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Money Management: What Our Fathers Taught Us

Sarah Kaufman



My dad started working when he was 15 years old as a restaurant bus boy and dishwasher. He’d make his parents cart him to and from the restaurant, where he consistently worked a good 60-hour week, picking up every shift he possibly could.

One day, his father, who had noticed his intensive work schedule, asked him, “Vail, why are you working so many so many hours at the restaurant?”

My dad responded, “I want money in my pocket so that when I want a Coke, I can buy a Coke.”

As my dad got a bit older, his work ethic continued, overtaking his summers between school years and eventually college. One week, he even set his restaurant’s record with 93 hours on the clock.

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Years later, when he was in his mid 20s, my dad was complaining to his father about something he wanted to buy, but he didn’t have enough money to buy it.

His father looked and him, smiled, and said, “Those Cokes can get expensive.”

My dad worked long hours so that he could buy whatever he wanted, but he later realized that it’s not the right way to manage your money. The lesson he took away from this — and the one he instilled in me — is that it can be dangerous to approach your finances in this way. And it will inevitably lead to unhappiness.

You’ll never be able to buy everything you want, he said, because everyone has to weigh their priorities, make choices and, at times, make sacrifices.

At Manilla, we rounded up our favorite financial advice from our dads that has helped us navigate the trenches of responsible money management and life planning. And whether or not we followed that advice, it’s stuck with us nonetheless.

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One of my dad’s often repeated mantras was, “The only money I’ll ever have is the money I haven’t spent.” I think his attitude stemmed in part from growing up during the Great Depression, but even now it has a number of timely takeaways. Leslie Norgren, Partner Implementation Manager

My dad works for himself and always encouraged me to try to be as financially as self-reliant as I could be. From an early age, I was inspired to sell lemonade, babysit and come up with ways to make money on my own. –Maitland Greer, Senior Marketing Manage

Set aside a little savings from of your paycheck right away. Out of sight out of mind. Always save for the rainy days because you never know when they will come. If you see a big-ticket item you really want to buy, go home. If you really want it/need it you can always go back (unless it’s one-of-a-kind, in that case, buy it if you can afford it.) Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Ren Sanchez, Customer Engagement Lead

My dad instilled the value of savings and advised me to contribute as much as I could afford to a retirement fund. Then, when and if I get a raise, he’d encourage me to increase the contribution at the same time. That way, I wouldn’t see a much larger paycheck as the “new normal,” which would have framed any future increases in contributions as a loss.Jonathan Schwartz, Performance Marketing Manager

My dad was (and still is, thankfully) big on math, so he always tried to teach a few important things. The one I remember most, which has sort of become common practice at grocery stores, was to figure out the price I was actually paying for something. Often I wanted to buy soda in cans, because I thought they were neater (I was easily impressed). However, he used to work through the math with me so I would know the per-ounce price of what I was buying and how much cheaper the two-liter bottle was. I always found that way of looking at things invaluable. Danny Polinsky, Product Manager

Never spend more than you can afford. Anna Cadwallader, Sales & Marketing Intern

Do not spend more money than you have. Pay the total balance of your credit card each month to avoid paying interest on credit card payments. Make your health a priority in buying quality products. Make a list of things you really need before going to the store to avoid buying unnecessary items. Compare prices before buying items.Diana Medina, Senior QA Engineer

Though my dad didn’t overtly drill any specific money tips into me, I paid attention through the years to his conservative nature with finances, whether it was investing, making big purchases or day-to-day spending. He liked to think things through when it came to money and preferred to play the “long game” over “quick-strike” investment deals. Of course, at a young age, I rebelled and did the exact opposite, but I’ve grown to appreciate his methods. Just another example of us being more alike than I ever realized. Jim Staats, Technical Support Analyst

“Don’t buy the most expensive house on the block.” Recently my wife and I began looking to purchase our first home. I guess my dad feels that buying “the most expensive house on the block” is likely to be a riskier investment in the long run, as there may be less room for it to appreciate in value. Something akin to “buy low and sell high.” –Brett Fishman, Manager, Engineering

Don’t buy things brand new if you can get them just as good used. If you can’t easily pay in cash for luxury items, you can’t afford them and should not buy them. Marc Karasu, VP, Marketing

He taught me to turn off all electrical items before going to bed. Growing up he always made sure that I turn off the lights/fans when I am not using a room and also made sure I completely shut down the computer before going to bed. He even used to clean and switch off the refrigerator when we were going on a long vacation. Also, he always said that we should do our own chores, like cleaning the car, house, etc. instead of paying someone to do it. Srikala Kambhampati, Senior QA Engineer

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My father taught me that being smart with your money is rewarding in more ways than one. Following his example, I’ve lived within my means, spending where I need to — and sometimes because I want to — and saving the rest. This has enabled me to make a comfortable home for myself and have a fun, active and adventurous life — all while establishing great credit and saving for long-term goals, like buying a house, taking fun trips and retirement. –Briana Frye, Senior Partner Manager

My favorite: ”Save Small Spend Big.” My father was a big believer in saving pennies on things like electric, cable etc. And spending your hard-earned money on bigger things that provide greater value. Bill Eller, Senior Director, Business Development

Always keep your “play” money in a separate account so you never overspend your budget. Robert Imhoff, Senior Web Security Manager

Pay yourself first – put money from every paycheck into retirement savings before you do anything else. Always have a “rainy day” fund (about six months’ of living expenses) – just in case! Set goals and save to achieve them. Christine Ciandrini, VP, Infrastructure and Operations

My father and I were political refugees when we came here, so when we had money, it was spent right away on groceries and rent. Never had money-saving types of conversations. The only thing I remember is that he always paid in cash and told me to never use credit cards. –Aleksandra Piotrowska, Office Manager

My grandfather taught me at a very young age to live below my means. He led by example, proudly driving the same car for more than 30 years and making the most of everything he had. I’ve seen many of my my friends go in to debt and delay saving for the future in order to drive a new car every other year, move into larger homes or simply by eating out regularly. While I’m not as extreme as my grandfather was, living below my means was one of the best pieces of financial advice I’ve received. Aaron Zitzer, VP, Product Management

My dad’s financial wisdom was passed more by example than by explicit tips. (And it consisted mainly of being “frugal,” as he put it.) For instance, he was a doctor but NEVER bought a fancy anything. He’s driven nothing but NISSAN Maximas (with cloth seating – not once even sprung for leather) for the past 30 years! 

And when we were little — maybe 7 or 8 — he would take us to the horse races, give us the money to place bets, but then let us keep only our *profit*, taking back the “principal” that he’d put down on our behalf. So I guess he was indirectly teaching us about ROI. (And that money doesn’t come easy).

The one tip he did try to explicitly give me was about investing on a regular basis the same amount each month no matter what the market was doing, and thus “dollar-cost-averaging.” That, diversifying, and  starting young. --Jessica Grossman, Technical Manager

My dad always told me to save more than I spent. It’s hard to do that nowadays but still good advice. Adam McBride, Senior Operations Engineer

Forced savings is the key, putting aside a portion of every paycheck, regardless of what’s happening in your life. Conservative investments — don’t allow your life savings to get washed away in the market. Don’t use credit cards to fund big purchases. Save and wait, it’s more rewarding to pay for something yourself. Cars are meant to get you places — don’t spend your money on expensive cars. You only need one pair of sneakers every 10 years. Mow your own lawn, clean your own house, and do what you can on your own. Steve Lagnado, Senior VP, Finance

He taught me to always extensively research  anything that is considered a big purchase. As a kid, if I wanted to buy anything that was relatively expensive (like computer parts, electronics, etc.), I would have to present to my father why the purchase was a good idea. He would ask questions about it, and I had to know why this product was better than its competitors and why the price was justified. I still do this now, and almost never buy anything on a whim, saving myself from “wasteful purchases.” --Carlo Stearns, Rails Engineer

My dad always said that when buying something big, try to get super high quality. It’s kind of obvious advice, but he always maintained that it’s best to wait or not buy low-quality big-ticket items. You end up regretting the purchase as it breaks down or doesn’t live up to expectations. –Andres Camacho, VP, Engineering

It’s more important to find out what’s really important to you than how much you spent on it. A sale on junk is still junk. --Peter Christensen, Senior Software Engineer

By setting up an additional amount of taxes to be withheld per paycheck, you are essentially creating a forced savings account that will be paid back to you at the end of the year. For example, if you include $50 of additional withholding  per paycheck, and you get paid ever two weeks (26 pay periods), that is an extra $1,300 that you will receive come tax time. The best part is you don’t have to take any actions once you’ve set up the initial withholding. --Jason Fink, Director, Advertising Operations

Pay the full balance of your credit card off each month. Becky McInerney, Software Engineer

My father grew up having to support himself, so it gave him a black-and-white view on the financial advice he gave me. The money tip that sticks in my mind most is that he is always (and he still does this) asking me if I’m saving enough. Advice-wise, that’s it. Stickier than advice, though, it was his actions that stuck with me most. Andrew Hsu, Associate Product Manager

Make an emergency fund – put a little money from every pay check into this account and don’t touch it unless there is a big emergency. Start investing in retirement as soon as you graduate and get a full time job. Budget your money every month, so you know how much you need for bill and how much you can spend on other stuff like eating out, movies, shopping, etc. And finally, since I am still in college, don’t go out to bars too often — you can make five drinks at home for the price of one at a bar. Amanda McWhorter, QA Intern

Though my father passed away many years ago, I can still remember the one thing that he would always remind me of when it came to managing my money: “Don’t spend as if there is no tomorrow. Just because you have money in your pocket/account now doesn’t mean that it will be there tomorrow. Chances are that something will arise that will require that extra money you are throwing away on video games (I was a big gamer) and when it does, don’t come to me with your hand out.” I think I learned my lesson very well because when that time did arise, I knew not to ask him…I asked my mom instead. --Harvey Denson, Business Intelligence Analyst

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