After my grandmother passed away, my family was tasked with helping to clean out her house. She and my grandfather, who had passed years before her, had lived there since grandpa built the house in the 60’s. In the basement closet, near the pool table, I found a small piece of yellow paper on the floor. When I picked it up, I smiled. On that paper was written three words:
“Rule of 72”
Now any fellow money nerds out there know what that means. The Rule of 72 is a formula that tells you how to calculate how long it will take your investment to double at a given rate of interest. You take 72 and divide it by the interest rate, then it tells you how long it will take. It’s a formula that looks like this.
So, for example, if you’re earning 10% interest your money will double in 7.2 years.
The fact that I knew what this meant without needing to Google it is largely thanks to the financial influence of my grandfather, and my father. And my husband-who joined our family knowing nothing about personal finance-today is a financial ambassador to his fellow nursing home workers and can quote Warren Buffet when the situation calls for it.
This Father’s Day (and happy Fathers Day to the dads reading this today!) I wanted to tell you some stories of my Grandpa, my father and my husband when it comes to money. Hopefully some of this will inspire any dads reading this to talk finance with your daughters and granddaughters. You never know, they just may become a money nerd like me.
In the comments below, I’d love to know what the fathers in your life taught you about money-or what you wish they had.
My mothers father is the instigator of financial knowledge in my family tree. Now he didn’t pass on a lot of it directly to me-much of it comes through hearing about him from my mother and father- but his knowledge and stories set a foundation of interest in personal finance.
Now my grandpa wasn’t a wealthy man of Wall Street or a corporate executive. He was a telephone lineman with Ma Bell/SNET, now AT&T.
My grandfather knew people who invested through the Great Depression, who didn’t make their money back for 25 years. This made him conservative, knowing that investing was for the long run and wasn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. From this, I’ve learned to never expect the stock market to go up in the short run. Anything I need in the next few years shouldn’t be in stocks. This came in handy in my formative investment years, from 2000-2010, when the market literally finished the decade where it started.
He used to talk about how surprising it was that many of his coworkers felt unable to retire. This was in spite of both generous pensions and years to save. Instead of saving and investing, they spent. And they weren’t sure how they would be able to live off their generous pensions. Honestly it’s a good thing these folks didn’t live today, in our pensionless world where every person needs to take care of themselves! He saved and invested so there would be plenty for his own comfortable (although not fancy) retirement.
Grandpa was always frugal-it didn’t matter how much money he had, he spent very wisely. He loved productive hobbies like building in his basement workshop. In fact, he built the bookshelf in my living room, among many other things. He also loved fishing. He enjoyed annual trips to Maine with my grandmother, camping, riding a motorcycle, and hiking.
That house he built in the 60’s? Paid for in cash. Car loans and credit card debt? Not a thing. Growing up in the shadow of the depression and World War 2 made him conservative- but still he invested. Likely only after making sure he had plenty for emergencies and no debt.
I don’t have the Rule of 72 paper anymore. But in my basement I have another reminder of my grandfathers personal finance interest. The nativity set I got from them is stored in a Becks Beer box. And the box is lined with an old financial newspaper, a section of the Wall Street Journal from 1984. Complete with ads for Vanguard.
My father credits my grandpa for his own financial education. Grandpa was the driving force behind his own interest in personal finance. He didn’t come into the family knowing a lot about finances. My grandpas interest, wisdom and discussions were the driving force behind what would become my fathers interest.
My dad side hustled (although it wasn’t called that) back in the 80’s and 90’s. He learned the ropes of painting and wallpapering houses by helping others in their painting businesses in evenings and on weekends. This side hustle came in handy when he lost his corporate job in the late 90’s. Instead of being force to find another corporate job, he went into business for himself. He started a business painting, wallpapering, and doing other such things. That’s what he’s done for work ever since.
I remember him spending a lot of evenings watching Louis Roukiser. Of course I found that boring. The only thing I enjoyed watching with him was Star Trek the Next Generation. Yeah that’s right-I was a nerd before it was cool.
My dad is the reason I got an IRA during my first teenage job. Why? He offered to match my contribution dollar for dollar. I’m pretty sure that part of why I picked up The Wealthy Barber at the library as a teen was because of this IRA. It helped spark my interest in personal finance, which turned into me spending decades as a personal finance nerd.
He helped me decide to invest in a Janus 20 fund. At the time, I remember he commented on just how much he envied my returns! This was in the late 90’s when the market was going crazy. He wasn’t jealous anymore after it crashed. Today I still have that IRA. It sits at Vanguard in an index fund now, though. Nowadays the Janus 20 doesn’t even exist anymore – it’s been rolled into another fund.
My father has always been a hard worker. Not only did he work full time with a side hustle for years. And running his own business is no easy feat. But also before I was born, he worked full time in a factory to pay for college. You may remember that I worked full time and went to school full time evenings and weekends to pay for school. It was thanks to my full time call center income plus tuition reimbursement. Well my dad was the OG of this strategy.
My father developed what he calls the “G Family Rules”. They are three simple financial rules that anyone can live by. Honestly I sometimes forget what exactly they say, but always remember in my financial life.
If you remember nothing else but these three things, you’ll come out ahead.
My father know the stock market well-and that includes when it’s not appropriate for your age or life circumstance. He’s seen the crash of the early 2000’s, the Great Recession, inflation of the 70’s and the 13% mortgages of the 80’s. He’s a fan of bonds (not so much bond funds) and knows the stock market is a game to play when you have plenty of time to ride the roller coaster. Not when you can’t ride out the recovery.
When I first met my husband, he was not interested in finances at all. He used to bounce checks, didn’t see the point of saving for emergencies, and put my engagement ring on credit. But over the years we’ve been together (over 20 years now), life events, listening to my family, and living with a money nerd wife who does things like talk about Warren Buffet for hours rubbed off on him.
My husband doesn’t love to read, so he was never reading all the financial books I did. But he always listened to me when I talked about what I was learning by reading all the books I do. He let me do whatever I thought was best with our money. He listened to my father when he said to contribute to his 401k (even though he worked at a factory and didn’t make much, and also didn’t get a match), and he sits down with me to review our net worthier whenever I ask him to.
Despite not being nearly as into this financial stuff as his wife, he became financially savvy over time. During the Great Recession, when I was afraid of just how fast our investments were crashing, he reminded me that Buffet said “be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy”. When he went into septic shock, and we experienced what a real emergency is, he really understood the benefit of an emergency fund. Now instead of not seeing the point, he sings its praises frequently.
My husband has contributed greatly to our families finances. His contribution usually isn’t through earning an income. For the almost nineteen years we’ve been parents he’s worked full time maybe four or five of them, and always in low paying jobs. He’s been a stay at home dad, or worked just a bit part time, most of our marriage.
Rather, my husband has contributed in other ways. Like by caring for the kids in a way that meant we didn’t need to pay for daycare. And my career came first – he’s always been there to be my cheerleader and take care of things around the house so I can focus on work. When he worked part time, he was happy to have all his income go to savings, or the kids college funds.
Now he doesn’t take home a paycheck despite working full time in a nursing home often afflicted with Covid. Why? To put 100% of his income after paying for insurance into his 401k. And today he talks with his coworkers at the nursing home about saving and investing.
Thanks Dads, and Happy Fathers Day!
I didn’t inherit millions of dollars. But inheriting an interest in personal finance, a strong frugal streak rooted initially in the Great Depression, and a strong work ethic has been even more valuable.
So on this Father’s Day, a big thanks to my grandpa, dad and husband for everything they’ve done for my (financial) life. Hopefully this inspires other fathers out there to share financial lessons with their daughters and granddaughters. You never know when you’ll spark a lifelong interest in personal finance!
I’d love to hear the money lessons from the fathers in your life, or what you wish they’d taught you. Let me know in the comments.