6 money experts share dad's best credit advice
By Dana Dratch
From the right tire pressure for your first car to tips for landing that first job – and handling the conundrums that follow – dads are often the first stop for help.
The world may have changed drastically since Dad grew up, but a lot of his financial wisdom still applies.
What was Dad’s best credit advice? Six financial experts share the guidance their fathers gave them, in messages both spoken and unspoken.
Author of “The Truth About Money,” chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services:
Dad’s message: Pay on time.
“He co-signed my first loan. It was for my wife’s engagement ring. I didn’t have the money to buy the ring I wanted to buy. I didn’t want to ask him for the money.” Even with a new job, “I couldn’t qualify for the loan. He wasn’t happy I was borrowing money.”
His dad sat the 21-year-old Edelman down and explained the facts of life with credit.
“We had a conversation about the whole idea: 'If you’re going to borrow money, here’s how it works, what you need to understand.' He told me that I would eventually want to buy a car. And a house. And my ability to borrow would depend on my past history. If I didn’t pay, no one would ever loan me money again.”
The advice stuck. “I paid $100 every month for two years for a $2,000 loan.”
Author of “Monopoly, Money and You,” and founder and vice chairman of Winning Moves Games, which produces and manufactures classic games:
Dad’s message: Don’t spend what you don’t have.
“It was very pointed, and it wasn’t at all difficult for me to remember,” says Orbanes. “He drilled it into me when I was young and casual about credit.”
Orbanes was in college and had started his own game company on an idealistic whim in his senior year. He envisioned an offer of a buyout, a new car and other luxuries, he says. “A lot of the compensation I was promised was in the form of future royalties, rather than compensation upfront. And I wanted to spend money I didn’t have.”
Orbanes quickly realized his father was onto something.
“I got a really nice car, but a year later turned it in,” Orbanes recalls. Living in New York, “I didn’t need car payments and parking.”
His take-away: “Never treat credit carelessly, as if it’s just somebody else’s money. It’s your self-worth. If you don’t pay it back, you’re worth less.”
CFP, co-owner of Colorado Springs-based It’s Not Just Money Inc.:
Dad’s advice: Don’t discuss your finances.
“It’s kind of ironic for a financial planner, but my dad, who grew up during the Depression, was adamant that you don’t talk to people about your money.”
When you get into the neighborhood barbecue discussion, these people may not know better – and they may know worse.
|— Linda Leitz
Dad didn’t mean not to talk with financial professionals, such as accountants and advisers, who he employed with great success, she says. He was talking about friends, acquaintances and co-workers.
His belief: “When people know about your financial situation, they treat you differently. And I’ve seen that.”
Dad also taught her to be wary of the casual money advice that comes out of social situations, Leitz says. “When you get into the neighborhood barbecue discussion, these people may not know better – and they may know worse. You don’t always do things because others are doing them.”
Over the years, her dad’s advice has served her well, Leitz says. “Whether they do well or not, we can learn a lot from our parents’ lives.”
While her father’s parents lost the family farm in the Depression, her dad built up a very comfortable legacy, she says. “I was fortunate.” He had “a whole lot of common sense and wasn’t afraid to work hard.”
CPA, author of “The Retirement Savings Time Bomb ... and How to Defuse It”
Dad’s message: Earn first, buy later.
His father’s money advice, though always unspoken, came down to this, says Slott: “You don’t borrow money and you don’t ask me for money. If you want it, you earn it. If you didn’t have money, you just didn’t buy things.”
Growing up, “We never had credit. The only debt I know of my father ever had was a home mortgage.” Slott’s father went to his father to borrow money for a down payment. “His father said ’no.’”
The answer: Work. “We worked over the summer. We weren’t allowed to sit around at home and do nothing.” It added up. His parents bought the house in 1957.
And that’s how he paid for college, Slott recalls. “I would build up an account – maybe $2,000 or $3,000 – as soon as it got that high it was inevitably time for the next tuition bill.”
“I had $44 when I graduated. I said, ‘Great!’”
Susan C. Keating
President and CEO of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling:
Dad’s message: Every credit card transaction is a loan.
“My father and my family were very focused on managing money responsibly. And there was always the focus on the value of a dollar,” she says.
I was taught that we actually used the credit cards for very specific purchases and not to manage daily cash flow.
|— Susan C. Keating
“My parents were pretty careful, and my father was a successful surgeon.”
Keating observed that “for every loan, there was a plan to pay back that debt.” And her parents considered credit card charges a loan.
“I was taught that we actually used the credit cards for very specific purchases and not to manage daily cash flow,” she recalls.
As a result, “I’m very thoughtful about how I use my credit cards. I certainly use credit more than my parents and grandparents. But I’m very clear that they’re lending me credit, and I have to pay it back.”
Author of “Personal Finance for Dummies” and “Mortgages for Dummies”:
Dad’s message: Live within your means.
“One of the things my parents, especially my dad, stressed is the importance of not borrowing to buy things. The only time he advocated borrowing money was to buy a house.”
My family “didn’t borrow on credit cards or to buy a car,” says Tyson, who inherited his first car – a Ford LTD – as a young 20-something when his grandparents stopped driving. “The thing was built like a tank.”
His parents “used credit cards, but they always paid them in full. As far as I know, they never financed anything.”
Tyson emulated that, especially starting out. “I’d find a way to do things within my means. If it meant putting off a purchase or finding something less expensive, I did that.”
While his father was a mechanical engineer, “they weren’t extravagant people. They made a practice of not being extravagant. I always thought that that was a good thing to teach your kids.”
Updated: June 17, 2016
- New credit card has so-so terms? You have choices – If the rate is too high or the credit limit too low, you have more options than just sitting and fuming ...
- How cohabitating couples can protect themselves financially – Taking these three steps before moving in could help avoid a money mess down the road ...
- 4 wrong money messages for kids (and 4 right ones) – Parents unknowingly teach their kids unhealthy money habits, but they're fixable ...