On this Father’s Day, I want to share with you the first financial lesson my father tried to teach me. When I was in the second grade, the public school lunch in the Philadelphia school district cost 60 cents. It included a protein, a milk a vegetable and dessert. One Monday before school, my father tried to teach me about money management.
He handed me a five-dollar bill (probably because he didn’t have any change) and said this money is for lunch for the week. At lunch that day, I paid for my meal and the cashier gave me back my change. I was flush with cash and my friends and I were hungry for dessert. I treated my friends to brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I was very popular. My generosity continued the next two days; my friends and I continued to enjoy desert after lunch.
Unfortunately, by Thursday morning I was out of cash and I approached my dad for more lunch money. I don’t know exactly what his expectations were of a 7-year-old’s money management skills, but he acted very surprised and disappointed when I told him I was broke. I explained that I had spent a lot of the money buying my friends desserts and he grounded me for the rest of the week.
Thankfully, my father was nice enough to give me more lunch money and I learned a valuable lesson in budgeting. When you are young and you make poor financial choices there is still time to recover. However, once we approach or enter retirement, poor money choices can be devastating. We probably won’t have our fathers around to bail us out. My father helped me learn at a young age that without a sound financial plan one’s chances of financial success are greatly diminished.
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