Saturday, 27 June 2015

Learning finance from Dad: a note on money management

Every so now and then, Dad and I got to talk about money. When I say talk, what I really mean is this: he talks, I listen. As such, most of these stories are not exactly mine to tell, they are his. This, coupled with the fact that talking about money is regarded as something taboo, result in me becoming uncomfortable writing about them. And no, we don't talk about the power of compounding interest or the like or which asset class represents the best investment given the current economic conditions. We talk about the real deal, money stuff.

My Dad is a good person, and I don’t just say this because I am his daughter, although it is very possible that my views are biased because of that. He is one of the most generous persons I’ve ever come across in my life, and he certainly has his heart in the right places. If one day I get the privilege to be in his position, I would be doing most of the things that he is doing.

The older I get, the more I realise that there are similarities between us in how we view the world. Generation gap be damned. We don’t always agree on everything, and I know this not just because I disagree with him (albeit not openly), but he would disagree with me openly, and at times, rather bluntly. I don’t mind this approach at all; in fact, I find it easier to know things upfront, although in the process, it was like ‘da fug?’ Despite having quite a few of these in a lifetime, the latest one was no easier than one prior.

Suffice to say that his life experience means he has plenty of stories to tell, plenty of views to express. Plus he is a parent, something which I probably will not experience in this lifetime, so I try to understand that he might come from a different angle than me. I have watched enough friends becoming parents, and I have noticed the change that happened in them. Most of them insist that they are not that much different, but deep down, they know they have changed in ways that even they didn’t think was possible.

Because of my Dad, I won the genetic lottery, through no effort of my own. I didn’t know what I did in my previous life to deserve such good fortune. If I were to pick a dad amongst all the dads in the world, I would pick mine – despite how rocky our relationship can be. I owe much of who I am to him, his love, his generosity, his impartation of knowledge.

The other day we got into a conversation of the difference between frugal and stingy. Why we ended up discussing this I am not at liberty to disclose, so I am trying to focus on the conversation itself. He said that when someone does not have enough money for himself, he has no choice but to be frugal. In this situation, he cannot be labeled stingy, because he has no money to spare. In contrast, a stingy person is someone who hoards his money, and does not want to share that with anyone, including people who have sacrificed for him in the past (e.g. his parents).

I pointed out the possibility that it was very possible that this person whose context we were discussing could earn a lot more money than what my Dad thought. After all, apparently, Dad did ask him how much he earned, not because Dad was nosy, but because he was concerned. The answer that he got was a typical Generation Y response: it is a secret. To be fair, if I were the recipient of the question, I would’ve done a similar thing, but worded nicely. What can I say, I like words. I can string them to convey a meaning that I want while simultaneously flatter the person asking the question. And why not? It’s nice to thank the people who care about you.

Typical of the money-related conversations that we usually have, Dad just brushed away the possibility that I presented. I don’t exactly care, to be honest, because whether this person is stingy or not doesn’t have any bearing on my life. I don’t see him on a regular basis, nor do I talk to him on a regular basis. In fact, I haven’t even seen him for a long, long time, and I don’t know if and when I will get to see him one day.

The important thing is that Dad and I agreed on the definitions of frugal and stingy, although now that we had this conversation, I can’t stop wondering what he thinks about me when it comes to my money. He doesn’t ask for much, and whatever he asks, I usually give him. I accidentally told a friend about this, and this friend promptly got irrationally pissed off, and I was like, chill dude, he wasn’t asking for an island. I am very careful in sharing stories like that from that point forward - at least with that friend.

When it comes to how other people spend their money, it is very easy for us to judge. It is even easier for us to judge when it comes to other people asking for other people’s money. When you are a parent, of course you want your children to be financially sufficient; but how exactly do you teach them about money?

Some eleven odd years ago, he told me that I shouldn’t save all of my money. I must remember to spend it too, in a way that would bring betterment towards my life. I remember this advice quite vividly because it happened first thing in the morning at the breakfast table, and it was the first holiday I spent with him after I started working full time. The irony is that about four years prior, he told me to save some of the money that I earned, don’t just spend it all. We never discuss savings and spending after that, or I should say, my savings and spending.

I may not be a millionaire just yet, Dad, but I am doing fine.


me: hey Dad, happy father's day!
Dad: thank you, no mention of father's day here!
me: oh. it must be just the internet then.

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