Money Lessons I Learned From My Dad



My dad, or Pa, is a huge part of my life, and it only makes sense to talk about him this week. Happy Fathers Day! If it weren’t for my father, I would probably be worse with money. Then again, I think I’d probably be worse at a lot of things if it weren’t for him. He taught me important money lessons that have helped me become the person I am today. I am his only child, from a middle income family and I definitely never felt spoilt.

Growing up, I didn’t really give these financial lessons much thought, and did whatever I wanted with the money I earned. Yes, I earned my keep (pun intended). Needless to say, until my late 20s, those were my “poorer times”. Then I finally remembered the little things he shared and taught me, how they help me to keep learning more from him. I think he’s proud of how financially self-reliant I am these days.

This is the main reason why I believe that teaching children valuable financial lessons is important. My dad did tell me things about money, but the best lessons came from watching the way he managed his money while living the life he wanted. Teaching your children about money will help them grow up and be better able to save, plan and manage a budget, spend on the important stuff and invest in their future.

I know this from personal experience.

My dad taught me not to spend money on material things.
Pa is generally a frugal man. He hardly ever goes shopping for himself, other than for things such as work clothes and shoes (that’s literally all I can remember him buying for himself). He wore t-shirts until they disintegrated, he would try to fix the electrical items in the house (I spent hours helping him) and he would pick up unwanted (but still in good condition) furniture. Our house was a mish-mash of things that my mom and I had many a time redecorating. He made sure we all finished our food and hardly wasted anything. He did buy the one video game console that would allow us to spend hours together slaying dragons or playing tennis.

I have to admit, when I was a kid, I was embarrassed by the way our home looked, but now I completely understand. My dad didn’t value decor or material things, he valued experiences we had at home.

My dad taught me that good money management starts with being self-reliant.
Growing up, whenever I asked for something new; a new bicycle, more doll house furniture, the latest sneakers, or even a RM30 branded pencil case (it was in the 90s, and come to think of it, RM30 for a pencil case now is still very expensive!), my father would just look at me nonchalantly and say “Sure, no problem. I’ll drive you to the shop now. Quickly go get your purse, check you have enough money to pay, and we can go.”

He always asked why I wanted these things and what would I get out of it. Then he would nudge me into thinking of all the different ways I could get those things I asked for. So if I wanted a new bicycle, I would have to work for the money. I certainly worked super hard at visiting many houses that year to earn more angpow money. If I wanted more furniture for my doll house, I would make them out of old cardboard I found lying around the house. I had many evenings with my mom getting glue off my fingers. If I didn’t want to pay so much for my car insurance, go direct to the insurance company and cut out the middlemen.

Even when I did get financial assistance from the Bank of Dad, for my education, I knew I had to “repay” him. At that point, I knew that it wasn’t because he didn’t have the money. Instead, he wanted me to learn to become financially self-reliant.

My dad taught me not to live paycheck to paycheck.
Pa was all about having a budget and STICKING TO IT. He went over his accounts every week. There was always an emergency fund, he spent less money than he made, and always made sure to put as much money as he could towards my education fund and his and Ma’s retirement. My father did anything and everything to make sure that we didn’t have to worry about money or go without the necessities. It’s a trait of his that I value most. Even when he got retrenched, he never acted like it was a big deal because he was always prepared.

My dad taught me that I could afford to travel.
One of the biggest financial lessons Pa taught me was that I can afford to travel.

My father loved aeroplanes but he couldn’t have a career in it, so he did what he loved the second most; cars. He traveled to many places for work, and while he couldn’t afford to take his family along, he always made sure to drive us to our next adventure anytime he could, and I gained many great memories from it. If you are thinking my dad was somewhat rich, he wasn’t. Instead, he worked with his budget and found ways to fit exciting road trips with less than some people think is possible. I think we gained so much more by budgeting for travel. Travel is an invaluable experience and my own retirement fund includes the capacity to travel.

My dad taught me that credit can be used to my advantage.
The topic of credit cards and credit came up a lot when I was younger because I was fascinated that a piece of plastic could pay for things, instead of cash. Pa explained how credit works and if I used credit cards correctly, I could even pay no interest and get some sweet rewards. He showed me the differences of credit card misuse and irresponsibility. This really tied back in with the budgeting and how I now keep myself from overspending.

My dad taught me that money doesn’t have to limit you.
Out of all of the money lessons Pa taught me, this last one is probably the most important.

Money doesn’t have to control you. So many people believe that they can’t lead a good life on a budget. But, that is mostly not true. You can still live a “rich” life while managing your money and living without regret. You will never know when your last day is, but you can still save and spend your money wisely, while also living the life you want.


P/S: I’m still “repaying” Pa and he’s using his retirement fund on new gadgets instead. I’ve spent many hours teaching him how to use his smartphone, smartwatch, android box and his sophisticated heart-rate monitor.