Home Self Money Does Birth Order Really Affect How We Handle Money?

My cousin has three kids. The middle child has been whining about life being unfair since he was three years old. He turned eight last week and decided to run away with a lunch box full of canned soup, no can opener and high hopes that a childless couple would adopt him so that he could grow up as an only child.

His heartfelt goodbye letter was found before he made it past the front door and and he was lured back with promises of ice cream (it doesn’t take much to make him happy).

Apparently he’s right about life not being fair… especially not to him or most middle children. It does indeed suck to be him.

I came across this study on how birth order affects career paths and earnings and this one about credit scores, and it rocks to be the firstborn child or an only child. Here’s how it’ supposed to work:

Firstborn / Only Child – ‘The Leader

You got it made! You’re most likely to earn a 6-figure salary and become executives (CEOs, CFOs, Sr. VPs). You are also the one most likely to have the highest credit score since you pay everything on time and are the picture of responsibility. You’re a control freak though.

Middle/Second Child – ‘The Peacemaker

You’re out of luck. Not only do you get hand-me-downs, you’re the most likely to have an income of less than $35,000 and stick to entry-level positions.  Since you’re a problem solver, you like to deal with your own finances without asking for help, so you tend to move debt around and likely to have money troubles.

Last Born – ‘The Free Spirit

You’re most likely to be in middle management. You like to socialize and have a hard time cutting out social activities from your budget. So you prefer instant gratification over long-term savings. You’re known to be a bad decision maker.

But is it true?

In my case,  no.

I’m the second child and I certainly am not the peacemaker. And I’m not that bad with money… fiiiiine, I did in fact have some teeny- tiny, okay serious debt troubles, but dropped my ‘charge it and forget it‘ motto and got out of a $34,000 debt.

When it comes to personal finance, I’m the more responsible one compared to my older brother. Despite my own bout with debt, I’m more of a planner for my financial future. When it comes to careers, I’d also have to say that mine has more of a focus. In fact, my brother is the more creative one of the two of us. He’s a free spirit, where I’m more controlled.

It looks like things are reversed in my family.

Is this true in your family?

7 replies to this post
  1. Hey Jen,

    Love this post. I am the oldest of 3 girls. There’s definitely SOME truth to these studies in our family’s case but I think it’s hard to say. My youngest sister is for SURE the free spirit. I see her being a freelancer and yoga instructor. My middle sister is very responsible and has a great job so nothing in her case seems true. I am the oldest, and I am definitely going for that 6-figure salary and have always felt the need to be very responsible with paying things on time, yet I’m the girl who will probably need the most help with debt of the 3 of us! I can’t wait to read how you paid off YOUR debt- inspiring!


    • Thanks Nicole! It sounds like this was more accurate for your family… except your middle sister.

      It’s interesting because most people I’ve asked, the first and last child are often the ones that are misrepresented, but it’s usually accurate with the middle child. Looks like your sister is definitely an exception… good for her :)

  2. This is totally true in my case! There are only two of us but my older sister is definitely the leader and a control freak. She isn’t exactly making 6-figures working for an airline but the ability to travel is something she has always wanted. She certainly travels like she makes 6-figures! Also, when she bought her car the sales person checked her credit and said “You have the credit of a millionaire!”

    And then there’s me…part “second born” and a little bit “last born”. I am a bit of a free spirit and I have been in entry level positions all across the board, I had to file for bankruptcy a few years ago, and I definitely avoid asking for help when I can…or even accepting help when it’s offered! Of course part of the bankruptcy was caused by instant gratification spending (dinners, shopping, nights out, etc) and bad other decisions. Buuut…the good news is that I have learned from all the bad decision making and my credit score is on the rise. And as far as the entry level position, I’m hoping that is going to change in the next few weeks so keep your fingers crossed! :)

  3. Hi Jen!

    This is a really interesting article for someone who comes from a big family (4 siblings and I am 4th in line) and I would have to say none of us really have bad debt or much debt, for that matter. I am probably the least responsible with money, I will admit. Having been born when my parents “were moving up,” my three older brothers are definitely more thrifty than me. I actually am not a thrifty person at all (sadly and) it will definitely be interesting to see what becomes of my sister. Anyhow, I am aiming to be more of a frugalista these days but taking it one day at a time!

    So I guess it’s hard for me to gauge how birth order really has affected us. My Financially, I would say the oldest is the most responsible with money, that’s for sure! That said, I also think how people raise their kids to think about money affects how people deal with it in the long run. At different points, my parents have had less and more but they have always maintained, “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it!” A mantra I need to constantly remind myself of.

  4. Very interesting article! This is not entirely true for my family. The first born and middle child have reverse roles. I’m the last born and have a mix of those traits and the first born’s. Hopefully, an executive position will be in my future!

Leave a Reply