No Father’s Day would be complete without reflecting on lessons learned from my own Dad. “Tony G” – as I affectionately refer to him – had a financial smartness about him that few MBA grads possess. His intuition, wisdom, patience and discipline all made him ideal for investing. And while it was simply a hobby, I think he could have made a living at it. Most important, how he lived his life is ultimately what made him successful as a father, husband and a man. Here are some lessons I learned from him that I will always treasure, and will pass on to our boys:
1. Marry well. No, it’s not what you think. Do not marry for money, but make sure you are compatible in all areas (money included). I never remember hearing my parents fight over money. They both worked hard to make the most of what little they had while they struggled to raise a family of seven kids on a military salary. The only way it worked is that they were both on the same page.
2. Don’t follow the crowd. Investing, like life, means making choices and tuning out what the hysterical masses are doing so you can think for yourself. Dad never cared what others were doing and we were always encouraged to make our own path.
3. It doesn’t matter where you came from. Dad had humble beginnings. He dropped out of high school and joined the military. Through hard work, he studied laboratory sciences and Cytology, earned his high school equivalency and took college level courses. Eventually, he headed up Coney Island Hospital’s Cytology/Laboratory efforts. He didn’t have a cushy upbringing, he had a lot of mouths to feed, he didn’t have a lot of money, but he knew he was capable of having a better life for his family. And, as little as they had, he always put away as much as he could towards savings/investing.
4. Who cares what you have? He was never boastful, never bragged, and never talked about what he had. He didn’t have to because he was secure. The money he earned and successes he achieved were for his family’s security and not to “one-up” others. Money did not define him, it represented freedom.
5. It can wait. We were never the family who got things first like the latest and greatest new gizmo. The most important basics always came first, and that included savings and investing. It is this discipline that allowed my parents to enjoy all their hard work in their later years.
6. Take chances. You can’t grow without taking risk. That means in your personal life, career and in investing. Anything worth having requires that you stretch outside your comfort zone. Not getting in the game costs you more than getting in and making mistakes. But, that doesn’t mean that all caution should get thrown to the side, either. Being impulsive and poor planning can ruin the best of intentions. Dad was good at seeing opportunities, and doing his research so that the chances he took weren’t gambling, but measured risk.
7. One for all and all for one. With a family as large as ours, there was no room for selfishness. If we had, we all had. If we didn’t have, no one had. He did not buy himself fancy toys at our expense. He was not overly extravagant with us or himself. Because of that, I never equated “gifts” with a measure of love.
Father’s Day, like every day, I miss hearing my Dad’s thoughts, learning from his very rich and full life, and laughing with him. So I say quietly, “Thanks Dad for teaching me and loving me well.”
If you are lucky enough to be able to speak to your Dad, let him know how valuable his love and advice are to you.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!