I lost my dad when I was 17 to cancer. I’m still learning from him though, through my memories of him and the way he lived. I have to give him a lot of credit for what I know about personal finance. He did things well. Here’s my attempt at summing up 10 of the major personal finance lessons I learned from him:
1. Work Hard and Be Persistent
My dad spent almost his entire career of 25 or so years with one company. He was dedicated and persistent at what he did. I know he enjoyed what he did. That’s called passion. I have that with my work too so I know what it’s like. There will be ups and downs with any job/career and I think it’s important to buckle in and ride out the waves. After all, it takes a long time to build up a good financial foundation so you may as well keep the income coming in. Switching from job to job or career to career because you can’t commit to riding it out can be very hard on the bank account.
2. You Can Be Cheap Without Being Selfish
Dad was cheap. It was always a running joke between my siblings and friends and me, but when it came to giving to others, you wouldn’t have known it. When things were on sale, he would ask us, “Is anyone’s birthday coming up?” Yes, he would buy gifts on sale but he always had giving at the forefront of his mind. Buying a friend’s meal or taking friends of the family out to dinner wasn’t uncommon. Dad wasn’t selfish and that’s something I need to constantly work on in my life.
3. You Can Make Memories Without Spending Big
When I was young, dad took us on all kinds of family vacations. More than almost any family I know of. Did we spend big? Nope. Did we have just as much fun? Probably more. We drove. We camped. We cooked hot dogs and beans at the campsite. We ate cold meat sandwiches instead of Denny’s. Our vacations rocked and I learned than it’s not about the money spent, it’s about the memories made and the time you spend together that counts.
4. It’s Okay to Spend a Little on the Important Things
Dad had his hobby’s. Mom had her hobby’s. Us kids had our hobby’s. Dad didn’t flinch when something that we were passionate about cost a little money. Things that matter to us are a good use of money. You can’t cheap out on things that bring you joy, as long as they’re reasonable.
5. A Home Mortgage is Okay if You Buy Conservatively and Pay it Down as Quickly as You Can
I barely remember my parents having a mortgage because they paid it off when I was around 10 years old. After that, my mom was ready to move to a more fitting house for us, but my dad was reluctant. I imagine it was because of the thought of another mortgage. We never made the move while he was still alive. I picked up on the peace of mind that not having a mortgage gave my dad. It made sense to me.
6. Never Borrow Money for Anything Else
Not once that I knew of did my dad ever borrow money, for anything. Cars were saved for and bought in cash. Same thing with everything else. It was very clear, you didn’t buy what you couldn’t pay cash for in our household.
7. Buy Things Used, on Sale or on Clearance When Possible
When back-to-school shopping, my dad always went straight to the clearance section of the store and would say, “Kraig, come see what you think of these shoes.” I never liked what he picked out and I almost always made a stink about why I couldn’t get those. But now, I find myself sifting through the clearance section regularly when I’m shopping. Sometimes, I even find some really great stuff there. It does save you big money.
8. Always Walk Away and Sleep on Big Purchase Decisions
I never understood why dad couldn’t just make a decision and buy something. After any sort of sales pitch of a big ticket item, he would say, “Well, I’ll think about it.” He never bought without going home, thinking about it and talking it over with mom. I’ve noticed that I’ve made some bad decisions that I should have went home and thought about. I think his strategy was good.
9. Invest Wisely
Dad invested well. I now know that some of the investments he made turned out to go south in the end, but most were well done. You just never know what the future is going to bring, but investing well to ensure a prosperous future is essential. He did it pretty well.
10. Be Prepared for All Future Scenarios
Dad was prepared for the worst. He left his family taken care of. He put his three kids through college. He made sure my mom was okay financially. He taught us all very important lessons and left us with a lot of wisdom. He’s a huge reason why I am so passionate about personal finance.
Please Comment: Who have you learned important personal finance lessons from and what things have you learned from them? I would love to hear about it and I bet other readers would too.