Father’s Financial Wisdom: Things I Learned From Dad About Life

Wende Dahlsten
Greater Nevada Credit Union

Father’s Day is around the corner. It’s a day to honor and celebrate the men who raised us – and for some of us it’s a bittersweet holiday. My dad left this earth 5 years ago this July, and I miss him every day. I was lucky to have such an amazing role model and confidant for 41 years. It’s never long enough; I never stop needing my father’s wisdom.

My dad, Stuart Powell, was a business leader with impeccable morals and a great sense of humor. He managed multi-million dollar budgets in the television industry, and when it came to teaching us about finances, he brought it down to our level and kept it real. I’m eternally grateful and ask myself daily… What would dad do in this situation? And most of the time, I come up with a solid plan.

Live Within Your Means

My father came from very modest beginnings. Some would say he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. His family of 6 lived in a 2 bedroom house and resources were scarce. But, from the stories dad told, he had a fun childhood. He didn’t have much, but made the best of his resources and enjoyed life. If he had an extra dime, he’d take the street car to the movies and buy a bag of popcorn and felt like he was living like a king.  Dad was the eternal optimist, and that rubbed off on everyone around him. He insisted that we learn to budget our money so that we could enjoy life.

The Platinum Rule in Finance

Everyone knows the Golden Rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. My dad lived his life by the Platinum Rule which was to treat others how THEY want to be treated. When it comes to paying bills, everyone wants to be paid early or on time. He harped on how late payments can affect your credit rating. In dad’s view, there is nothing more important than your reputation which is derived by how you treat others. In fact in his last days we asked him if he had any regrets, and he was only troubled that he couldn’t remember all of his employees names all of the time. It was important to him that he be seen as someone who cared about people. He was truly an amazing human being.

Don’t Skimp When Home Buying

When buying a home, my father always said push yourself to buy a house that’s more on the top end of your budget. His point was “don’t settle” because once the excitement and the newness of the home wears off you’ll begin to have resentment about major drawbacks of the property. Most of us have to compromise on something when it comes to a home, just make sure that the positives outweigh the negatives in a major way so that you can enjoy your home for the long haul.

The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself….and the Bogeyman     

Our family loves to laugh, and dad was the ring leader of goofiness. Not that he thumbed his nose at tough times, but he taught us not to take ourselves too seriously. Good times are never a given and we watched him ride economic roller coasters with grace. dad’s philosophy was when finances were tight; don’t completely remove donations and fun from the equation.

When you really are stretched financially, charitable giving becomes so much more meaningful. Non-profits suffer greatly when the economy takes a downturn, and every little bit helps. You may not be able to give as much as you once did and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Most charities not only need financial contributions, but they are lacking in manpower. If your budget is too tight for monetary gifts, see if you can carve out time to volunteer with your favorite organizations.

The same Stu Powell principle applies to taking vacations. Most of us spend a great deal of our lives at work. And when it’s tough making ends meet, the first thing to cut might be that trip to Mexico. Dad would say, “Don’t cancel the trip, just adjust it”. You don’t have to stay at the 5 star resorts; find a budget friendly place off-season that has a kitchenette. The majority of expenses in traveling are eating out. Go to the local grocery store and buy picnic food to take to the beach. The bottom line for dad was, it’s important to prove to yourself and your family that fun is important no matter what the economic circumstance.

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t tie a bow around this piece with a little attention to gift giving. Dad always said that the gift given when you really can’t afford it is the most precious. What gems do you dads out there have to share? We’d love to hear from you and look forward to your comments!