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Financial Advice From Dad: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

June 11, 2018

Best dad advice: Start a retirement account, build good credit, and learn to negotiate

4 min read

Dads are known for a lot of things — corny jokes, socks with sandals and extreme cannonballs into the pool.

They are also often our go-to for financial advice, both solicited and not, on everything from budgets to savings accounts to the big picture of life.

This Father’s Day we celebrate dads who have given us the best and the worst financial advice of our lives.

The Good: Start saving

“Start an IRA the minute you have a tax-paying job,” Shannon Bolin-Elfers, a 33-year-old mother of two from Slidell, Louisiana, says was the advice she got from her retirement-conscious father.

It was good advice — even just $1,200 per year, or $100 per month, into a traditional IRA starting at age 18 could be worth about $423,000 if you retire at age 65.

The Good: Building credit

And unlike most dads, Jill Castro’s father was quick to shove a credit card in her hand as a teenager, with a few caveats.

“My dad co-signed a credit card when I went to college and told me to use it once or twice a month,” said Castro, a 40-year-old middle school teacher who grew up in Binghamton, New York. “I had to pay it off each month, so I was building my credit from the time I was 18.”

That advice paid off. When Castro bought her first car at age 22, which she says was a “very sensible Toyota Corolla,” her credit score was a stellar 820.

The Good: Negotiate

Car advice is definitely a “dad thing”. Michelle Gonsalves’ father taught her that debating a car price at the dealership comes down to one magic phrase: “Is that the best you can do?”

“Then be prepared to walk away when they say yes,” Gonsalves, 40, remembered her father telling her. “You won’t get far.”

It’s advice Gonsalves, now living in Naples, Florida, took to heart when she recently bought her prized limited edition Green Flash Camaro she named “Wicked.”

“I did use his advice. The dealer and I argued for several hours over the price past closing time of the dealership,” she said. “In the end, it was me, the dealer, the finance lady and the security guard left.”

“Have a champagne taste on a beer budget.”

The Good: Stay on your budget

Spending habits were chief among the advice given to Michelle Owens, 39, of Burlington, Vermont.

Her father told her to “have a champagne taste on a beer budget.”

Living within your means is great dad advice, “although, I live in Vermont,” Owens said, “the capital of expensive, but awesome, beer.”

The Bad: Don’t Have Kids

Mande Kelly’s dad just put it all out there when he handed down this dubious advice.

“The ‘best’ worst financial advice my father ever gave me was to never get married and never have kids,” said Kelly, 33, from Mandeville, Louisiana.

Kelly, now the mother of a young daughter, chose not to take her dad’s advice.

The Bad: Don’t Buy a Home

Julie Robb also ignored her father’s less-than-productive financial advice to never buy a house.

“You’ll be stuck in one place forever,” he told her,” and you’ll lose your edge.”

Robb, 55, grew up in Ridgecrest, California, but is now living in a Tulsa, Oklahoma house she happily bought with her husband. (She says that she still has her edge.)

“He didn’t believe in bank accounts either,” she added. “Basically his whole philosophy on money was ‘Buy books and scotch. You can always get an extension on your rent.’”

The Bad: Never investing (but lots of spending)

Jami Puckett-Rome got bad advice from her father and her stepfather in the form of bad examples.

“My mom and step-father never invested and didn’t have bank accounts or credit cards,” said the 53-year-old Nashville, Indiana native. She added her father had lots of expensive hobbies and spent every dime he made from his own business.

“I never saw a happy balance of living well and saving,” Puckett-Rome said.

The Ugly: A (near) criminally bad dad joke

Sometimes good advice comes with very bad form.

“My dad took me to the bank to open my first account and promised the lady we weren’t there to rob them,” said Megan Kahrs.

As Kahrs, then just 15 or 16 at the time, stood there trying not to smirk or say anything else incriminating, the bank teller replied only with an uncomfortable, “ummmmmm….”

“It took a long time and the majority of it was her looking around and watching every move he made,” said Kahrs, now 34 and living in Louisiana. “We finally opened the account and I’m pretty sure we didn’t see her much anymore.”

Thanks, dads!

Thank you, dads, for your (mostly) good advice over the years! We try to pay off our credits cards every month, we know we should be saving for retirement, and we’d love for you to come to help us haggle for a good deal at the car dealership.

Just please don’t wear socks with your sandals.

Want to invest in something your kids will never outgrow? Learn more about how you can set up a custodial account for a child you love.

Invest in their futures

Open a custodial account for the kids in your life

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Invest in their futures

Open a custodial account for the kids in your life

Start now


By Sarah Netter
Sarah Netter is a is a freelance contributor for Stash Learn, based in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and ABC News.

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