Many financial advisors find themselves unwittingly playing the part of family counselor. Their clients, meanwhile, often don’t even realize the financial decisions they are wrestling with are governed by past experiences.

Take a story shared by Sonya Lutter, CFP®, professor of practice at Texas Tech and owner of EnLite, about a client who was tight-lipped on finances. During an art exercise, he created a pig, a reminder of his youth when he showed animals at the county fair. While reminiscing, he mentioned a long-forgotten incident when his parents sold the prize pig he’d labored to raise, yet he never saw a dime of the money. That’s when the lightbulb went on for his wife, who suddenly realized why he wanted to know where every penny goes.

For Sonya, it was a reminder about the importance of digging deep to find the root of people’s money behaviors. These breakthroughs are possible when financial advisors help break down barriers, and often it starts with a simple question: What’s your earliest money memory? 

Multigenerational money scripts can be passed down without being recognized, says Erin Wood, senior vice president for financial planning at Carson Group. When she saw her daughter displaying some overly frugal behaviors, she took a look at her own history.

“I developed a scarcity mindset from watching my parents struggle when I was a child,” she says. “Although we are comfortable, it can be hard for me to live in the moment when I fear things can change.”

Frank conversations are also important as advisors work with families who are navigating the impact of societal shifts on financial behavior. It’s crucial not to assume families have settled into traditional roles, notes Dr. Julie Ragatz, Vice President, Next Gen and Advisor Development Programs, at Carson Group.

“You have no idea what their dynamic is, nor how they are emotionally responding to changes that might be occurring,” she says. 

She recalls a life insurance salesman who assumed her husband was the breadwinner and made an off-base remark about helping her maintain her standard of living.

Fortunately, as all three noted, their career paths and others like them will serve as role models to show the next generation a variety of different partnerships.

In today’s episode, Sonya, Erin and Julie talk to Ana about having discussions with your kids about money and career decisions, tips for helping clients identify the origin of their financial behaviors, what freedom means to them and, as a bonus, the secret to making the best PB&J.

Key Takeaways

  • Having clients label the core values that motivate them can help point them to better money decisions. 
  • Always ask clarifying questions if a client is being ambiguous. 
  • Two great ways to help clients process: “Tell me more,” and “Did that decision have the outcome you expected?” 


“Their earliest money memory is one of the most telling things in a couple’s financial satisfaction. It can be very enlightening, yet we don’t often talk about it.” – Dr. Sonya Lutter 


Carson Group is committed to helping advisors as they work with clients navigating family dynamics. Schedule a consultation with our experts today. 

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