Click below to listen to Episode 58 – What’s Your Money History?

What’s Your Money History?

How does your money history affect your money future?

Money is an emotional topic, and everyone has a money history, whether they realize it or not. Bob and Mary Jo discuss their financial past and how it changed the way that they view money today. They explore money histories and how they impact behavior.

Money can bring up feelings and memories from the past that often make us uncomfortable, so they ask some pertinent questions including:

  • How did money impact your life while growing up? How did it shape you?
  • How were you influenced by money or maybe the lack of it?
  • What are the patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that you witnessed about money?

HOSTED BY: Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA® and Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®

Mentioned In This Episode

Christian Financial Advisors
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Bob Barber, CWS®, CKA®
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Mary Jo Lyons, CFP®, CKA®

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Bob: Welcome to Christian Financial Perspectives, a weekly podcast where we talk about ways to integrate your faith with your finances. This is Bob Barber.

Mary Jo: And I’m Mary Jo Lyons.

Bob: Are you ready to learn how to apply biblical wisdom to everyday financial decisions?

Mary Jo: Join us as we look at integrating your faith with your finances. If it’s your first time listening, welcome to our podcast, and if you’re a returning listener, welcome back.

Bob: Deuteronomy 32:7, “Remember the days of long ago. Think about the generations past. Ask your father and he will inform you. Inquire of your elders, and they will tell you.” So on today’s episode of Christian Financial Perspectives, we’re going to be exploring our money histories and how that impacts all our behaviors, including mine. We’re going to tell you about our personal money story, and why we have a money history, Mary Jo and I both, and how money impacted our life growing up. So we hope as you listen to this, you’ll be able to relate to how it shaped us, how we were influenced by money, or maybe the lack of it. What are the patterns, the beliefs, the behaviors that we witness, and what have you witnessed about money? So before we get into the money histories, it’s interesting to see that money itself has a history.

Mary Jo: You know, Bob, I found a little bit of trivia regarding money as we were putting together the podcast. I thought it was quite interesting.

Bob: Oh, I love this stuff you’re going to share. It’s really great.

Mary Jo: Did you know that China created the world’s first paper money?

Bob: No, I didn’t.

Mary Jo: Another really interesting one is the Inca. They built a great empire without the use of money. From the age of 15, Inca males were required to provide physical labor to the state for a set number of days. They built public buildings, palaces, roads, all kinds of physical labor they were required to do and in return, the government provided all the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, tools, housing. That kind of relates to today, and that’s probably a whole other podcast, but that’s kind of interesting. The idea of work for money.

Bob: It’s different than collecting welfare. Most definitely.

Mary Jo: Yes, yes. And in medieval times, medieval merchants developed an early version of the credit card. It was called a tally stick. On each of the sticks, they broke them in half. They marked on each of them. And so the debtor took one part of the stick and the person that owed the money took the other part of the stick. And when they paid it back, they brought their sticks back together and scratched through the marks.

Bob: Where did you find this stuff?

Mary Jo: Google is a wonderful tool.

Bob: Oh yeah. Okay.

Mary Jo: Even in Russia, in Czarist Russia, they created a tax payable only in animal fur. That’s interesting.

Bob: Well that wouldn’t go very well with the animal activists today.

Mary Jo: No, it wouldn’t.

Bob: You know, Paul played a key role in the creation of the early American currency. He was one of the colonies’ premier silversmiths. So, he designed the engraving plates for the first continental currency. Now, Mary Jo, you got this information for me and I did not know that either. This is really fun stuff. The first gold rush in American history, guess where that took place? It wasn’t in Colorado or Nevada. It was in North Carolina. Not even California. I didn’t know that. By the early 19th century, more than 30,000 North Carolineans were mining for gold. You know, I’ve never heard this, I guess. Did you find this or did you know this already from your history book?

Mary Jo: No, I lived in North Carolina, and I had no idea. And in fact, Charlotte, where we lived, was one of the first mints where they formed coins, which I didn’t know either. Obviously money has an incredible history.

Bob: So in the early 19th century, it was the largest profession behind farming?

Mary Jo: In the state of North Carolina.

Bob: Wow. I never knew. Well now we all know our history, don’t we?

Mary Jo: Absolutely. This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you have an interest, I encourage you to go look it up because there’s all kinds of interesting facts on the history of money. And you think about it, every country that uses its own currency has its own history.

Bob: Yes.

Mary Jo: You know, I think Bob, that it’s safe to say that money’s an emotional topic.

Bob: No…Money’s emotional? [Laughing].

Mary Jo: It can be. [Laughing]

Bob: I never would have thought that. [Laughing]

Mary Jo: It’s emotional for many reasons. It brings up feelings and memories from our past that make us uncomfortable a lot of the times. Many of us were raised that money, it’s like politics and religion, and conversation topics best avoided in polite company. So a lot of us never really learn how to talk about money without conflict because we just didn’t do it. Money conversations, they can be an emotional battlefield. I’m thinking you know about that.

Bob: Mmm hmm. Are we gonna be transparent here today?

Mary Jo: Yes we are.

Bob: Hey listeners out there in podcast land. We’re just like you.

Mary Jo: That’s right.

Bob: None of us are perfect, so just stay with us.

Mary Jo: This is all because we all have a money history or baggage that we carry around with us. I know I do. Since Christian Financial Perspectives is all about how we can utilize the Bible for wisdom about money, we thought it would be helpful to explore some of the emotions we feel about money and then we might be better equipped to look for wisdom on how to best deal with some of these issues. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about our money stories, and next week we’re going to explore our money styles. So stay tuned. That one’s going to be another interesting one. So did you know you also had a money style? To understand why we view money like we do, we first have identify and examine our relationship with money. How do you feel about money? What do you believe about money? How do you use money? “Why is this important?” You may ask. Your thoughts and beliefs drive your emotions, and your emotions drive your actions. Your actions lead to your results, your financial results, to where you are right now in your money journey.

Bob: Can I say that one more time? What you just said? So your thoughts and beliefs drive your emotions, and your emotions drive your actions. I think that’s really good.

Mary Jo: Absolutely. We’re just like you. We also have money histories. So in the nature of transparency, we thought it would be interesting to share some of that with you. So Bob, what’s your family’s legacy regarding money? We all have one. I know I certainly do.

Bob: Well, I do have a history definitely. And I first one to say that I grew up with an incredible, wonderful, loving dad, but he was taught some things back in college in the 1950s that really shaped my view of money later as I saw how what he was taught could be setting yourself up for failure. So what was he taught? Well, he was taught that one of the best ways to get wealthy was by owning your own business. I believe in that. I believe in free enterprise and in real estate, which is a good, you know, good way to make money by hard work. But he was also taught using a term back then and, Mary Jo, had you heard this term growing up too?

Mary Jo: No, I haven’t.

Bob: OPM. Okay, so my dad always used this term called OPM. It meant Other People’s Money or using banks and savings and loans. Back then, you remember it was called the savings and loan?

Mary Jo: Absolutely. I remember the crash of the savings and loan.

Bob: Yes. So I’m going to share that with you later, but he was taught to use OPM and accumulate as much real estate as you possibly could no matter how much leverage and debt it meant taking on. Now, that’s a scary thought when you think about that. I mean OPM was a term I heard over and over growing up, and it was the way to prosperity and that was a belief system. It wasn’t just my dad, but it was the belief of a whole generation back then that real estate would always go up, up, up, but never down. Now I could see a lot of people were starting to feel that way here. That is never going to go down. And by the way, we’re from Central Texas, and I can remember growing up as a boy going with my dad to see all the different properties we owned and how they were doing. Besides accumulating as much real estate as he could, he also owned a large real estate company with numerous brokers. He was a huge appraiser too. He appraised many properties on top of all that. He had a large staff to serve him and take care of him, and I just don’t know how he got all the energy to do what he did, but he did. He started in the real estate profession right out of college in the late 1950s and continued until he was over 70 years old. My dad passed away four years ago, but he loved real estate. In my younger years, watching the way he and his business partners and friends did business started to shape my mode of thinking about money and using OPM, other people’s money, until I saw a huge flaw in it and how that way of thinking about money totally devastated my dad and so many of his close friends and business acquaintances in the 1980s. Because in the 1980s, real estate crashed and they all lost a lifetime of accumulating properties because they leveraged themselves so much that their plans for retirement in the mid 1980s of having millions of dollars in accumulated real estate holdings, just totally class when the markets did.

Bob: I watched these great men that were some of the nicest guys you would ever meet one by one, literally Mary Jo, declare bankruptcy.

Mary Jo: Such a sad story, Bob.

Bob: It was devastating. Most of them were in their mid fifties to early sixties and they lost everything because they were over leveraged, including my own dad, and he was such a wonderful father. And before the crash, he owned numerous apartments, rental homes. I remember it was somewhere around 25 to 30 rental homes he owned. As these values declined in the 80s below loan values and vacancies came about, the payments, because the leverage could not be made. And I watched all this in bewilderment, and it shaped the way I thought about money going forward and that leverage and real estate and overleveraging in my early twenties was not the way to do it. I never wanted to go through what I saw happen to my dad and so many of his close friends and business acquaintances.

Mary Jo: When we were talking about the show, I shared with you my feelings on the word leverage or margin. When I first got into the financial services business was back in before 2000, and in 2000 it was Y2K and it was the technology boom. As a young broker in the business at that point in time, I worked at Charles Schwab. For example, and we had a lot of clients that used margin to buy more stocks on, and they all wanted to load up on the tech stocks and the telecom stocks and they used margin in their accounts in order to buy more. And then when it crashed, they all had margin calls, and they were forced to liquidate or come up with cash and this bankrupted a lot of investors. So, I’ve always cringed at that word because it makes me think of gambling and I know that it’s a technique and a lot of investors do use it, but leverage is one of those things can become a real slippery slope. It’s a tool, but you have to use it in reason, just like you’ve shared.

Bob: We’re moving into our new home now, and I’m using leverage to lift a lot of things. I mean, I’m using, you know, the hand trucks and the dolly and I’m using leverage, but I’m not over leveraging. I’m not trying to lift 2000 pounds with that. I’m lifting 250 pounds with that because if the leverage doesn’t work, it’s not going to come crashing on me because it’s not that much. So, I’m not saying that leverage is all bad, but over leveraging, oh my goodness. It really shaped the way I thought about money in the future, at such an early age, seeing how leverage can hurt you. And also it shaped how I felt about real estate and that real estate, it can crash. Using other people’s money and the bank and over leveraging is not the way to build a real estate portfolio. And what’s amazing is I’m seeing all this happen again here in Central Texas because we basically missed that crash of 2008, and it’s been like 30 years since our last real correction in real estate here. And I can see people are becoming way over confident in paying outlandish prices just like they did before the crash in the mid eighties all the way up and down the I-35 corridor. And I can see you want to say something in the middle there.

Mary Jo: Well, when you think about it and you see all these huge homes and so many of them right now in that area, all I can think about is 100% financing. And you think about what that did in 2008 and it wasn’t so much that the real estate came down, but people got into trouble or got laid off and then they had to go to try to sell their house and it wasn’t worth what they owed on it. Just look at the longterm impact that had on the economy. Gah, there’s so much wisdom here.

Bob: There is. Mary Jo, in the 1980s right here where we live in New Braunfels, between Austin and San Antonio, you know, it’s one of the hottest spots in the nation right now. I mean we’ve been the second fastest growing city of our size for about the last five to seven years.

Mary Jo: It’s amazing the growth in that area.

Bob: It is. In the 80s, it started doing this and it crashed and it took five to seven years just to get back to a break even point. And I mean, they were selling homes. I remember in a subdivision, this is cheap when you hear this today, but they were selling homes at $130,000 to $140,000 in a subdivision right here in town called Summerwood. And we came in and they were building homes at $80,000 and $90,000 so you know, you think about the percentage just a year or two later, they could build a home that cheap because it crashed so hard. So it took many years for it to get back up to where they were just at a break even point. And this reminds me, though, about this over leveraging of Proverbs 22:27 as I was thinking about this, “If you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched out from under you. And that really affected, you know, my money history and going forward is do not over leverage yourself. So Mary Jo, I know you have a story.

Mary Jo: Well I do. I’m just like everybody else, you know. So, money shapes us from an early age. My mother, she was born in 1929. What happened in 1929, Bob?

Bob: Huge crash. It all came crashing down.

Mary Jo: It did. She was born the youngest of 11 on a farm in Indiana in the first year of the Great Depression. And you just think about how that shaped so many of our clients and our listeners and their mindset about money for the rest of their lives. Her father lost the farm and they were forced to move into town when she was a girl. Her older siblings had to go to work to help support the family. Interestingly, back in that day, they were a big Catholic family and in those days and still today, a lot of Catholics believe that they want one of their family members to become a nun or become a priest or join the convent. And she was the one chosen and she went to go live with an aunt who was a nun and she grew up in a convent boarding school. The convent was part of the Franciscan order and thus the nuns had taken a vow of poverty. So she grew up with less is more attitude. When she left the convent, she married my dad after college. They met in college, but she had no real history of money other than that it was scarce and you didn’t need much. She also had no concept of budgeting or how money worked. She never had to deal with any of this. Then my dad took over and continued to pay the bills. Her experience with the nuns taught her that prayer was the answer to everything. So whenever there was a struggle with money in our house growing up, and there were plenty, her answer was silent prayers. She never spoke about it much. She just prayed about it. And that’s a good thing. I don’t want to underestimate the power of prayer.

Bob: This is a really interesting story, though, coming back into your money history. Wow.

Mary Jo: It is, and I do believe in the power of prayer, but there were overwhelming medical bills when I was a baby due to some health issues that my brothers had, and my parents were finally able to buy a small house, but they had to choose their location very carefully. It had to be close enough to walk to work, to walk to church, walk to the grocery store, walk to the doctor, etc. So, we didn’t have a car until I was in the fourth grade. And interestingly, both my parents worked. They both worked two jobs, but they also coordinated their schedules so that one of them was always home with us. We never had to rely on babysitters because they couldn’t afford that. But they walked to their two jobs or took the bus.

Bob: And this was all in Corpus Christi, right?

Mary Jo: This was all in Corpus Christi.

Mary Jo: It’s funny how we don’t think about this type of sacrifice these days.

Bob: No, not at all.

Mary Jo: And I’m sure that’s not true in all communities, but we never think about public transportation or walking to the doctor. So our priorities have changed so much. And what’s interesting is my husband was raised very differently. He was an only child and quite spoiled when it came to money. I’m not talking out of school. It’s just something we share openly because it impacted why we got in financial services and our careers later in life.

Bob: Now I know why Mike and I relate so well together.

Mary Jo: And you know what’s funny is he had chores, he had responsibilities, but even though we had chores and he had a small lawn cutting business and those kinds of things and his mom always made him go get summer jobs, but they also continued to foot his spending bills, even until after college. He had a credit card that belonged to his parents, and he used it and they never stopped him from using it until after we were married. In fact, back in our dating life, I always thought it was he that was paying for our dates. It didn’t occur to me that his mom and dad were footing the bill for all that. Who knew? I didn’t.

Bob: You never thanked them, huh?

Mary Jo: No. But later on I did thank them cause we enjoyed a good life. But it became very clear in short order that he didn’t know how to budget, and I didn’t really know how to budget that much. We began to live way beyond our means. We had older friends that were more financially secure. We had moved to Austin. We moved to Houston, but we always wanted to come back home to see our friends and family.

Bob: Wanted to keep up with all those friends, right?

Mary Jo: We did. And we never thought about how much the gasoline was costing, how much the car maintenance was costing, and all the cost of all that travel back and forth. Yeah, we were newly married. We wanted to accumulate stuff. So we had lots of fun in our twenties and thirties. We accumulated stuff. We did a lot of travel. We ate out and we put it all on credit cards. We woke up one day, and we’re like, whoa. We had creditors calling us. We were behind on everything. It was quite a crisis. There was help though, and his parents, they helped us out. They bailed us out, gave us money to pay it all off. But because there wasn’t, you know, there was no skin in the game for us. We weren’t held accountable. We ended up doing it all over again.

Bob: Oh goodness. That happens to so many people.

Mary Jo: It does. We had to do it on our own. So, after years of hard work, we went to consumer credit counseling. We tore up our credit cards, and we learned to live on cash. It took a long time to dig out of this hole. We were doing without. We were living on cash, and it was hard.

Bob: Now I know why you’re so adamant about budgeting.

Mary Jo: I am. And we pay cash for everything. And it took us four years to get out from underneath that debt. That’s why I made the move to financial services. I didn’t know what a stock was and a bond, but I knew I wanted a different life. And I learned about financial planning and how important it is to understand your money history and how it impacts your decision making. So now it’s my passion to help other people avoid the pitfalls that my husband and I learned, and that’s why I love financial planning.

Bob: So even though y’all were making really good money between the two of you, probably, you still got in that credit debt?

Mary Jo: We did. Yeah. As we’ve mentioned on the show before, the love of money is the root of all evil, so the Bible says. Money conflicts have ruined more marriages than pretty much anything else. It almost ruined mine. We didn’t talk well about money. We fought well about money, and I’m grateful that with patience and time we learned to communicate about it better. We stayed committed, and we both worked at it. With time and motivation, we were able to educate ourselves and learn from our mistakes. Now, we can communicate effectively – usually. Our filing system is still a challenge, and we plan. We continue to budget. We have regular meetings to review everything together, and we talk about our financial priorities and what we want that to look like.

Bob: And tell our podcast listeners how long y’all have been married.

Mary Jo: 37 years.

Bob: Amen to that. Rachael and I’ve been married 35, and it’s interesting as I was listening to you tell your story and about Mike too. I grew up, as you know, leverage was just fine and I was kind of spoiled myself. I wasn’t just kind of. I was, but I think I could have gone down that path had I not seen how the leverage through the real estate in that massive bubble breaking. I think I could’ve gone down that path myself, but then I saw how leverage hurt so much. So I want to tell you, it’s funny and you mentioned your story, I could relate to some of that. I didn’t go there, thank goodness, but I could see myself possibly going that route had the real estate market not crashed and I saw my dad go through that. Does that make sense?

Mary Jo: Absolutely. Glad you didn’t have to because it was an expensive lesson.

Bob: Yeah. Yes.

Mary Jo: As most of them are.

Bob: There you go, folks. Those are our stories. I want you to think about your story. Was there a defining moment around money that shaped your future? Has your family experienced sudden wealth or financial success or just the opposite of that? What memories do you have of your parents discussing money, and I know that can be painful with some people. My parents, they never discussed it by the way. I never saw my parents talk about it. Did they argue about money or did one parent have a different view on spending and saving than the other?

Mary Jo: Bob, there were a lot of dishes slammed in my house growing up. That’s how they communicated. Mom slammed doors.

Bob: Thanks for your transparency because, Mary Jo, I have a feeling that some other folks may be able to relate to that. And what are your earliest memories about money? Mine was they just gave me a lot, and my grandparents were the same way. They just say, “Here, you know, go spend it.” And so there was no budget. There was no concept of it. But at the same time, my dad taught me that free enterprise is absolutely awesome, and so I was always trying to make money at the same time. Do you have any unhappy memories about money from your childhood until now? What emotions did your family associate with money? How would you define the status of your family growing up? Were they considered rich, poor, or middle class?

Mary Jo: As you were going through those questions to ask our listeners, it just kind of occurred to me and this would be such a great primer for newlyweds and those that are engaged before they actually get married. As advisors, we are semi counselors and we play that role a lot, but just think about that. If you’ve got young adults at home, I encourage you to have him listen to this podcast and if they have a significant other that they’re thinking about spending a life with, they should talk about this before they walk down the aisle and make sure that they have a vision for what they want their financial future to look like.

Bob: Absolutely, Mary Jo, and it was interesting you came up with this topic. I’m going to tell everyone, Mary Jo came up with this topic because it’s a great topic. And just this topic helped my wife and I of 35 years. We had a great discussion about our background and our money histories just today before we did this podcast. It was a great conversation, Mary Jo, and I’m glad we had that, so I’m so glad you thought of this. Amen. Yeah.

Mary Jo: Well thanks, Bob. We encourage you, our listeners, to sit down with your spouse. Talk through this if you haven’t already done so. Explore your past, and talk about what you’d like to see change in your future about money and its impact on your home. What do you want your money future to look like? What a great question. Unfortunately our society works against us sometimes. We live in a time that’s filled by consumerism. We are bombarded by constant marketing that tempts us to buy, and it’s mostly stuff. It’s stuff we need, but it’s stuff we want. We think this stuff is the missing link that will help us fill that void. But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t fill that void. What it’s doing instead, it’s taking away your power. Money has power. Well, maybe it’s us that gives money the power, but without money we lose our power.

Bob: Yeah, I know what you mean. You know, so many of us, we have this mindset even though we have plenty that we don’t have enough. So how do we go from a lack mentality to an abundance mentality? We first have to understand our history with money, and the good thing is that you can change your money future. You can’t change history, but we can learn from it and change the future. All it takes is honesty, clarity, and a desire to change.

Mary Jo: As advisors, Bob and I believe it’s really important to understand our client’s money history. Before we can provide prudent and sound financial advice, we need to understand more about our client’s money past, their money history, and how this is influencing their current financial situation – their current financial decisions – and it’s not always easy. It requires developing a trusting relationship, and that happens over time with our clients. But we also want to share that what is said in our office stays in our office or on the phone, as it may be, since we do a lot of virtual meetings. We hold your stories confidentially, but we do understand that we all have a money history, and it’s a judgment free zone.

Bob: We can say, with as many years of experience that we have, we have heard it all.

Mary Jo: Oh, we have.

Bob: So be sure to tune in to next week’s Christian Financial Perspectives because we’re going to explore your money style. Like, are you a hoarder? A saver? A spender? Or a steward? And we’re going to look at these money styles and talk about what they mean and how it impacts our emotional reactions regarding money.

Mary Jo: You’ve been listening to Christian Financial Perspectives. Join us next week as we explore more about how to apply biblical wisdom to your financial situations.

Bob: To make sure you don’t miss any of our podcasts, you can subscribe to Christian Financial Perspectives on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher. To learn more about integrating your faith with your finances, visit out website at or call 830-609-6986.

Mary Jo: That’s all for now until next week.


Comments from today’s show are for informational purposes only and not to be considered investment advice or recommendations to buy or sell any company that may have been mentioned or discussed. The opinions expressed are solely those of the hosts, Bob Barber and Mary Jo Lyons. Bob and Mary Jo do not provide tax advice and encourage you to seek guidance from a tax professional. Investment advisory services offered through Christian Investment Advisors Inc. DBA Christian Financial Advisors, a registered investment advisor.