5 Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Money

A tired man tries to work from his kitchen table at home while his baby crawls across his laptop.

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Parents are the first to teach us about financial management.


the main points

  • Children learn more from their parents than good manners. They also learn how to manage money.
  • Spending less now can be the key to getting more later.

My father passed away nine years ago this summer, but he still looms large in my life. I think of my father as I make difficult decisions, weighing what I will do against what I think he will do in the same situation. And I certainly think of my father as I navigate the financial waters, hoping to emulate his wise and thoughtful approach to money management. I may not be able to visit his house with a Father’s Day gift this year, but I can make my dad proud by remembering these five important lessons.

1. Living without your means

As a child, I remember being embarrassed by my father’s frugal methods. When my grandfather gifted my parents an old vinyl sofa, I was sure it was a makeshift placeholder so mom and dad could go out to Montgomery Ward or JC Peney and buy a new one. But darn it if that ugly green thing hasn’t been sitting in the living room for years. For my dad, the idea of ​​buying a new sofa to replace a serviceable piece of furniture was financial insanity.

We forget that our bottoms cling to vinyl on hot summer days or that standing up too quickly produces the worst sound. My dad wasn’t about to waste money on something we didn’t need.

Even after he retired from the Marine Corps and took a civilian job, my father viewed money as a tool. You can buy whatever your heart desires today, or you can put that money where it will grow and help secure your future. Living under his means It allowed him to achieve his goals.

2. Think of others

Perhaps because he was a Marine, Dad focused on making sure Mom would have everything she needed if he died. And when the children came, he redoubled his efforts. When my dad left for his first tour of Vietnam, he made sure there were plenty life insurance To see us through if not anymore.

My father always dreamed of driving an Audi Fox, but he never bought one. Instead, he bought a Volkswagen with no air conditioning and no radio. Frugal and apparently, able to withstand hot, humid Missouri days. The money I saved went to build a financial safety net for my mother. He also created college accounts for me and my brothers and took us on educational vacations to museums, presidential libraries, and the battlefields of the Civil War.

My dad knew how to prioritize spending, and we were our priority.

3. Your value has nothing to do with what you own

The house in which my parents raised their four children was shy of 1,200 square feet. As mentioned, my dad never drove a fancy car, and we went shopping twice a year: once in August to buy school clothes, and once in May to replace the summer clothes we’d outgrown.

What I didn’t realize until after his death was that the nest my father had spent years building was really comfortable. My father made such meticulous financial decisions over the years until his investments thrived.

Here’s the thing: The guy was comfortable in his own skin. He knew his worth as a husband, father, son, brother and friend. There were people in the world who would do anything for him, just because he was a decent human being.

Aside from the tiny house, old car, and awkward couch, his value has nothing to do with what he owns.

4. Take risks

Once upon a time, when I was young, my dad and I were talking investment. He laughed and said, “Before you invest, look at what I invested in. Then invest in something else.” His investments took a hit that year, as did the stock market as a whole.

However, he remained calm, confident that the market would rebound. He knew that if he wanted his investment to grow, he had to leave it alone.

5. Be curious

I lived 1,500 miles from my father as he faded into the mists of vascular dementia, but we were on the phone regularly. Until then, he was entertaining me with the details of an article he read Modern science Or a fact you learned? National Geographic.

My mother was naturally wonderful, but my father was naturally curious. It was his curiosity that made him a young man in his eighties and made him a wonderful dinner companion. It was also his curiosity that made him a clever money manager. He was studying emerging trends and technologies, investing in young companies that no one had ever heard of.

Sometimes his strategy flopped, sometimes it worked like a charm, but I guess that was my dad’s fun. He knew that not every investment has to be a winner. As long as some won, the money was in the future.

I am getting out of state soon and feeling guilty that I will rarely be able to visit my father’s graves. Even as I write these words, I can hear my father laughing and reminding me that no matter where I go, he is with me. I’m sure his lessons.

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