It’s almost Father’s Day! Like many of you, when I’m confronted with racks of saccharine greeting cards at the drugstore, I’m reminded that none of them can come close to capturing the way my dad has influenced my life.
He was born in 1929—just months before the stock market crash—and came of age during the Great Depression. As a kid, he played football with a wad of tied-up newspaper because no one could afford a ball. His family moved four times because they couldn’t pay the rent. Sometimes his Depression-era habits drive me crazy, like his resistance to spending his hard-earned money.
After all, he and my mom waited nine years to buy their first car and 11 years to purchase a home! When I was a kid, part of me wanted say, “Live a little!” But the wiser part of me (the part of me that’s him) can see now that the deprivation of his youth taught him valuable lessons: the importance of living beneath your means, avoiding debt, and saving.
I couldn’t have asked for a better financial role model. My dad’s frugality and values inspired me to become a financial journalist, write Get a Financial Life, help to create Money as You Grow as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, and make it my life’s mission to help educate young people about their finances so they can realize their dreams, too.
Tales from a Taxi Driver
Naturally, as a proud daughter and, now, a proud mother, I love hearing from dads about the ups and downs of imparting money lessons to their kids. Just last week, my cab driver griped to me about his 20-year-old son, who wanted to turn down a $16-an-hour summer job so he could just “hang out.”
At the same time, he asked to borrow his dad’s credit card to open a Netflix account. Dad put his foot down: “I’m trying to pay off my own debt and then never use my credit card again. If you want Netflix, you should take that job, apply for your own credit card, and pay for it yourself!”
Hearing that story, I found myself chuckling, knowing that it’s going to be a few years before that kid understands the value of what his “mean old dad” is teaching him.
Many More Mr. Moms
We all know the stereotype: Dads aren’t natural talkers. Looking back, I realize that much of what I learned about money from my dad wasn’t through anything he said—though those money conversations can be very important!—but from his daily habits. Moms have traditionally been the ones who spend more time caring for their children and, in the process, teaching about nickels and dimes.
But more and more dads are becoming the stars of their kids’ financial lives, with the numbers of stay-at-home dads reaching what may be an all-time high. Even if you don’t have those everyday grocery aisle negotiations, you dads send powerful signals to your kids about how to manage money (and be a good financial partner!) every time you use an ATM, choose a brand that’s on sale, or plan a vacation.
And when your kids want to be financially lazy, perhaps by turning down a summer job, tell them the mantra my dad used on us: “Do what you have to do, not what you want to do.” (But, like my dad, you may be mercilessly teased for saying it!)
Got any amazing father-kid stories about the almighty buck? Please share them below! And Happy Father’s Day!
© 2012 Beth Kobliner, All Rights Reserved
Beth Kobliner is a personal finance commentator and journalist, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties,” and a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Visit her at bethkobliner.com, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.