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What I Learned from my Two Dads

Happy Father’s Day to all of you Dads out there.

I was blessed to have two Dads.  And they each impacted my life in different ways.  Both of my Dads were Engineers and they were both very wise with their finances.  They were good fathers and they were deeply committed to their children.  But, their goals, thoughts and personalities couldn’t have been any more different.  These differences gave me two valuable perspectives.

George Frohlich III 

George Frohlich

George Frohlich

My Dad George is gone now, but he left quite a legacy.  He raised 11 kids from two different families and his proudest accomplishment was that all of his children turned out well.  He didn’t measure himself by his job titles, assets or net worth.  He measured his value by what he could pass onto others.  When he left this world, he didn’t have to worry about any of his children.  He had shown us how to take care of ourselves and our own families.

My Dad encouraged me to invest in my early ’20s.  He invested in mutual funds and he talked me into buying newsletters and reading books.  He taught me how to read a prospectus and how to evaluate the performance and expenses.  He could sit around for hours talking about the markets and he loved to watch the financial news on TV.  Since he lived in a foreign country, there weren’t many people he could talk with about investments and finances.  So, when he came to visit, he was literally bursting at the seams with strategies and information.  He was very proud of the way I invested, especially since I had very little money left over from my meager income.

One of my Dad’s goals was to retire at 45 and sail around the world.  He always hated the “Rat Race” and he dreamed of a peaceful life with less stress and more time for thought and reflection.  Because of his many children, a divorce and the financial support he provided for his folks, he had to put his dream on hold.  He did retire at 55 and he lived out his remaining years on a beautiful island surrounded by people he loved.

I remember as a young man thinking he was nuts to want to retire so young.  I was excited about my career and I couldn’t understand why Dad wanted to leave the workplace.  But, now that I have reached that age, I understand exactly what his dream was about.  He simply wanted regain control over his life.  He wanted the freedom to decide whether to read the newspaper or drive into town.  He wanted to spend all day cooking a special meal for his kids and to watch them walk home from school.  He wanted to be the master of his time and he accomplished this goal.

Edgar Furse

Ed Furse

Ed Furse

My step-dad Ed and I are very close.  At family parties, we can usually be found hanging around talking.  Since Ed came along later in my life, he is like a mentor to me.  He is exceedingly wise and always thoughtful.  We have a lot in common, since we both worked in the computer industry from its infancy.  We can talk for hours on technical subjects that would bore others within minutes.

Ed’s wisdom flows in a quiet and measured way.  Most of the things I learned were from carefully listening to his stories and comments.  He doesn’t proclaim his knowledge or offer unsolicited advice.  But, you could ask him a variety of questions and he would have a well-reasoned answer for all of them.  He also has a different perspective from most people I know, because of his international upbringing.  He is more open-minded and less judgmental than others.  So, his advice is subtle and indirect.

One of the most valuable things I learned from Ed was about his handling of mortgages.  He told me that once his personal exemption exceeded his interest deduction, there was no reason to have a mortgage.  So, it was time to pay it off.  Another trick I mimicked with my own mortgage is increasing the payment as time goes by.  He explained that after some years have passed, your income will have risen, but your mortgage will be the same.  So, it’s very easy to increase your payment and shorten the term.  This advice will cut 9-10 years off my mortgage and I am thrilled about that.

Ed’s goal was to travel in retirement.  And, he takes at least one trip per month, with my Mom.  Sometimes, they are small trips, like riding a train up the coast.  Sometimes, they are big trips, like visiting his family in Peru.  He is enjoying his retirement completely, without any worries or regrets.  Anyone who has worked so hard and given so much deserves no less.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, if you have one good parent, you received an invaluable gift.  If you had four wonderful parents, like me, you are incredibly blessed.  Take advantage of the things you learn, from those who have already accomplished what you strive for.  Then, pass this wisdom on to your children, who look to you for guidance.

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

Clarence Budington Kelland – American Author

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11 comments to What I Learned from my Two Dads

  • Marilyn Furse

    Hi Bret –
    Ed forwarded your blog to me, and I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve read the wonderful things you write. I’ve been so busy lately with all the stuff I’m involved it that I haven’t taken the time for the stuff I want to do. Your insight on both your “dads” reminded me that time is always shorter than you think it’s going to be. I’ve led a blessed life, too with my Faith and love for all MY wonderful kids and grandkids. So, thank you, too, for the special place you hold in my heart.

    • Thanks a bunch Mom. Time is flying by and all of the milestone birthdays this month are reminding me of that. Also, the picture of Dad holding my baby daughter reminds me that 16 years have passed since it was taken. The one thing that is very clear to me is that family is more valuable than money and more precious than time. Love you.

  • I love this tribute to your 2 dads! It’s great how they taught you skills that make your life better every day.

    Like Ed, my father is traveling a lot during his retirement. Right now he is on a river cruise in central Europe, and this fall he will take another trip with family to Greece and Turkey.
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  • Jennifer,

    I was fortunate to have a lot of people who taught me so much about money and life. The flipside is that I was smart enough to listen to them.

    I plan to travel a lot more myself. In about five years, I hope to have a lot more free time available. I have always wanted to see Europe, the Caribbean and South America. And, I don’t want to take the rushed tourist trips.

  • I enjoyed reading this post. It’s a great example of loyalty, appreciation, and learning from those who truly cared about us and walked before us.

    I too have learned a lot from my father. I try to be the best Dad I can be on a daily basis, and it’s truly the most rewarding experience. My hope is that my 7-year old, once she gets past those interesting teenage years(Dad? Who are you?), she will be able to look back in this way at what I taught her.
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    • Wise Squirrel,

      I really enjoyed writing this post. It brought back some great memories and it also made me think about what I am passing forward to my kids. You can never underestimate the impact you have on others. Just the fact that you are always talking about your daughter tells me you are on the right path.

  • zud

    This post was so beautiful and even tho I have no idea what it’s like to have such parents as you did – it inspires me to be the parents that you do/did have.

    I really enjoy this blog.

  • Zud,

    It’s good to see you around.

    I have been fortunate to have had great parenting, but anyone can be a great parent. My grandfather wasn’t such a great parent, but my Dad sure was. I’m sure you will be as well.

    Bret

  • You’ve done it again, Bret. I’ve got a tear rolling down my cheek from yet another incredibly insightful post of yours.

    That was an incredibly touching tribute to both your fathers.

    Well done.

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com
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  • […] hey, as I mentioned I was on vacation.  Anyway, I hope Bret can forgive my delay in highlighting this incredibly touching Father’s Day tribute to his two dads.  If you haven’t seen it, please check it […]