The Financial Wisdom of our Fathers: A Father's Day Tribute

By InvestingAnswers Staff
June 15, 2012

Parents aren't always great role models. However, our mother and father are usually the first people we look to as we're trying to learn new things -- driving a car, hitting a baseball, playing an instrument, whatever. 

When it comes to money, it's no different. That's why, in honor of Father's Day, we asked some experts from the personal finance community -- including some from our own team and those with our sister site, StreetAuthority.com -- to share with us the financial wisdom that their fathers shared with them. We were thrilled with the response and put together a list that includes bloggers, authors, TV commentators and more.

And if you've got a great story, we want to hear it, too. Share it with us by leaving your comment at the end of the story. Or just tell us which one of these was your favorite.

"Best advice my dad gave me was/is twofold:

1) His advice wasn't spoken, it was done. He took me to the local bank to get my first savings account and passbook when I was 12 years old. I had to speak to the bank manager, sign papers and manage my own savings -- at 12! What wasn't spoken was done -- start saving early, pay attention to your money, be responsible for it and don't be afraid of banks.

2) The heavy and very cool side of him doing that with/for me? He signaled to me that gender is not an issue or factor when it comes to money. Here I was, a girl, opening her own bank account at 12 years old. In the 1980's. I, a female, was being put in charge of my own money, very early on. I didn't realize for years just how powerful that was until I'd tell that story to female audiences and I'd hear from them that, gender-wise, it was amazing that my dad took his daughter to do something so powerful for her independence so early."

- Carmen Wong Ulrich, former host of CNBC's "On The Money," expert contributor to the "Dr. Oz Show" and President of ALTA Wealth Management

 

 

"Every Saturday morning, my dad and I would sit at the kitchen table. He would tell me the name of a stock, and I would look up the closing price in the newspaper. Armed with a clean sheet of paper and a sharpened No. 2 pencil, he would tally up the week's gains and losses.

We rode out good markets and bad at that kitchen table. During market corrections and economic downturns, my father would always say the same thing:

'Amy, when they raid a house of ill-repute, they take all the girls to jail, even the piano player and the cook. But if they get a good judge, the piano player and cook will be out in no time.'"

Amy Calistri, editor of the "Stock of the Month" and "Daily Paycheck" newsletters at StreetAuthority.com

"Best advice from father: Always max out your 401(k) at least up to what your employer matches. Not only will it help YOU get going with retirement, but it's pretty much like getting FREE money from your employer too!  Who doesn't like that?

Sadly, it took me three years to finally take him up on his advice, but here we are, almost 8 years later, sitting on over $150,000 because of him. ;) Gotta love dads!"

- J Money, BudgetsAreSexy.com

"The advice my father provided didn’t come when I was growing up, as far as I remember. While I was in my twenties, my personal finances had taken a bad turn, but I was doing what I could to get myself back on the right track. It was at that time, while I was struggling and moving forward, and while my father was out of debt himself, that he shared with me a basic piece of advice that stuck with me.

Paraphrased, he said, get out (of debt) and stay out (of debt). Being free from debt, including a mortgage, gave him the freedom to use his income for more than just paying back banks for borrowed money. That stuck with me, and it provided more motivation to reach that point myself."

- Flexo, founder, ConsumerismCommentary.com

"My dad considers himself to be a product of the Great Depression, which has always made him debt-averse. 

He always insisted that you borrow money only for things you need (such as a home) but pay in cash for everything else, from cars to restaurants to sporting events. He always paid off any credit card balance every month, which is a practice that I've adhered to."

- David Sterman, writer at InvestingAnswers.com, and author of "David Sterman's $100,000 Portfolio" newsletter at StreetAuthority.com

"My father always told me to carry at least $40 in cash -– a $20 bill, a $10 bill, a $5 bill and five singles -- in my wallet, even if I have a debit card.

It lets you leave exact change plus tip on the diner counter and make a hasty exit if necessary. It’s enough to pay for a cab or enough gas to get you home if you’re stranded. And it makes splitting a bill with friends a breeze.

Even today, as we move closer to a cashless society, not having this cash cushion in my wallet makes me nervous."

- Kristin McGrath, web editor, CreditCards.com

"My dad instilled in me a sense of frugality when I was very young. He never suggested being cheap, but rather always encouraged me to make smart spending decisions. He continued to point out money-saving tips that were relevant to my life, especially during college, and the biggest reason that I graduated school with very little student loan debt is that I followed my father's advice.

When I first ventured out on my own, I was never really much into couponing. That changed when my father mailed me a small stack of grocery bill receipts to prove just how much money he and my mom were saving.  Once I saw the tremendous savings potential associated with coupon clipping, I became a believer.

He also showed me how to consistently get the best deal on anything that I buy. He always researches any potential purchases online, and when he discovered daily deal websites, he shared his findings with me. Since then, I’ve been able to save plenty of money on many different products and services. Lastly, he's encouraged me to view credit cards as an ally if we can avoid getting into debt through the benefit of things like cash-back rewards."

- Andrew Schrage, co-owner, Money Crashers Personal Finance

"My dad's money advice was simple but yet very powerful. Most important, he provided a lot of examples of how he was following this advice and how people that did not follow this advice ended up having a decreasing net worth instead of an increasing one. These examples made his advice even more credible. Here are some of his most important tips:

- Do not buy anything you cannot easily afford
- When you buy things that depreciate in value, such as cars and electronics, you are not buying assets; you are buying liabilities!
- Do not pay any attention to people that show off. Just focus on accumulating assets.
- Take care of your car, and it will last you a really long time.
- Focus on your education and the skills you acquire. Money comes and goes, but no one can take away your skills and knowledge.
- Help other people. This might sound like strange money advice. However, not only is this the right thing to do, but also from a money standpoint, you never know when someone might help you land a better job, find out about a deal, etc.
- Never cheat!"

- Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and founder, CardHub.com

"The best thing my Dad ever taught me about finance had nothing to do with money. It was all about planning. 'You have to think about the interim steps to get to the big dream. Build it in pieces. Set milestones and measure your progress.'

After spending a few years in the financial industry, I've realized that these lessons unlock the secret to personal finance. "To keep future options open, work is required now." Want to retire comfortably? Invest early. Want to improve your credit score? Try to pay back a little more each month. Want to buy that dream house when you finally find it? Better start tucking away cash for the 20% down payment.

He also taught me the most important thing about planning -- that you can't get down on yourself when your well-laid plans don't work out. "Things can be perfectly in place and not turn out -- everything needs that little extra random ingredient. When things don't turn out, don't get frustrated. Ask how you can improve the process."

- Meredith Margrave, executive editor, InvestingAnswers.com

"My dad always stressed how important it was to pay your bills on time so you can build a great credit history.

When I was in my 20s, I ignored this advice and got into credit card debt, which promptly trashed my credit history. It took a long time to recover from this, but along the way, I realized my dad's advice was spot-on. It's kind of ironic that I now spend my days telling people how important it is to have a great credit history. But hey, my dad was right!"

- Beverly Harzog, credit card expert, consumer advocate and co-author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending," BeverlyHarzog.com 

"My father taught me the value of hard work and the importance of personal connections. He started his business in college selling records. When he graduated, he moved from records to jewelry, eventually selling gold and diamonds as a wholesaler. Although he passed away when I was just 12, I have fond memories of going on sales calls with him to local jewelry stores in central Ohio.

It was clear to me back then that he made a personnel connection with his clients. They genuinely liked him and liked doing business with him. He hustled, built a solid business, and enjoyed the fruits of his labor. I've tried to follow in his footsteps."

- Rob Berger, founder, DoughRoller.net

"The family budget and my dad never crossed paths even once while I was growing up. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if my dad has ever drafted a formal budget, bought a stock or made a financial plan in his whole life. Finance never really caught his attention.

But even on a modest teacher's salary, my dad (and my family) always had enough. That's because he followed (and still follows) just one simple rule in life when it came to money --one that's more valuable than investing, saving tips and budgeting combined.

Only buy what you really need. 

Wait until the price goes down on that new gadget -- our family didn't have a DVD player until 5 years after they came out. Hold onto your car for a long time instead of buying a new one. (As my dad always says, 'You only need it to get from A to B.') And spend time playing catch or jog with your family instead of just buying gifts for them. The quality time spent with my dad has always been a memorable part of my life, and best of all, it's free."

- Christian Hudspeth, staff writer, InvestingAnswers.com 

"My father was a good investor for many years. But he did not even try to offer me much investing advice when I was young because I had zero interest in money matters until I turned 35. The only thing that I can remember him stressing to me was that any funds I bought I should buy from Vanguard. His point was to avoid fees. Now that I follow money matters closely, I see the wisdom of that. 

The reality is that most investing advice is of little value because it relates to matters the investor cannot control. We CAN control whether we obtain good value for our money. Saying to watch fees is not sexy advice. But over the years, that tip offers a bigger payoff than most other bits of investing wisdom."

- Rob Bennett, A Rich Life

"The best personal finance advice my dad ever gave me was 'Save your money.' That was always a joke between us because he would say it all the time -- write it on birthday cards, etc. -- as I was growing up. I mean, he really meant it, but he would ALWAYS say it, to the point it would annoy me! But it is good advice, of course, because we have to have that savings to fall back on!"

- Jenny Kerr, TheJennyPincher.com

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