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Best financial advice from dads

Do what you love, invest in yourself, and it's not all about money. Plus, we've got a few Father's Day deals.

By Teresa Mears Jun 16, 2010 2:02PM

We could give you one of those same old lists of what to buy your dad for Father's Day on Sunday, June 20, but does he really want another tie, tool or gadget? OK, maybe he wants a new iPhone 4G, but can you afford it, even if all your siblings chip in?


Once my father left his advertising job and quit wearing ties, I never knew what to get him. This year, he has sent out a note telling his children not to get him anything but he does have a whole list of chores he'd like done. Maybe your dad has a similar list. Or maybe he'd like to go out to dinner, golfing, fishing, to a movie or a ball game or over to your house for dinner.

My father, who doesn't want things that aren't useful, raised a daughter who refuses to buy things that aren't useful just because society says it's a gift-giving occasion. Tell society no! My father encouraged free-thinking, too.


When it comes to our attitudes about money and how we live our lives, many of us can thank (or blame) our fathers.


We looked around for some of the best advice bloggers, celebrities and other notables received from their fathers:

  • Gary Foreman at The Dollar Stretcher: "Wait before you buy. … When I was a boy Dad would make me wait a few days before buying that new baseball glove. I used to chafe under the restriction. But, there were times that the buying fever went down and I found that I no longer wanted to make the purchase. As I've grown older I recognize that there are a certain percentage of purchases that I won't make if I'm just willing to wait a few days."
  • Jim Wang at Bargaineering: "The smartest advice I ever got from my parents was to always work hard. My dad once told me that I was one of those people who could complete a 15-minute job in 10 minutes. As I basked in the compliment, my dad told me that what would separate me from the other people who could do the same thing was what I did with the other five minutes. Everyone has talent in something, but not everyone has a work ethic. A strong worth ethic is what separates the great from the merely good. I can't say I disagree."
  • Elizabeth Gilbert, author: "My father is the most frugal human being I've ever met. His most adamant instruction was that I should never under any circumstances go into debt. To this end, he passed along the message his own grandfather had taught him: 'Borrowing money is like wetting your bed in the middle of the night. At first all you feel is warmth and release. But very, very quickly comes the awful, cold discomfort of reality.'"
  • Dean Kamen, Segway inventor: "My father was an artist who loved what he did. He'd sit at his board 12 hours a day. I once said to him, 'Gee, Dad, all the other fathers have time after they come home to play ball or sit around. At the end of the day, you're working.' He put his brush down and said, 'Those fathers are doctors, lawyers and bankers. When they come home, all they want to do is their hobby. My work and my hobby are the same. Find work in something you love and it won't feel like work.' I listened to him. And I have been fortunate enough to work at something that I love."
  • Jeff Daniels, actor: "When I started to make some money, I went to my dad for some financial advice. Before he could say a word, I went on and on about the stocks and bonds and mutual funds. Ten minutes went by in my quest to impress him with how much I knew about something I knew nothing about. When I finally finished, he looked at me and said, 'Invest in yourself.' As a self-made man, he has spent his whole life doing just that. 'Put your money into the one person you can count on, the one person you know will be motivated to do everything possible to make sure your investment is a good one. Everything else is just a shell game.' So I have."
  • Chuck Jaffe at MarketWatch (about his father-in-law): "The moral of his financial story is a simple one: Financial goals are about more than just money. Factor in the time, worry, personal values, hopes, dreams, and anything else tied to money, then take a path that allows you to reach your goals, not just by the number but in keeping with your personal attitude."

We also like this story from Louise of Our Odyssey, as a guest post at Get Rich Slowly:

When she was just out of college, her father loaned her $500 for furniture and deposits and suggested she pay something every month, but never drew up a note. She made a few payments, then quit paying and he later forgave the loan as a Christmas gift.


A year later, she wanted to buy a condo in San Francisco and asked her father if she could borrow $8,000 for a down payment. "He laughed out loud and said, 'You missed four payments on a $500 loan and now you want to borrow over 10 times that amount? Sorry, no. You're a lousy credit risk.'"


My father taught us a lot about money, but if I were to pick his best piece of advice, I think it would be: Always be able to support yourself.


Here are a few Father's Day deals:

Check with local attractions, parks and museums because many are offering dads free admission if they bring paying family members.


What's the best piece of financial advice or best financial lesson you learned from your father? If you're a father, what are you trying to teach your children about money and how are you doing it?


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