Stuff My Dad Taught Me

We have all heard of the nature vs nurture debate, e.g., are we created or made? The consensus seems to be, of course, that it’s both: our genes and the environment in which we are brought up form who we become. This topic relates to money as well. Blueprints, scripts, paradigms…call them what you will. How you were raised impacts – at least to some degree – your relationship with money. I often ask my podcast guests how they first became interested in personal finance, and I am often asked this question myself. The answer is it was my dad who got me interested in personal finance. He has taught me so much, and I’m sure you can learn from him too. Here’s a tiny fraction of what I’ve learned from my dad (and it’s not all money-specific).

  • People who have a lot of nice stuff may not actually have a lot of money. My dad explained that people often borrowed a lot of money to have a lot of belongings, like the parents of the kids with the new go-peds and cell phones.

  • When you work hard, you should benefit from it. He told me I shouldn’t have to give one point of my 4.0 GPA to someone with a 2.0 GPA so we would both have 3.0 GPAs. Great metaphor, Dad.

  • It’s OK to have a lot of money and not look like it. My dad told me a story about a business owner who was dressed in rags at a car dealer. He went there to buy a dozen trucks, and no one would speak to him. The salespeople there that day were fired, and the next day he bought a dozen trucks.

  • Insurance companies and warranties are there for true losses. Be honest in your claims. Some tree trimmers stole about $1000 worth of fishing rods from my parents’ back yard. If my dad would have said they were stolen from the boat, it would have been a $50 deductible versus the $1000 deductible through homeowners’ insurance. My dad bought new rods.

  • Taxes are certain, and that’s why you should leverage retirement accounts and HSAs as much as possible. Related thing he told me: your kids end up with your Roth.

  • Experiences are worth spending money on. He rhetorically asked me what the family talked about at holiday dinners. It was the most recent trip, like the time my cousin rode a snowmobile into a hole. We never talk about the stuff we bought.

  • Life is not fair. Some people will have it easier than we do, and some people will have a much more difficult time. Do what you can to help people, but don’t dwell on the bad things in life.

  • Sometimes in life, you have to do things you don’t want to do. This is a silly example, but I can’t tell you how many times he had to go to my grandma’s place to fix her printer on a beautiful Saturday. You just get done what you have to get done when you’re a responsible adult.

  • Credit cards aren’t bad. They give you points and offer fraud protection. Just pay them off every month and watch the rewards stack up.

  • Everyone makes mistakes, just move on quickly when you do. My dad cracked me up when he told me about the time he missed a business meeting because he was sitting at the gate reading the paper while everyone boarded and his plane took off.

  • Do good work, even if those around you aren’t. In any career, there are people that are disengaged, bad at their jobs, or just plain unaccountable. Don’t become that way. Hold yourself to a higher standard.

  • Don’t forget to live. Money and careers are important, but it’s unlikely you’ll wish you had more money at the end of your life. You’ll wish you had more time and more memories.


I had fun writing this blog, and I hope you learned something. I highly suggest you jot some things down that your parents taught you. I would love to hear some of them, especially if they’re personal finance related on Twitter @AdultingIsEasy.


Photo credit: Derek Thomson

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