Unintentional Money Lessons from My Dad

My Dad was cursed decades ago.  My grandmother told him that his children were all going to be daughters.  I’m not sure what inspired her to say this.  It’s possible he broke a lot of hearts as a kid.  Maybe she thought it would teach him a lesson or two.  Regardless, soon after he settled down my parents had my sister.  They were pretty confident their next child would be a boy.  His name was going to be Scott.  Spoiler Alert: They had another girl…me.

People learn a lot about money before they even get to Kindergarten.  Our parents probably don’t realize what they are teaching their kids as they go about their lives spending, saving, and stressing about money.  While I am by no means a carbon copy of my Dad there are plenty of important money lessons I learned from him.  In honor of Father’s Day I want to share some of the best ones with you.

Money Lesson #1: You can’t take it with you

My Dad understands that you only live once.  If he sees something he wants he finds a way to get it.  He’s had boats, sports cars, a big house you name it.  Saving was never a main priority.  To be honest, I don’t think he expected to live much longer than his father did.  However, there is a lot of longevity on his mom’s side (the one that blessed him with daughters) and he’s alive and well.  He also has no regrets about spending our summers on a boat when we were little.  Even the one time we threw our My Little Ponies overboard and begged for them to be rescued.

Often, my money habits are the complete opposite of this including that time I didn’t shop for a year.  Boats are things you want your friends to have and invite you on because they are expensive as hell to own.  He does make a good point though.  Don’t get me wrong – I want everyone reading this to have a properly funded emergency account but there’s no point being the richest person in the graveyard either.  If you’ve been dreaming of a car or a trip forever start saving up and do it.  #YOLO

Money Lesson #2: You can always move

My Dad may have gotten this lesson from his parents.  Where you live and go to school can have an enormous impact on your opportunities.  It can also change your financial situation a great deal.  When I talk to people that are drowning in loan debt sometimes I’ll suggest moving somewhere less expensive.  It isn’t a popular strategy but it can cut expenses and give you room to breathe in a way that skipping your latte can’t.

I’ve lived in the Northeast my whole life.  There isn’t a lot of cheap real estate around here.  When we moved it meant going from a large house to renting a smaller place.  It also put us in one of the best school districts in the state.  The small size of the school allowed me to participate in any activity I wanted athletically and academically.  There was nothing easy about the decision to move but I’m very grateful and would do it in a heartbeat if it was in my family’s best interest.

Money Lesson #3: Don’t be a sellout

The only boss my Dad has listened to since I’ve been alive is Bruce Springsteen.  (Fun Fact: I used to carry around the Born in the USA record when I was 5).  Even when my Dad could have taken a job and that steady paycheck he always managed to stay true to himself and run his own business. This made for some challenging times financially but I have to commend him for never selling out.

Dad always stressed the importance of the quality of the work you do.  He still works now and business is good.  Your reputation in business is like gold.  Start cutting corners and taking the easy way and your work will suffer.   I still have a 9-5 but like the fact that I’m never asked to sacrifice the quality of my work to save time or a few dollars.  Nothing would make me walk away faster.

Parenting is hard work.  I’m grateful for everything my Dad has done for me – even when it was hard.  What money lessons did you learn (intentional or not) from your Dad?  Let me know in the comments! 

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