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8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

June 13, 2018
Personal Finance
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Dads can teach us lots of things, like how to throw a football, drive a car with a stick shift or pitch a tent. They can also help teach us how to understand money and eventually become financially stable, budget-savvy adults.

With Father’s Day approaching, we asked NerdWallet employees to share what they learned about personal finance from their fathers. Here’s what they said:

» MORE: 8 important money lessons we learned from Mom

1. Never carry a balance

8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

Source: Michael Chanover

“My dad taught me to only buy what I could afford and to never, ever carry a balance on a credit card. He said that if there was ever a month where I could not pay my entire bill, that meant it was time to cut the card in half.”

— Michael Chanover, vice president of design and user experience

2. Save for later, but enjoy life now

“‘You can’t spend it when you’re gone’ was the advice my dad learned from his father and what I’ve since learned from him. Since retiring in his 50s, he’s gone on to travel most of the globe and has seen things many people dream of but never actually do. From this, I’ve learned to balance saving to enable future adventures while also traveling and enjoying life now, making the most of my health and youth.”

— Sam Dalton, senior software engineer

3. You’re never too young to start investing …

8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

Source: Dev Patel

“When I was in middle school, my dad took all the paper money out of our Monopoly game and told me to go pick five stocks to invest the money in and track how much I made (or lost) every month. Two years later, I bought my first investments with real money and have been interested in investing ever since.”

— Dev Patel, product manager

Source: Anthony Moor

Source: Anthony Moor

“My brother and I were not yet in grade school when my dad bought us each a single share of stock: Disney for me and Wilson Sporting Goods for my brother. He was a stockbroker, and in this way he taught us the value of capital investment. We understood it as ‘owning’ a share of companies that we knew and believed in. Following that long view (or ignoring it on occasion!) has validated my dad’s wisdom time and again.”

— Anthony Moor, product director

4. … or to learn about budgeting

“I got an allowance as a kid, and my parents had me split it in between savings, spending and charity. It was really helpful to learn about this type of budgeting from a young age! At the same time, they let me spend my money on whatever I wanted, which explains the massive pile of Beanie Babies at my parents’ house that I just swore would be worth something.”

Courtney Alev, product manager

5. Take savings seriously

8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

Source: Tolu Salako

“My dad taught me how to save money. When I was in college, he got annoyed whenever I touched my savings for nonemergency reasons and always sent more money than I ever needed just to make sure that I kept some for later.”

Tolu Salako, engineer

6. Understand the value of a dollar

8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

Source: Kenley Young

“My dad is a retired calculus teacher, so he’s always had a head for numbers. But having grown up relatively poor in the hills of Appalachia, he has also always understood, innately, the value of a dollar, and he’s always impressed that upon me. ‘Don’t go into debt without a good reason.’ ‘Search for a better APR.’ ‘Take that 401(k) match from your employer because it’s free money.’ To this day, I go to him for money advice.”

— Kenley Young, assistant assigning editor

7. Decide what matters — and what doesn’t

Source: Don Kirkpatrick

Source: Don Kirkpatrick

“Figure out what’s really important to you to have a satisfying life and don’t be afraid to spend on it, but skimp on the things that don’t matter. It’s a personal decision, not something that may apply to the next person. (He didn’t actually give me this advice; it’s just something I learned from observation.)”

— Don Kirkpatrick, deputy director of content

8. Take charge of your finances

8 Smart Money Lessons We Learned From Dad

Source: Steve Young

“As a small-business owner who kept his kids all-too-gainfully employed, my dad was the single most formative influence in my financial upbringing. He had me filing my own tax returns and implementing a basic budget since I was in grade school, in addition to imparting a hearty appreciation for frugality and value-maximization. My dad gave me a sense of financial self-empowerment, which remains one of the most valuable lessons of my life.”

— Steve Young, senior software engineer

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