Personal Finance » Saving

Is saving money nature or nurture?

I have four young children and they all have their own little unique personalities. Despite having the same upbringing, the same parents and the same environment, they are all unique little people.

My son Robbie, even at the age of three was already hoarding coins he found in the house, in the car and out in public. Any money he finds, he puts them away in his piggy bank. Even now, when Grandma gives him a ten-dollar bill to buy Slurpees for him and his brothers, he wants the change to put into his little bank. He has already filled 8 piggy banks with change and according to my calculations, if Robbie keeps going at this rate, he is going to wind up with $14,806,115 by the time he turns 60 years of age. Now that’s impressive. Robbie is already starting to display having what I call the Savings Gene.

The savings gene

The savings gene simply refers to someone who has a natural ability to save. Although there may not be an actual gene, there are people who just get it. You might call it the savings habit instead of the savings gene. Savers are typically people who get the principles of thrift. They spend within their means. They spend less money than they make. Do you have the savings gene?

In my experience, very few people have the savings gene – the natural tendency to save. The data today clearly shows that not enough Canadians are saving money. The savings rate in Canada has been under 5% for the past 15 years and there is little sign of change. Not only are people not saving money but they are going into debt because they spend more money than they make.

This all shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since saving money is not natural for most people. Spending is more natural and definitely more fun. The illusion is that spending may make you feel rich but it actually makes most people poorer. If you think about it, spending makes someone else rich. The only thing that will make you rich is by saving money.

Time to develop the savings gene

There is no question that some people, albeit few, are born with the knack to save. That being said, for those that are not born with the savings gene, don’t lose hope because you can learn the behavior. Steven Covey says it takes 21 days to create a habit. I believe it takes 21 months to create the discipline of savings.

I think learning about money and how to save it is an essential life tool. It should be something taught in school in addition to math and geography and history. Instead, it is left to the parents who may themselves would not consider them good savers. It’s hard to teach what you don’t know yourself.

Good savings can rub off on others. I believe that Robbie’s savings tendency is not purely natural. In our house, we are not afraid to talk about money and the consequence of spending and the benefits of saving. Because my wife and I are savers, I hope that will rub off on our kids and I see this with many other successful savers. Many of their kids become savers too. The really neat thing about learning to save is watching my other kids who want to be just like their older brother.

Saving is all about discipline

It really is all about discipline. The only people saving money are either people who have the natural discipline or their discipline is forced through workplace savings programs. If you don’t have natural discipline, then you have to force that discipline by paying yourself first which is a simple concept where you save first through automatic deductions from your paycheque or bank account and then you spend what is left over. If you try to spend first and save later, most people don’t have anything left to save.

Take part in the saving challenge

Do you remember when I said it takes 21 months to create an ongoing savings habit? My challenge is simple. I challenge you to start an automatic savings plan this week either through your bank account or through your work. It matters less what you put away each month or each paycheque. What matters most is you put something away. I further challenge you to keep that going for at least 21 months.

Has anyone done this before and found success? If so, type in some words of encouragement by sharing your story below!

Check out my principles of saving if you need a little help developing the savings habit.


  1. Jamie

    I was always born to be a saver. I saved everything and I really liked to collect stuff too. I think some kids need a little nurturing. But most of all, I think people who spend more come from families that spend too much on their kids’ every wish and want.

  2. Marie at FamilyMoneyValues

    What’s your theory on why two kids, from the same parents, raised in the same household, during the same timeframes are so different as far as saving goes?

    My brother and I fit this scenario. He’s broke, I’m not.

  3. Grace Beckett

    It is quite a challenge to face the conflict of whether or not to save. I used voices in my head having a constant argument when it comes to saving or spending. However, I realised, I am the only one who can control these voices and win the conflict for my own good. Saving is a good habit and it gives you a sense of security for your future.

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