Do the Times in Which You Live Shape Your Finances?

iStock_000019785487SmallAre we the product of the times and cultures in which we live – even to the extent of realizing financial prosperity? I believe that we are, to a large extent.

How the times in which we live can shape us.

If you had been a young adult in the 1800’s in America, would you have joined the westward migration?

Would you decide, today – in 2014, to pick a few belongings and a few people to take to another planet to live – knowing you would never see the others again and that you would have a much reduced possibility of a long and comfortable life?

My answer to question one, I believe, would have been yes, certainly. The cultural and societal environment of the times encouraged average, everyday folks to join the westward migration. People talked about it, dreamed about it, knew others who had successfully done it and not only survived, but prospered in the new lands.

Financial incentives helped some decide to migrate. Free land, the opportunity to open a business, and the gold rush might have pushed some of our ancestors to chose migration.

My answer to question two, I believe, is no. Today, we do not benefit from the excitement, or discussion, or any ‘manifest destiny’ to inhabit other planets. Nor does there seem to be an immediate or suggested financial benefit in such a migration. In fact, migrating will most likely cost a fortune, judging by the cost of a single ride in Virgin Galatic’s future craft ($250,000 per ride).

If you think about some of the great movements in history – the rise of capitalism, the industrial revolution, the westward migration, World War II and its resultant population boom worldwide, the race to space, the technical revolution, the women’s movement and the information age you can see how the times in which you live can influence you and your finances.

Henry Ford is credited with inventing the assembly line, making cars affordable. How many of you have since earned a living and yes, even gotten rich, selling cars?

Who knows how many new products and companies came about as a result of the space age (where would we be without our cordless tools?). New products beget new companies which create new jobs which provide incomes and conveniences. Think of all the satellites circling our globe today. Behind each is a government contract, a company, a product or service. Beaming signals world wide has expanded our marketing reach and our voice so that all of us, where ever we are, can advertise, express an opinion or obtain products and services.

The economic impact of the Baby Boom population around the world was felt in the growth of pretty much everything worldwide – for example; toys, homes, schools, and products designed for each age group that generation has so far lived. Now it is influencing the medical and pharmaceutical industries. We in this generation competed heavily with each other and the prior generations for jobs, for schooling and for promotions. Our numbers forced economic growth and development of new products and services and also drained resources.

If my great-grandmother’s generation hadn’t labored for suffrage and my Mother’s generation hadn’t become Rosie the Riveters, would she have trained me to believe I could do anything and would I and the hordes of other baby boom women ended up in the workforce? Perhaps not.

I am a product of my times.

  • I had the opportunity and was encouraged to attend college – resulting in better job opportunities.
  • I had the benefit of a Mother who expected me to enter the workforce.
  • I had the benefit of parents who lived through the Great Depression, and consequently taught me the importance of saving.
  • I had the constraints of societal ideas about men earning more than women.
  • I had the opportunity to learn to program computers and manage software development – putting me in the top 10% of income levels.
  • I developed the mentality of plenty (as opposed to scarcity) because the economy was growing throughout my life (with some stops and stutters along the way).
  • I learned that investing in others is beneficial – watching others in my family and nation put money into the stock market and real estate.
  • I had the benefit of experiencing the birth and growth of the information age and internet.


Would I have accumulated enough for financial freedom in other times? Perhaps not. If I had been born female prior to the twentieth century, I might not have had the option of schooling, working outside the home, managing others or even owning my own property, let alone investing in the market.

That said, I do believe that some individuals can rise above any conditions that come their way, whether they be biological, cultural or economic, to win their way in the world. I’m just not sure that I am one of those individuals.

What are today’s times and culture doing to influence people’s finances? The ability to work and shop from home, to compare prices on a smartphone, to invest, pay bills and deposit money with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger on a screen and the ability of others to hack into our accounts, may all have a profound impact on our financial affairs.

Would you have done as well or better if your historical environment had been different?


Do the Times in Which You Live Shape Your Finances? — 6 Comments

  1. I believe we are a product of our times. I was also lucky to have matured in a time of peace and (relative) prosperity. I may joke that I was born on the wrong part of a Kondratiev wave, but we are still a privileged generation with education, jobs and pension.

  2. Yes, we have much to be thankful for with the ways we have learned from the past and how it has shaped today….but we have much we need to be careful of as we face the new issues of modern, American culture. It seems that every time and place has its blessings and challenges. I’m thankful that we were made to be able to make decisions and adjust to changes.

  3. It would be so weird for me if it was different, since I am all about making money online. If I hadn’t been born in an era with internet, I’m sure I would have found another fascination.

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