Curious about money superstitions from around the world? I share my own from my 100% Hungarian grandmother, plus lots of other money luck myths.

My grandmother, who happens to be 100% Hungarian (second generation in the U.S.), has this money superstition: whenever she gifts a wallet or a purse, she puts a penny inside of it.

When I was little I asked her about this one day. “Mom-mom, why do you have to put a penny in our new wallets?” (really thinking to myself why not a $1 or a $5? Haha!).

She responded, “Because if you don't, then the person you're giving the wallet to could have bad luck in money.”

Fascinating. Could this be why I was always so broke as a teenager? I kept that question to myself.

Now as an adult, I'm kind of even more fascinated by these myths around money and luck. Seeing how St. Patty's Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be really fun to research what money-luck myths exist in other cultures (and to maybe track down if my grandmother's money myth is Hungarian, or something picked up from the back of a Lucky Charms box).

Money Superstitions from Around the World

Something caught my eye the other day: a penny lying on the rug.

Before picking it up to put into our penny jar, I noticed myself squinting to try to make out which side the penny was on—heads or tails. I felt for the outline of the imprint, hoping to feel the sides of Abe Lincoln’s head.

Then I realized how silly this was; why was I taking precious time out of my day to figure out whether or not this penny was heads up?

It was because of a powerful mixture of money myths I was taught from childhood: “see a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck” coupled with a dash of “only pick up coins that are heads up”.

These myths and many others are deeply rooted in our culture.

Myths and rituals we have created and passed down for ages breathe life into money and make it a very powerful and sometimes mysterious force in our lives.

How to attract money, how to keep money, why some people seem able to save beyond their means and others turn out poor with a million dollar salary — mysteries and myths pervades every type of transaction money brings into life.

How to Score Money Luck in Japan

The white snake is a symbol of Benten, the Japanese goddess of wealth, and many people pray to them for luck in business (hmmm…perhaps I should give this a go the next time I'm at the Houston Zoo).

You can either hope for a white snake to magically appear in your purse (seems like that would be about the worst luck in the world), or you could just purchase a white snakeskin purse for the same effect. Your choice.

How to Score Money Luck in Trinidad and Tobago

There's actually an entry in the Oxford dictionary for this money myth: if you find a money spider on you or in your home, you will have wealth and prosperity (yes, the brown spider variety).

However, if a grasshopper comes into your home, then you're out of luck with money (though here's a loophole: if he's brown, you're okay).

How to Score Money Luck in China

It is said you can increase your prosperity by correctly placing/bringing into your life any of the following wealth symbols: a money ship, red envelopes with money, Chinese coins, money trees (they do exist, despite what my mother has told me), etc.

How to Score Money Luck in Czech Republic

If you live in the Czech Republic and you don't find a fish scale under your plate or tablecloth at Christmas dinner, you should be very upset as you will not be wealthy in the year to come.

Carrying a fish scale in a wallet all year will ensure that money will not run out. Also, the person who does not give a gift on Christmas Eve will face poverty (I wonder if the fish scales count…).

How to Score Money Luck in Thailand

In Thailand during the Chinese New Year, you'll want to attach lucky money to a money tree at a temple. Otherwise you may not have luck in wealth or prosperity. (Funny enough, someone decided to create his own luck around this myth by stealing the money one year).

In my small amount of research — which was really conducted for fun — I did not find a money-luck myth about putting a coin in a wallet specific to Hungary.

However, I did find that it's a pretty common money myth that likely came from several different areas of the world (Western Europe seems to be the most dominant).

Why Money Rituals and Wealth Rituals Exist

Let’s face it; money is such a strong force in our lives that we have created all kinds of myths and rituals that revolve around how to find more of it, and how to keep it once we do find it.

Even people who do not believe in many things generally participate in some sort of myth or ritual surrounding money perhaps without knowing it as they are so deeply embedded in our culture. Myths and rituals in and of themselves are generally not bad.

They can be fun, comforting, and bind together family, friends, and generations with common ground.

However, I argue that perpetuating money’s power and mystery with rituals and myths brings about feelings of helplessness when it comes to our own money.

Instead of focusing on how to manage our money and learning its mechanics, somewhere over the last several thousand years we decided it was more prudent to learn how to satisfy the money gods and forces.

I know I am not immune to following money rituals passed down to me or even ones that I have learned on my own.

At a free Feng Shui consultation at IKEA two months ago I learned that you should close off all of the open drains in your home when not in use to stop your money from literally going down the drain.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit I closed three drains in our home that day.

Hey, who really knows? Perhaps I just saved us a boatload of money.

This, and other examples above, is generally harmless to participate in. The problem arises when we put too much belief into them instead of into ourselves, and diminish our own role in our lives and in our ‘luck’.

How to Create Your Own Money Luck

You may think that boning a duck is an impossible feat. And the whole procedure can take as long as 45 minutes the first time because of fear. Don't be afraid. Take your knife, confront the duck – Julia Childs on deboning a duck           

Perhaps people want money to be mysterious because if their money woes or triumphs are out of their hands then they do not need to make the effort to understand the principles of money or to make changes to their personal habits. Some people are just lucky, after all…right?

Personally though, I like to research and analyze things. Sure it takes the mystery out of it, but it puts me in a position where I feel more in control. If I know how something works, then I can participate and at least attempt to stack the outcome in my favor.

Taking control of your finances is one surefire way to rip the curtain out from the great and powerful Wizard of Money and feel like you have more control in your life.

Money is not everything, but many facets of our lives are touched by money, and many decisions are made based upon whether or not we have enough of it.

Whether or not money has power is in the eyes of the beholder (or in the eyes of those who behold nothing), but one thing is for sure: people have power over things in their lives, even over their money.

Unblocking Mental Obstacles with Education

I have found that when something seems too complex and ‘sticky’, I develop a mental obstacle around dealing with it.

Instead of diving in head first—my typical response to new and potentially scary things—I create these scenarios in my head about how things could go wrong. Then I wake up one day a few months later and lament the amount of time that has lapsed since I had wanted to get something done.

Even though I love finances, I have felt this mental obstacle in several areas: refinancing our home (still working on this), putting together a will/trust (have not started), and preparing our taxes for last year with several unique situations (have successfully figured this one out by sitting down and making the necessary phone calls for information).

In each case, I find that the mental obstacle I have created dissolves once I research the scenario and find the right people to answer my questions.

Be Aware of Money’s Coming and Goings

Despite what some may think (or despite what it may feel like), there is not a greedy gremlin out there taking money from you each month. Money, in fact, does not burn a hole in your pockets and escape without your notice, and it also does not grow on trees for a lucky few. Whoever has access to the paychecks in your household also holds the key to the spending and saving or lack thereof.

Becoming aware of what comes into your checking account and what leaves it is very important in the process of taking the mystery out of money as two plus two still equals four, and four minus six means you are in the negative. At the end of the day, it is you and your family who is spending. This should issue you a sigh of relief as this means that it is within your power to put a cork on the drains and save more of your money.

Be Controlling in Your Relationship with Money

Being controlling in a relationship generally does not work. But being controlling in your relationship with money can work wonders.  Don’t just take the fact that money tends to slip through your floorboards lying down. Whip your money into shape by giving each dollar a reason to be in your life. Allocate an amount to be spent in each category of your life, and don’t allow a penny more out the door. Own your money.

I could never, and would never, guarantee that by doing the steps above you will be prosperous and rollin’ in the Benjamins.

However, by taking the time to understand the mysteries of money (I believe compound interest was dubbed the eighth wonder of the world) you put yourself back into the driver’s seat.

Being in control means that you must accept responsibility for both the good and the bad. But by taking responsibility instead of blaming the problem on the unfavorable color you wore that day or on the fact that you picked up that dime in the parking lot last week tails up, you are in a position to learn from the mistake and move on to better and more prosperous things.

Subsequently when good things happen with your money you can own some of that credit and be more confident in your dealings with finances moving forward than if you thought it was just a bout of luck.

You may think that understanding money is an impossible feat. And the whole procedure can take as long as 45 minutes the first time because of fear. Don't be afraid. Take out your checkbook, confront your money – what Julia Childs might have said if she had taken up banking instead of cooking

Does your family have money-luck myths passed down through the generations? Any idea where they originated? I'd love to hear more.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
31 replies
  1. Jack @ Enwealthen
    Jack @ Enwealthen says:

    “Find a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”

    That’s the only money luck myth I grew up with as a child.

    Nowadays, I’m a believer in the power of positive affirmations so whenever I receive money into my life, especially unexpectedly, I say “I am a money magnet. Thank you!”. Seems hokey, I know, but it is amazing how money seems to keep on coming since I started doing this.

    Reply
  2. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    I had to do this with my retirement accounts (or lack thereof, before January) recently, and now I have to do this with investing. I know little about it, and it’s hanging out in my head as this big, scary, elusive subject. I just need to rip the bandaid off and dive in.

    Reply
  3. Matt @ RamblingFever Money
    Matt @ RamblingFever Money says:

    Great! Now I have to find a way to somehow work either Bigfoot or Spiderman into a blog post. Those are the two things my 4-year old is currently obsessed with.

    Reply
  4. Money Infant
    Money Infant says:

    People are good at sticking their heads in the sand and when it comes to money it becomes too easy to overspend when you keep telling yourself “I just don’t get money”. Your approach is certainly the best though, confront your fear of money and the unknown head on…usually the truth is no where near as frightening as you imagined.

    Oh, and I love the title…my daughter is in a Wizard of Oz phase so we get to watch it almost every day :p

    Reply
    • Amanda L Grossman
      Amanda L Grossman says:

      I think confronting fears is the best way to get over them. But very difficult to do! Being accepting of any outcome from confronting a fear will probably make the process more palatable.

      Wizard of Oz everyday? Wowza! I haven’t seen it in years but now you make me want to watch it!

      Reply
  5. Julie @ Freedom 48
    Julie @ Freedom 48 says:

    I’m a little OCD when it comes to money too. If I’m paying a bill online, I always have to round it up so that the amount left in my bank account is an even dollar amount.

    Reply
  6. Matt @ RamblingFever Money
    Matt @ RamblingFever Money says:

    I am liking your writing style more and more Amanda as I read more of your stuff. Wonderful observations in this one. Looking forward to the sequel.

    Reply
  7. Evan @ Smart Wealth
    Evan @ Smart Wealth says:

    I was with my wife at the casino and as we were leaving holding hands I got pulled back because she decided to stop because she saw a penny on the ground. I looked at her and said please don’t pick up that dirty penny, and as we were walking away she says “it’s ok, it wasn’t heads up anyways”. Everyone has their superstitions I guess =)

    Reply
  8. Money Infant
    Money Infant says:

    I live in Asia and never heard that Feng Shui drain thing. Now I have to go out and buy drain stoppers for all my drains 🙂

    The only ritual I can think of that I do with money is to make sure the money in my wallet is always organized. Same bills all together in ascending order and all facing the same direction. I guess I am a bit OCD :p

    Reply

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