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
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.
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