In The Opposite of Spoiled, Ron Lieber referenced several studies that showed that as early as age 3, children had begun making assumptions about class as it relates to money. By Age 6, children had begun keeping score of possessions and judging accordingly. By Age 11 or so, many had begun to assume that ambition was linked to social class. And by Age 14 and older, many believed that there was a larger economic system at work that constrained movement between classes. Thus, children are making assumptions, which could have unintended consequences in future behavior.

This study reinforced that beginning the conversation early about family values and beliefs around class and money is important, although conversations about actual dollar figures is best tailored more age appropriately.

Conversely, it is never too late. Many individuals have changed their lives at ages 30, 40 and 50. In many cases, simply introducing someone into the family who provides coaching, tools for planning and communication, and a safe place in which to begin the discussion has had tremendous impact.

As one individual relayed, for years his family’s culture was one of knowing that the money conversation was private. So private that they didn’t even talk about it with each other. Finally being able to explore the emotional impact of money and ask the questions that had been locked inside of him was like a big sigh of relief. It was the equivalent of stepping out of the green closet and acknowledging the elephant in the room.