5 Things My Dad Taught Me About Finances

Dad and IFather’s Day can be a tough holiday for some and a great one for others. I consider myself fortunate that Father’s Day is a really great holiday for me because I have a great relationship with my dad. (I have a great relationship with my mom as well making Mother’s Day just as special.) As I reflect on some of the time I’ve spend with my dad over the years, one of the things I can’t deny is the impact of all the things that he taught me. So to commemorate Father’s Day 2013, I decided to put together a post containing five things my dad taught me about life, specifically finances.

You Eat What You Kill

My dad is an extremely generous man, and often treats, my brother, my sister, and I to nice things that we ourselves haven’t worked for. However, one of his favorite sayings was this tribal aphorism, you eat what you kill. It basically means that the money you make is directly correlated to your effort and hard work. He made sure that I learned at an early age that if I wanted something, I had to go out and work hard to earn it for myself.

If you look around today, you’ll see an awful lot of people (particularly within the Millennial generation) that are sitting around waiting for things to come to them rather than going out and working towards them. These people weren’t taught the “eat what you kill” epigram and find themselves wondering why some people, who aren’t any more talented or gifted than they are, have the things that they wish for themselves.

Live Below Your Means

Growing up, my family rarely did the things you’d expect from the typical 1990’s/2000’s suburbanite family. Going out to eat was a rare treat. We always drove to vacation destinations rather than flying to them. We never had name brand clothing, sans for the occasional Ralph Lauren polo shirt for Christmas. We bought second-hand sporting goods like cleats, bikes, and baseball bats, instead of the latest and greatest from a big box mall store. It’s not that we necessarily couldn’t have, but my parents both knew the value in living below your means.

My dad was adamant about teaching me this lesson because he knew the value of being self-sufficient and never having to worry about where the money to pay the bills was going to come from. He wanted to make sure that each of his kids wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck as adults. Consequently, he showed me what it looked like to spend a lot less than you made. Did I know the difference as a kid? No, not really. I mean I knew some kids had nicer things than me, but I also knew who’s parents were stressed out all the time and who’s weren’t. I saw the kids were berated for asking their parents to buy something and I saw the ones whose parents said, let’s talk about how we can make that happen. I owe my dad for a lot, but this is a big one. I grateful to him (and my mom) that I know how to live below my means as an adult.

Pay The Old Man First

This is another saying my dad used a lot. Having been raised in a family of 7, he learned the value of saving very early on. He taught me to set aside a portion right off the top of what I made for later in life. It was because he understood that the last thing you wanted to spend your life doing is playing catchup for the future because you didn’t put enough away early on. Consequently I had an IRA going at 18 years old that I continue to max out every year and several other investments that are all intended to provide me with an income when I’m physically unable to keep up the pace of work I’m at now.

Be More Than Generous

Generosity is one of the things that makes me the most proud of my dad. His frugality when it came to personal expenditures and his wisdom in planning for the future has enabled him to be extremely generous towards others, particularly missionaries and humanitarian causes. I should note that for him, generosity doesn’t translate just into the context of giving. It also applies to time, prices paid for services, etc.

My dad continues to demonstrate to me on a regular basis, how to be generous with his time. He’s incredible with finances and there are a lot of people who owe him their financial freedom because he was willing to sit down with them and guide them through the process of making savvy fiscal decisions. He’s also more than fair when it comes to what he pays people who do work for him. It’s rare that he’ll tip a waitress less than 20%. He’ll pay high school kids double or sometimes triple the minimum wage to do yard work for him. If you ask him why he does it, he may give you some dry, tongue-in-cheek response about how won a bet on the golf course and he’s still coming out ahead, but deep down it’s because he knows the satisfaction derived from being generous.

You Can’t Take It With You

Finally, my dad has always stressed to me the importance of understanding that one day we will all die and the physical things we’ve accumulated in our lives won’t come with us. He always says “the Brinks truck doesn’t follow the hearse.” He’s not saying that you should just go crazy all day long and spend every nickel and dime you make, but that you should live everyday focused not on finances but on the people who are right their in front of you.

He’s shown me that when you invest in them, spending your life making your surroundings better for the good of others, you’ll reap a much greater reward and derive a greater sense of satisfaction. I hope I have a long way to go before I’m faced with my mortality, but I know that in the mean time, focusing on what I give away and leave behind is far better than being occupied by what I can accumulate.

So this for this Father’s Day post, I just want to end by thanking my dad. Thank you for all the things you’ve taught me, all the love you’ve shown me, everything you’ve given me, and everything you’ve done for me. I am truly and forever blessed.

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