• Wednesday, February 28, 2024
businessday logo


How dad’s words of wisdom can help your finances


You may not realize it, but inbetween making corny jokes and yelling about who touched the thermostat, your father taught you a great deal about money.

Dad is the usual financial teacher in the family, but even fathers who never spoke a word about the family budget passed along important money wisdom to their kids. That’s because Dad’s favorite words of wisdom — just like Mom’s — offer great insight into managing your money, even if they seemingly have nothing to do with finance.

If you ever heard your father tell you one of these old sayings, you should thank him. Without even knowing it, he gave you an excellent financial education.

Money doesn’t grow on trees

This is the classic Dad quote, and I don’t believe any American childhood is complete without hearing this at least two or three times a year. Your father would turn financial botanist anytime you wanted something that cost money he was not willing to spend.

The overt message is that there is a cost to money, and because of that cost, you cannot expect to have your every wish fulfilled.

The unspoken message is just as wise, however. Dad would only tell you this when you were expressing a want, rather than a need, so you could learn to differentiate the two.

Knowing whether the things you spend money on are wants or needs is an important basic budgeting skill that many people have trouble with. Dear old Dad gave you a mental script to help you tell the difference.

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today

When you were a kid, your father probably laid this one on you when you told him you’d mow the lawn “tomorrow.” He was hoping to teach importance of time management and why it’s not neighborly to let the grass grow above your knees.

But this is also a great lesson for learning how to pay yourself first. If your plan for saving money is to bank whatever cash is leftover at the end of the month, you are unlikely to ever have money available to transfer to savings. Don’t put off paying yourself until tomorrow when you can do it today.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

There are two important levels to this particular advice.

On the one hand, Dad was trying to let you know that it’s a good idea to embrace your paranoia. Just like the phrase, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Dad’s reminder of the cost of lunches helps you to understand that getting something for nothing means you will be expected to pay elsewhere.

And that leads to the second level of this advice.

Payment is not always financial. Accepting a “free lunch” might mean you are expected to do favors or make some other type of non-financial payment.

It’s crucial to know exactly what is expected before accepting any “free” lunch.

Dad is a fountain of wisdom 

The sayings that seemed like throwaway lines from your father were actually laying the complex groundwork for good money management.

This Father’s Day, let your old man know just how much you learned, and how much you appreciate it.