5 Things I Learned About Money From My Dad

This post was inspired by JD’s Father’s Day Post at Get Rich Slowly.

My mother and father are both currently visiting Jerusalem. They left on Thursday and won’t be back for two weeks. My mom asked each of the (six) kids to write something for our dad that she now has probably given to him. I wrote him a few-sentence letter stating my admiration for some of his (many) great qualities.

Julie and I are staying at their house with the three kids down here in Arizona — waiting to settle on a house we purchased (but having our lease run out at the house were renting about a week too early!). So this is an interesting time to write — being surrounded by a place that holds about 16 years of memories for me.

Staying in line with money topics, I want to share a few things I’ve learned from my dad regarding money. He’ll probably never read this because I don’t believe he knows what a blog is, but this is for him nonetheless.

My dad taught me to take care of the things you have. Cords to appliances are always wrapped nicely, tools are always put away, etc. He always related the story of the man going door-to-door looking for donations. He stopped at a house and, before he rang the doorbell, overheard a man in the back yard scolding his son for leaving some nails out in the grass. “These nails are rusted now and aren’t nearly as useful!” The man at the door thought to himself that this was probably an exercise in futility — to ask a donation of a man that cared about a few nails. He rang the door anyway and the man ended up giving the largest donation the man had ever collected. Lesson: Understand Value.

My dad taught me to work (he may claim he didn’t successfully). When I was twelve I was tasked with mowing our 1/2 acre yard. Our lawnmower wasn’t the kind that pulled itself — it took some heav-ho pushing – especially for a 100 lb. 12-year old kid. Pushing that thing I think I looked more like those guys cruising on their choppers, with their arms up high. The lawnmower was a beast to push. It took me about 3 1/2 hours to do the front and back. I would put it off, which would only make things worse because the grass would be so much longer. The grass catcher would be heavy and I had a hard time dumping the grass into the bins. I had an even harder time dumping the bins full of grass into our mulch pile in the very back of the yard.

As time passed I became taller and stronger. By the time I left home I could finish both yards in an hour, do a better job, and enjoyed the entire process. To this day, I love mowing lawns. Lesson: Learn to Work.

The first personal finance book I read was The Richest Man in Babylon. I devoured it. I don’t remember how old I was — probably pre-teen. When I was 14 my dad gave me a book from a talk-show host that was starting to make his mark, named Dave Ramsey. The book was Financial Peace and I loved it. I credit that book’s principles with keeping me out of debt all these years. I’m thankful to my dad for recognizing good principles and passing them on to me. Lesson: Read.

My Dad’s an attorney (a nice one!). He’s always been able to provide for us. He claims to never really have been “book smart” but somehow he made it through Law School. He claims he’s always had to work harder to be average than the your average-average guy. I don’t buy in to my Dad’s whole, “I’m not too smart” facade he puts on. Where do my dad’s smarts come from? His dedication to his family. As a kid I was blessed by the fact that I never once thought there wasn’t enough money for food, shelter, and clothing (though maybe not the exact clothing I wanted – like Air Jordans…). My Dad worked so we had all the things we needed. He openly states that he’s never really enjoyed being an attorney, but doing that he provided for his family and, in that, found his purpose. Lesson: Provide for Your Family.

My Dad taught me to play chess when I was very little – probably six? I have a hard time remembering. I do remember lying on my stomach staring at the board, and being beat time and time again. Not just beat – slaughtered – in very few moves sometimes. I don’t know what our overall record is, but he’s winning. When I was 14 we were on vacation and I beat him — three times in a row. It rattled him good and I still relish the moment. But for eight or so years, he beat me again and again and again. Lesson: No Freebies.

Thank you Dad!