Five Financial Fundamentals From Father


Father Knows Best was more than a popular 1950s TV show. It’s an adage that has withstood the test of time (and the turbulent 1960s). This Father’s Day, as you pay homage to your sire, delight him by recalling some of his wit and wisdom when it comes to financial matters.

The worth of these pearls of insight aren’t benchmarked against some arbitrary market index. Follow them, though, and you may just discover there’s more to retirement than the value of your 401(k).

Do these five financial fundamentals remind you of something your own father might have advised?

“Family First”

You may speak all you want of money and high finance. Your father may even politely listen. In the end, however, it all comes down to one thing: family. Many others will choose their measure as the size of their bank account. Dad knows best, though.

He always has. You see it in the decisions he’s made. How he turned down that promotion to avoid uprooting his young family. How he skipped the after-hours event to see your elementary school play. How he spent innumerable hours coaching your teams.

Nothing of these decisions added to his bank account. Some may have even taken from it. But those decisions produced priceless memories. Something you’ve always appreciated. Something you always will appreciate.

You may not have realized it growing up, but, with your own family, you’ve come to learn the invaluable sense of “family first.”

“You Don’t Need That!”

Remember that time you walked into the store? The automatic doors swung open. A large display of candy dispensers greeted you. Your eyes widened. One of those bins – priced for only a quarter – housed those plastic collectables prized by your classmates. You’ve always wanted one.

You tug at your father’s sleeve as he walks past the baubles. “Can I get one?” you ask with childlike enthusiasm.

Dad stops. Takes a quick look at the item. Then sternly turns to you and says, “You don’t need that!”

It was true. You didn’t.

Isn’t it odd? You always saw the joy he displayed whenever he brought home something from the latest Craftsman sale. At first, you assumed it was merely a toy. In retrospect, you realize now it was a tool. It offered a practical use.

You may want many things, but you only need a few. A father’s frugality pays dividends when his children embrace the discipline that it brings. This is the kind of dividend that continues to pay, from young adulthood through retirement.

“Buy the Corvette”

Frugality, however, does not mean unnecessary, or even unintelligent, sacrifice. Several decades ago, a father accompanied his son to a car dealer. The son was looking to buy his first car. The son, emphasizing practicality, wanted a K-car. The father knew better.

As the son eyed the features offered by the brand-new sedan, his father kicked the tires of a used Corvette. It may have been used, but it was a Silver Anniversary Special Edition. And it cost the same as the new car.

“Buy the Corvette,” said the father.

Sometimes you may not “need” something, but a premium product can have longer lasting value than the no-frills offering. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself focusing only on the short-term, and that may cost you more in the long-term.

There once was a commercial that suggested it made sense to pay a little more today for oil filters because it would save you money on vehicle maintenance down the road. “Pay me now, or pay me later,” said its famous slogan.

Dads have learned that lesson. That’s why it can often make sense to buy the Corvette you only think you don’t need.

“It’s Only a Job.”

Life is tough. It’s tougher if you take it personally.

Your first job consumes you. It becomes your entire world. That’s normal. What’s also normal is a tendency for young workers to blow things out of proportion. They simply don’t have enough life experience to judge the relative significance of any one incident.

Dads do.

You may recall what your father told you after you explained with mortal fear the end of your life as you knew it. Something happened at work. It didn’t go your way. It wasn’t going to get you fired. But it embarrassed you. Your coworkers would never look at you the same way again. Your career was over.

You expected a sympathetic ear. Instead, your father said with keen bluntness, “It’s only a job.”

There. Those four words instantly put your world in perspective. It wasn’t crumbling. What happened was strictly business.

And, oh, by the way, never bring your business home with you.

“Don’t Bet Against the Dallas Cowboys”

Dad’s financial fundamentals began with putting family first. Keeping family and business separate is part of that. Still, money lessons can be learned at the dinner table. Even the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Everyone wants to get rich quick. Many believe such shortcuts exist. Dads know better. They probably won’t admit it, but they’ve learned the hard way.

You may think you have a fool-proof way to beat the house, but then the house has you exactly where they want you. You can’t beat the house. So don’t try. Even if it looks too good to be true.

If you’re of a certain age, the name “Clint Longley” means something to you. It was Thanksgiving Day in 1974 and the Washington Redskins, up by two touchdowns, knocked Roger Staubach out of the game with about ten minutes left in the third quarter. In came Clint Longely, a rookie who had yet to take a snap in a real game.

Watching the game from the Thanksgiving dinner table (no doubt much to the dismay of mom), the son told his father, “Game’s over. The Redskins are going to win.”

“Care to bet a dinner on it?” the dad responded with cool confidence.

Longely rallied Dallas but Washington took the lead back. Driving for the winning score late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys lost a fumble deep in Redskin territory, seemingly sealing their fate.

“That’s it,” said the son. “They’re done for sure now.”

“Wanna double the bet?” said the dad.

“Sure,” said the son, “I could use the two dinners!”

Moments later, Longely led the Cowboys to victory.

“Never bet against the Dallas Cowboys,” instructed the father.

Of course, truth be told, the young son was never in a position to buy the two dinners. Which may prompt the father to add this fundamental truth to his list: “Don’t count your chickens until the eggs hatch. And don’t count your money until the check clears.”

Dad doesn’t have to be an investment wizard. Most dads usually aren’t. Life, though, has taught them plenty. It’s that experience every good father wants to pass on to his children.

If only they would listen.

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