7 Priceless Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Money

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7 Priceless Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Money

Today I’d like to share with you the 7 Priceless Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Money.

As a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), my Dad dealt with money day in and day out.  He built a successful solopreneur practice from scratch and operated it for 35+ years.  Chances are he’d still be practicing, but a series of strokes coaxed him to finally slow down.  Today he’s happily retired.

The funny thing about these lessons is that I had NO CLUE what he was talking about for the longest time!  Nevertheless, after absorbing our conversations over many years, I’ve slowly begun to internalize what he was saying.  There was great wisdom available all along.

1. Know Your Numbers

calculator-385506_640As a CPA, my Dad was always trying to “balance the books” for his clients.  He taught me this fundamental skill one day when I finally asked him about the basics of accounting.  Yes, this was a tedious lesson, but it was a critical skill I used throughout the operation of my company.

Outside of my company, knowing my numbers for my family finances is just as important.  I want to know what my assets look like, my liabilities, and my cash flow at the end of the year.  Profits are the coveted outcome.  If you’re not making money, you’re losing it likely!

My best advice for understanding your number is to dig straight into it.  Read my posts How to Budget Like a Bad Ass – Part 1 and How to Budget Like a Bad Ass – Part 2 to get started today.  The sooner you lock down this skill, the easier it will become to bank your profits and know where you stand financially.

2. Live Frugally, and Give A Lot

money-652560_1280Although my Dad was financially successful most of his life, I was one of the last ones to know about it!

He managed our cash conservatively and told us to never take credit unnecessarily.  My Dad was a no-frills kind of guy.  He didn’t like purchasing luxury items or excess things.

In fact, I felt downright poor at times because I’d go to school in torn pants, and was picked up from school in a beaten up car.  (My reality was that we were poor!)

Fast forward many decades later, and my Dad is now one of the most generous individuals I know.

He paid for all of his children’s University, gives to his church, contributes regularly to his grand children’s college fund, and much more.

Furthermore, I am happy to see him finally comfortable splurging a little on entertainment for himself and my stepmom (eg. NBA Finals Tickets… and NO, I never got to experience anything like that!).

I know that I will never be as frugal as he was back in the day.  Yet, he taught me the balance of living below your means first to realize a profit.  Profits ultimately lead to financial freedom and a larger capacity to pay it forward throughout life.

3. Maintain Your Focus

target-1551492_640It used to drive me a bit nuts, but my Dad would always say, “Maintain your focus!“.

It was a bit nagging at the time, but the intentions were good.  He ultimately knew that it’s easy to get pulled in multiple directions at once.

This is the classic problem of trying to do a lot of things all at once, but never getting to master one thing.

If you travel down this path of divided attention, your focus will never be strong enough to make the impact you envision.

I’m not perfect, but I did my best to heed this lesson.  Today I feel like I can really focus on a specific task at hand, take massive action, and drive a result.

I believe this is a big part of how I achieved financial freedom at an early age.

4. Become An Entrepreneur & Investor

Raise Credit ScoreEven though my Dad was a CPA, he also tried his hand at a few different businesses along the day.  In fact, he even failed with a taco shop in the 1970’s.  Although it didn’t work out, I admire that he tried.

Luckily as a CPA, he was exposed to different investment opportunities and became a partner or investor in several other companies.  For a good decade, he also took on the role of CFO for an insurance marketing company.  He also ran some family businesses and managed some rental properties out of his office.

So, I guess it was no surprise that he would encourage me to become and entrepreneur.  He’d say, go out and make a “widget”!  And, I’d say, okay!  What’s a widget??

When the time was right for me to jump out on my own at age 25, I didn’t have any fear of failing.  Taking a business risk was just a part of life.

5. Find and Create Multiple Streams of Income

arrows-1574169_640I didn’t think of it as the time, but my Dad was really one of the first people to expose me to multiple streams of income.

As I mentioned, he made some private investments, invested in stocks, and was a part of some family businesses which owned rental properties.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to plant seeds of investment along the way.

Over time, these have the potential to grow up into a solid tree and yield both “fruit” and “lumber“!

If one tree is knocked down, you can rely on several others to feed you and your family.

6. Be Creative – Money Can Bond a Family Together

money bonding glueMoney doesn’t have to be used for obvious purposes!

One pretty cool thing that my Dad did was to set up was a holding corporation for his own father (my paternal grandfather) before he passed away.

This unique approach allowed his family to continue growing his Dad’s assets as his legacy, instead of the siblings taking a fractional inheritance when he passed.

With his brothers and sisters as the board members and officers, it makes them come together to make decisions together as a family unit.  It’s pretty neat to see.

At some point in time, this will eventually trickle down to the next generation.  We’ll see how it plays out, but I believe it served its greater purpose wonderfully already.

Of course, money can bond a family together in other ways too.  In my case, I have the freedom to enjoy and early retirement with my little ones.  The bonds I’m able to create now while they are young is truly priceless.

7. Protect Your Family’s Assets with a Trust

hands-1176674_640This final lesson my Dad didn’t teach me directly.  But, when he had his second stroke several years ago, we thought we might lose him.

It was during this difficult time that you really begin to think about estate planning and what it would mean to pass away without one in place.

If you have a decent number of assets in your estate, you don’t want to leave things up to chance when you go.

One popular strategy is to use a revocable living trust that has instructions on how to manage your assets after passing.

You’re really not doing this for yourself, but rather for the people you love.

I won’t go in-depth here (that’s another post), but a trust can help immensely.  There are many additional benefits like favorable tax treatment, avoiding probate, and protecting your intentions for your assets in ways that a traditional will cannot do.

The truth is this can get a bit tedious.  So, this is the perfect time to use an estate attorney to assist you with this process.  Even we did this and I’m pretty familiar with most the process.  Remember, sometimes your employer may offer these benefits or give you access to discounted legal fees, as was in our case.


dad and sonFinal Thoughts

It’s funny thinking back to when I was a kid and remembering this slow transfer of wisdom from my Dad.  I didn’t understand so much of it back then, but I so appreciate it today.

God has blessed me with so much and my Dad’s presence was certainly a huge part of this.

In the end, I still get to forge my own path, make my own decisions, and develop my own financial philosophy.  I’m just glad I had a strong foundation from these 7 priceless lessons my Dad taught me about money.

Readers, who influenced you the most about money when you were growing up?  Was the influence a positive model of what to do?  Or, was it a model of what NOT to do?

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Hi, I have been blessed to take an early retirement in my mid-30's so I can focus on becoming a better father, blogger, and investor.

My goal is to help you find your personal path to financial freedom, and to enjoy the entire journey.

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25 Comments on “7 Priceless Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Money”

  1. Those are some great lessons from your Dad! “What’s a widget”…ha I love that line. I don’t think I knew what a widget was until college!

    I like #3 and agree that it has a lot of merit to focus on certain things and build up your strength in those areas.

    I also love #6 and think that is so great your Dad and his siblings do that. My brothers and I own a couple small businesses and we have really enjoyed coming together to run those, even though we are all spread out across the US. It keeps us close as well.

    Great post, thanks!

    1. GS, awesome to hear that #6 works for your family! I don’t have anything together with my siblings yet, but hopefully someday in the future.

  2. You got some great lessons around money from your parents. While my parents imparted a lot of important lessons to me, the ones I got around money were not productive. I have spent the last 20 years trying to figure out my own path.

    And now, I spend a lot of time thinking about and acting on the lessons I want to teach my sons about money. They definitely will grow up with a different perspective on it than I had. They already wonder about why anyone would want to work for someone else 🙂

    1. Yes, I was lucky, Jef. I think the majority of people have parental examples of what NOT to do with money. Nevertheless, this force can be just as influential (if not more so) than a positive one. I’m glad you’re on the right path!!

  3. Great list Michael!

    I do have one comment regarding #6 though. Money can also tear a family apart. My father and aunts and uncles owned some family assets together…much like in your story.

    Well, they couldn’t make a decision that satisfied all parties. They ended up suing one another, and the assets had to be sold.

    It was a gigantic mess. I’m not sure owning assets with family is a good idea anymore.

    1. That’s a super important distinction, Mr. Tako!

      Money is simply an accelerant. It can help to bring a family together, or it can help to drive a family apart. So, definitely use caution when mixing money with family.

      For me, I would need to walk into a family partnership knowing that family is more important that the money. That way if all the money goes away from my sister doing something silly, I won’t be upset.

      Anyhow, it’s certainly a double-edged sword… glad you brought it up!!

  4. Great article Michael. In the words of Kiyosaki, it looks like you received a “Rich Dad” lesson from yours. As a father to be, I’m starting to think much more about what lessons I’d like to teach my future kid. I didn’t receive any “Rich Dad” lessons growing up and certainly was never told to start a business. From my asian mom, it was “get straight A’s, go to college, and become a doctor.” Ha, I didn’t become a doctor, but did fairly well in school.

    For me personally, maintaining focus (#3) and creating multiple streams of income (#5) are at the top of my list. Though the others aren’t too far off. I have mixed feelings on #6. Like Sam above, I’ve seen family relationships sour to the point where they no longer even see, talk, or acknowledge each other all because of money. It’s a sad outcome that unfortunately happens more then one would think.

    1. OB, that’s wonderful that you’re already considering what lessons you’ll be teaching to your kid. He/She will have a nice advantage later on in life.

      I do feel fortunate that my own Asian parents didn’t prescribe to the typical “get straight A’s, go to college, and become a doctor” model.

  5. Great article. I often think about the lessons I want to teach our children as they grow older (both are under 3 years old). Right now they don’t know anything about money. At some point they are going to want us to start buying things and I’m not sure how to handle the want vs. need discussion.

    However, one thing I’m VERY sure about is teaching them about spending less than you make and developing multiple streams of income.

    1. Thanks MC. It’s so powerful to be great example to your kids. I definitely want to teach me kids about managing money (spending less than they earn), but I also won’t “hide” our money from them like my Dad did.

      Encouraging entrepreneurship at a young age is fantastic! Even beyond the financial lessons, it teaches children to be resourceful, communication, and persistence.

  6. It’s wonderful to receive good money lessons from our parents. I think more people have learned what Not to do with their money by witnessing money mistakes perpetrated by their family members.

    I learned mostly good money habits from my parents. The one thing I’m trying to unlearn is the accumulation of things. My parents are very good at finding bargains at garage sales and thrift stores, and finding a place to store those things forever and ever.


    1. PoF, I hear you on the accumulation of things! My Mom was definitely a collector of “things” and while I may not be as “bad”, I’m admittedly trying to unlearn this too. 🙂

  7. Great post here man & sounds like you had/have an excellent dad there! 🙂
    Must say that my Mum would have to be my biggest role model on what to and what not to do.. While she’s decent at saving on the other hand she’s avoided investing due to risk and fear.. It’s important to have caution although there’s risk in doing nothing i.e. not investing as well

    Cheers Mike!

    1. Jef, that’s a nice distinction. There are many like your Mom that don’t spend money frivolously, but also miss out on great opportunities through investing. I’m curious, did she lose money from an investment at one point which led to her fear?

      1. Good question there Mike & thanks for the compliment!
        Funnily enough was actually helping Mum on the weekend with an investment & it’s possibly more of a fear of losing what she’s worked so hard to get through not understanding the markets/investments etc rather than having lost on an investment in the past..

        Like Tony Robbins mentions we’re either motivated by pleasure or avoiding pain

        Cheers for the follow up though! 🙂

  8. Those are really great lessons. You’re lucky your dad is so savvy with money. Many families have a lot of problems with money. My dad taught me about saving and investing, but he never was able to do it himself. He was great at making money, but he couldn’t hold on to it. I think that’s the case with most people.

    1. I was lucky, Joe. Having good examples in your life is super helpful. I do wonder where I’d be had I known we were actually okay financially. I seriously thought we were poor at times!! ????

  9. Thanks for sharing these stories, Michael. You certainly are blessed to have such a great Dad. He must be so proud to see that you’ve done well for yourself and your family.

    My biggest financial teacher was my Grandpa. He taught me to save, spend wisely, negotiate, and invest as early as possible. He left behind an impressive legacy when he passed away a few years ago, and I hope to do the same some day.

  10. I love hearing about parents who’ve made an impact, great post! I agree so much with maintaining your focus. It’s easier for women to multi-task because they can process information faster than men but for me personally, I lose a lot of productivity if I focus on multiple things at a time. I need to have absolute laser like focus on one thing to be able to achieve what I want.

    These are fantastic advice, Michael!

    1. Thanks, FS! Yeah, I’m definitely not a multi-tasker either. But, get me focused and I’ll burn a hole through whatever I’m honed in on. That challenge is getting to that place where I decide to be totally committed. Once I’m there, it’s smooth sailing.

  11. It’s amazing what parents can teach when the children don’t realize they are getting invaluable lessons. Your dad sounds like he was very wise and very loved. That’s a good legacy.

    1. Yeah, it’s funny how much I absorbed just through his example. I hope I can continue the tradition and impart great cash management skills to my own kids.

    1. Absolutely, Dr. MW! I hope I can do the same for my own children. I just need to remember there is a balance to be had between showing vs. telling.

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