Would you be willing to share what you discover? I’d actually love to hear about it -- feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!