top of page

How Healthy Is Your Money DNA?

Everybody inherits distinctly unique DNA. We inherit our ancestors’ good or bad looks, their blue, brown, or hazel eyes, their height, their teeth, even their diseases. But did you know you can inherit your ancestors’ money habits as well?

The science of epigenetics, which studies how gene expression is modified by individual behavior and environmental factors, is revealing that patterns of thought and emotion, attitudes, and actions are passed down to later generations. Just as we inherit DNA that dictates our physical attributes, we also inherit what I call emotional DNA. This means along with grandma’s broad shoulders you might also have bequeathed her quick temper as well. Or her spendthrift attitude about money.

Here’s a story about a client of mine that shows exactly what I mean. “Emily” came to work with me specifically about her money issues. Although she was a high-income earner, she chronically spent more than she had. Always in the red, she was feeling anxious and empty and realized that something had to change. When I asked her to sum up her money pattern, she was very clear. “It comes in fast and it goes out even faster,” she said. “I can’t even tell you what I spend it all on.”

“Do you have a philosophy around money?” I asked. “What are your thoughts about it?”

“You can make a whole lot and it could be gone tomorrow,” she said, biting her lip nervously. “So, why bother saving it?” She shrugged.

This is exactly the kind of response that makes my ears prick up because it points to an inherited emotional pattern picked up from the family, not a behavior that is innate to the client. “Who in your family saved money and lost it?” I asked.

“My grandfather made a lot of money before the Great Depression. Like so many, he lost it overnight.” She laughed, ruefully. “He always said, ‘Enjoy it while it’s there, Emily. Don’t bother holding onto it. You can work hard and save your whole life and still lose everything.”

As we worked together it became clear that she was repeating the same money pattern her grandfather developed—the same money pattern her father had emulated. But instead of enjoying spending all her money all the time, the family pattern was making her anxious. She really wanted that nest egg. She wanted a quality home and the ability to take great vacations and still feel comfortable knowing she was financially taking care of herself.

In systemic work and constellations (a process that swiftly reveals and helps transform hidden issues arising from family, business, and other kinds of close-knit groups or systems), anxiety and other negative emotions are a common signs that a pattern is needing or wanting to change in the system. As we explored Emily’s family and her father and grandfather’s money habits, she realized that they had been aggressive risk-takers. As her own feelings and desires became clear, much to her surprise, she realized that she quite liked having money where she could see it. The idea of being wealthy appealed to her immensely.

When she recognized the old pattern that wanted to stop, she began to get excited about the new pattern that wanted to start: doing money differently. She hired a financial advisor to get help developing a solid plan that would put her on the road to monetary wealth. She found herself enjoying becoming a wise steward of money. As she began to pay attention to its worth and learned to control its flow and direction, money ceased to be a source of anxiety for her and instead became a source of pleasure.

So, what about you? Is money an easy commodity and a fulfilling part of your life? Or, like Emily and so many others in this world, do you have “money issues?”

If your answer is “Yes,” don’t despair. Money is one of the best places to start looking at your unconscious emotional DNA inheritance. When you shift your Money DNA, when you finally uncover your money patterns and learn to give money a place to flow to and a purpose to fulfill—your purpose, not somebody else’s—your life can change completely.

Wealth doesn’t just fall out of the sky and land in the laps of the lucky ones. Wealth does not flow from an unconscious state of mind reflecting a pattern of stuck-ness from a prior generation. It flows from a healthy, integrated state of mind that is cultivated consciously. To help you understand your personal Money DNA and create a healthier money mindset, there is a very simple systemic exercise that will reveal your money bandwidth and current state of mind. Once you know the pattern, then you can change it.

So, let’s get started!

  • First off, identify a pattern with money that you wish you could stop.

  • Now, take time to write down all the things you tell yourself about money. “Money doesn’t grow on trees. A penny saved is a penny earned.” We all have these automatic sayings about money, and it’s amazing how deeply these sentences affect us.

  • Next, notice your feelings around money. Does just thinking about it make you apprehensive? Jot your feelings down.

  • What actions do you take around money? Do you spend it freely? Pinch every penny? Wish you had more? Make a list.

Now, you have an understanding of your inner financial world.

Next, I want you to write down where you first heard the sentences you use around money. Who did those words come from? Your actions with money, whose money patterns do you follow the most closely? Try to identify originating events surrounding money in your family. Did someone have a windfall and blow it? Was someone killed over money? If you can identify patterns and events from prior generations, you’ve just identified the origins of your thoughts, feelings, and actions around money—your Money DNA. And if you don’t have any knowledge of your ancestral history, that’s okay. Simply look at your own patterns with money. They came from someone. Being able to pin a name on the source of your money DNA is fun, but it isn’t necessary.

Finally, I want you to imagine something good that you really want to do with your money. Your deepest heart’s desire. Maybe it’s to have a certain amount of money in the bank. Maybe it’s to go on that dream vacation. Your heart’s desire embodies the new pattern of money that is trying to emerge through you. Allow yourself to feel what it would be like to achieve that heart’s desire. The clearer your heart’s desire, the more you can emotionally invest in it, and the stronger the fuel to get you all the way there. Now you are building new Money DNA—a new pattern that will pull you beyond your excuses, reasons, and patterns of staying stuck. Your awareness of the old pattern and its source, your heart’s desire, and your new thoughts, feelings, and actions are now steering you toward success and a whole new relationship with money. Yes, you may have inherited a library of thoughts, feelings, and actions around money, but your legacy is to reframe money challenges into financial success, one new thought, feeling, and action at a time.

Judy Wilkins-Smith, author of Decoding Your Emotional Blueprint: A Powerful Guide to Transformation Through Disentangling Multigenerational Patterns, is a highly-regarded Systemic Work & Constellations expert, coach, motivational speaker and founder of System Dynamics for Individuals & Organizations.

For more information:


bottom of page