My parents divorced when I was two, and I grew up living with my mom and would visit my dad during school vacations. It was not ideal for any of us, but it was just life and the only life I knew. My father will be the first to tell you, and his four kids will confirm that he is not the most “warm and fuzzy” person on the planet. He was definitely not afraid to be the disciplinarian and from his kid’s perspectives, often gave some pretty harsh punishments.
Once I started attending college, I received some of those harsh punishments, especially where money was concerned. While my dad gave me the greatest gift of paying for school, he made it abundantly clear that any “fun” was going to be on my dime and once I graduated I could not expect to find a home with him. I made a few financial “mistakes” over my four years of college and I was always forced to repay them. The “Bank of Dad” had a zero tolerance policy where financial debts were concerned. Because my dad was not warm and fuzzy, many of these lessons, while well intentioned were interpreted as Draconian.
A few years after graduating college, I got engaged and began the wedding planning process, which was also a financially challenging exercise with my dad, but we worked through it. I asked him at one point what song he wanted to dance to for the father / daughter dance because we really didn’t have a “song.” To my surprise, he declared that he had already found a song and shared it with me. The song, “Father and Daughter” was written and performed by Paul Simon for the Wild Thornberrys movie, and when I heard this, I wasn’t so sure about his song choice. And then I listened to it…
While listening to the song, with tears in my eyes, it suddenly became clear to me that my father truly loved me and that despite the fact that he was not warm and fuzzy on the outside, he was warm and fuzzy on the inside. This song represented a great love letter from my dad to me and actually forced me to re-evaluate my interactions with my dad in a different light. All of the sudden, all of those Draconian financial lessons became lessons taught in love and with my best interest at heart. My dad was teaching me one of the greatest financial lessons ever, he was teaching me accountability.
My Frugal Role Model(s)
Almost 11 years have passed since my dad shared this song with me, and my relationship with him has grown and developed stronger than I ever thought it could be. I have been spending more time with him lately since I travel to Houston regularly and we always have a great time chatting about the joys of making smart money choices. You see, my dad and stepmom have actually become great frugal role models for my hubby and me.
They were the first ones to cut the cable ties years ago. He travels to Asia regularly for business meetings and while there always has inexpensive (but nice) suits made rather than going to a Brooks Brothers or something in the US. They eat dinner at home most nights and he eats lunch in the affordable cafeteria at his hospital rather than off site. Both of their cars are paid for and over 7 years old (my step mom’s is 12 years old), and they have no intention of upgrading. Their home is paid for and while it is nice, it is not necessarily the nicest one on the block and they don’t care.
Lesson from my Dad and his Dad
On my recent visit to Houston, my dad and I discussed the joys of not feeling the need to “keep up with the Joneses” and he said that this lesson really hit home for him when my grandfather, his father, passed away 14 years ago. My grandfather was one of the most gregarious, pure hearted people I have ever known. He worked for most of his life in the postal service and worked hard to provide for his wife and three sons.
When he passed away, his “estate” was valued at a little over $20,000; however, the family had to provide two full days of wakes for visitors and on each day there was always a line out the door and his funeral was a packed house. My dad and I both agreed that the lives that my grandpa impacted represented a greater legacy than any money could buy. Life is not about the “stuff” it’s about the people. When we stop worrying about the stuff, we afford ourselves the opportunity to focus on what is really important, our people legacy.
What lessons have you learned from your dad?
PS: Speaking of legacy, and a funny aside, my dad has an identical twin brother and two summers ago, both families vacationed in one house together. My dad has three daughters and a son and my uncle has three sons and a daughter. Here is a picture from the trip and the green arrow is my dad while the blue is my uncle. At my wedding, my uncle received just as many congratulations as my dad.
Gif source: Giphy