There are many things that I’m thankful for when it comes to my dad. I’m thankful for him helping me become the young woman I am today; for him always being there for me at my lowest points with arms wide open; and for him always managing to make me smile or laugh with his not-so-funny dad jokes. I am also thankful for all his guidance, relationship advice, and money lessons. The things my dad taught me over the years have been invaluable.
So, without further ado, here are four essential money lessons that only my father could teach me:
- Save, save, save!
- Spend your money on things that make you happy.
- Always do your taxes.
- Accept your debt for what it is.
Now, this might be a given, but from as far back as I can remember, my dad has always taught me to be responsible with my money.
At the age of six, I would put my tooth under my pillow at night, and in the morning, I would take my “tooth fairy” money straight to my dad to put into my savings account. On birthdays, when I would get money and checks from family and friends, I would spend half of it and save the other half.
At the age of 21, I still have this mentality, and I will continue to have it for the rest of my life. Maybe one day I can even pass this on to my own children. (But let’s not get ahead of myself just yet — after all, I’m still young!)
2. Things That Make You Happy
When I was younger, I would ask my dad for toys or gadgets, and if I was good, he would get them for me. Those toys made me happy, which in a way made my dad happy. But he would only buy stuff when I deserved it, whether it was for good behavior or good grades.
Now that I’m older, toys don’t really apply. However, the relationship stays the same. If I worked like crazy on a 20-page business project to the point of crying because that was how stressed I was, I would call my dad.
He would tell me that I deserve to take a break — to do something that makes me happy.
Sometimes that would mean spending an extra $15 on two large margaritas, or even spending $200 for a weekend trip to New Orleans because I deserved it. After all, nobody wants to experience burnout.
Taxes are common sense. You work, you get paid, and then the government takes part of your money. But what happens when your employer doesn’t do it for you? That means that you’re responsible for saving for your own taxes. As easy as it is to say, “Every month I will put 33 percent away in a savings account,” it’s hard to actually do it.
That’s where my dad comes in. He’s my constant reminder that just because life gets crazy doesn’t mean that your taxes are going to stop and wait for you. (In fact, sometimes it helps to get help with your taxes — whether in the form of a certified financial planner or in the form of software like TurboTax.)
Going back to his first money lesson, my dad is that constant presence in the back of my head, telling me to save my money instead of immediately spending it when I get a tax refund.
For a lack of better words, debt sucks. It can cause an enormous amount of stress and change a person for the worse, even leading to depression. Everyone handles debt differently, but the way my dad handles his debt is something I admire.
He has never blamed my sisters or me for his debt and never lashed out. Instead, he’s kept a calm front in the face of his debt (although I know it is completely different on the inside).
His debt has not stopped him from doing anything he truly wants. Yes, he wants to get rid of his debt. But with or without debt, he bought a boat and jet ski for our family, is renovating the basement of our lake house, and still has time to fly down and visit me at school 1,000 miles away. My dad is incredibly smart with balancing paying off his debt and making sure that our family has a good, happy life.
So, here’s to you, Dad — thank you for being you. And thank you for all the money lessons you taught me.