What My Dad Taught Me About Finances

June 18, 2011

By Heather Compton and Dennis Blas

It’s Dads’ Turn!

Fathers and Finances It’s Dad’s turn.  I’ve already written about my Mother, a fiscally cautious depression era Scott.  Her cautious influence was counter balanced by the risk taking influence of my Father. Between the two of them I was blessed with a very balanced view of money and its role.  Dad was a self-employed entrepreneur and the son of an entrepreneur.  My grandmother directed all her boys into business – she was determined that none of them would ever dirty their hands with manual labour.  If you’d met my Grandmother you wouldn’t argue either!

Invest In a Dream

My father was a believer that a financial risk in pursuit of a life dream was not only acceptable but mandatory.  One of his life list dreams was to start a new downhill ski area in Western Canada.  He followed his heart’s desire but ultimately the operation was not successful.

As a family, we teased him that he left his shirt and our inheritance on that hill.  Of course, he didn’t but I asked him years later if he regretted the loss of the money.  He told me, “How could I regret the loss when I had the opportunity to pursue a dream?  How many men ever get that opportunity?”

I loved my father and respected and valued his teaching that finances or money are a tool designed to operate in service to one’s life, and one’s life was never meant to be in service to money.

The Meaning of Money

We all grew up in families with different notions about the meaning of money – safety and security, power, responsibility, opportunity, freedom, adventure, philanthropy.  For my Scottish, depression era mother it clearly represents safety and security – it was money that kept a roof over your head and food in your tummy.  For my father it represented opportunity.  Two opposing views but not an uncommon difference between men and women.

Various studies of gender differences and my own experience with clients suggests men tend to be more willing to take financial risks but ask fewer questions, are less likely to worry about having ‘enough’, are more sure of their ability to manage money and are generally more confident in how they handle financial matters.  Men are more likely to view money as power and use it as a means to increase social status; they are also more likely to spend it on cars, electronics and other gadgets.

A Big Picture View

While children often credit mom with teaching them sound daily living money habits, dad is often credited with providing the bigger picture money view.

My dad would claim his smartest money move was to marry someone with a talent for budgeting and then keep out of her way.  It’s often dad that teaches the value of hard work and that a job is a job and if you want something you must save for it.  Many a dad has encouraged that savings habit and helped a child achieve a goal with an offer to match savings dollar for dollar.

S%#& My Dad Taught Me

My dad taught me to read a stock quote in the newspaper and lit my interest in investing.  He was a teacher, mentor and coach for me in business and my ‘go to guy’ for advice on issues ranging from asking for raises to buying cars.  He believed we all have a responsibility and an obligation to give back time and money to the communities that support our business success.

Some dads teach by silent example.  They care for their tools and possessions to extend their usefulness, undertake all nature of do it yourself tasks to extend the family budget and are often the ones completing tax forms and tracking net worth.  Many bear the burden of responsibility as sole breadwinners for their families.

This Fathers Day I thank my own father and all the other dads out there for their lessons and their legacy.  Happy Fathers Day!

About the Authors: Heather Compton has presented seminars on financial and retirement lifestyle issues for over 30 years. She retired as Vice President and Senior Investment Advisor with a major financial services company. Heather and husband Dennis Blas co-present retirement seminars for a variety of corporate clients and are the co-authors of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life. You can find their book online or in independent bookstores. See more of their advice at Retirement Rocks.

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