Fatherly Advice: What I Learned From My Father and What I Hope My Kids Learn From Me
Posted by: Joseph Kuo | June 18, 2022
When we think about what we pass along to our children, the first thing that comes to mind from a financial standpoint is of course wealth. Good estate planning can provide a brighter future for our children, their children, and beyond. But what could be more meaningful and lasting are the ideals and values we can encourage in our kids.
When going through the initial discovery process with my new clients, I often ask the question “If for some reason you couldn’t pass along any assets to your heirs, what is a piece of advice you would want them to have?” In this article, I’d like to share my personal perspective about what I’ve learned from my wonderful father and what I’m hoping my children will learn from me.
What My Father Taught Me
Growing up, his family didn’t have much. At a relatively young age, my father had to make ends meet for his own mother and siblings. What he experienced made him realize that the best way for him to provide for his own children was to start a business and work as hard as he could to make it successful.
No Substitute For Working Hard
My father believed that if you work hard now, you’ll be able to have a more relaxed life when you’re older. I remember as a child that spending time with my father was a rare and special occasion because he was always so busy working. But his efforts bore fruit, and he now enjoys a golden retirement.
Make Family Time Worthwhile
My father prioritized family experiences over material gifts. Because spending time with family was such a rare occurrence, my father deeply valued every moment he spent with family and always sought to make family outings memorable. We didn’t eat out often, but when we did, it was someplace special. We didn’t take many vacations, but the ones we had were to faraway destinations and were amazing experiences.
Running A Small Business Is Hard Work (But Rewarding)
When you’re the head of a small business, there’s a lot of stuff on your plate. Although you get to work for your favorite boss, free time is scarce. You have to oversee business affairs, plan strategically, and drum up new business. All three are essential for success, and my father had to put in the work. What he experienced as a small business owner led him to want a less stressful path for my brother and I. His success enabled him to let us focus on education and choose our own paths.
Keep a Balanced Mindset When It Comes To Risk
Seeing the path my father took as well as my own personal journey has helped me to develop a balanced mindset when it comes to assessing risk. While I always seek to protect my clients from unnecessary financial risks, I don’t let risk hold them back either. I maintain an optimistic mindset and always on the lookout for growth opportunities.
What I Hope To Teach My Kids
These are a few lessons I hope to teach to my kids:
Tradeoffs Can Be Mitigated
My father viewed work time versus family time as an either/or tradeoff. Instead of accepting tradeoffs at their face value though, we can find creative ways to minimize what’s being traded off, or even bypass them completely. How can I do my work in a way that lets me spend a little more time with family? If my children are old enough, is there a way I can involve them in my work?
Small Changes Over Time Can Work Just As Well
Drastic change can feel daunting, but it is not the only way. Small incremental changes are not only more doable, but their compound effect over time allows you to build sustained momentum such that once successful, the change will have lasting impact.
Cutting out excess sugar from your diet cold turkey might give you withdrawal headaches and be extremely tough to maintain. But if you get rid of it gradually, you’ll eventually be sugar-free and be far more likely to stay that way. You don’t have to jump straight from black to white; it’s easier to get there through the shades of gray. This principle applies just as well to savings, investments, and career advancement.
Align Your Values To Find Joy
When dealing with change, there are two general paths. One of course is to gradually condition yourself to like the new behavior/situation, or at least tolerate it. The other is to find something in the change that aligns with your personal values. If you can, you will find enjoyment in what you’re doing and gradually you’ll want to continue doing it. Once you are able to do it regularly, it becomes part of your regular routine and will no longer feel like effort.
Know The Differences Between Assets And Liabilities
To paraphrase Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame, an asset is something that will generate positive net income for you over time. An asset grows as you take care of it and gains more in value than what you put into it.
A liability, on the other hand, takes away from your financial resources. Even if you sell it or get some income from it, it’s less than what you put into it.
A reliable mutual fund is an asset. An expensive car you drive to work is a liability. A vacation home could be an asset if you can rent it out for a profit or are able to sell it at a much higher price; otherwise it is a liability because of the upkeep costs. If my kids can understand these nuances, they will be able to make mindful financial decisions.
Keep Things In Perspective When Considering Risk
The same risk on paper carries different impacts depending on timing and situation. If you’re young and looking to move up, that startup job offer would be a good risk. Even if the company doesn’t work out, you’d still learn a lot and be well positioned for your next career step. But if you’ve got a mortgage and have kids coming, that same risk might not be worthwhile.
Percentage of assets risked should similarly be considered. If you get an opportunity to invest $100,000, but it would be a third of your assets, that probably wouldn’t be a good risk. But if you had $2,000,000, it would be a more reasonable risk.
How we use our money is ultimately a reflection of our personal values as well as our fears. Through my own experiences I hope to demonstrate to my kids how to have a healthy relationship with money. What we teach our children can empower them to have their own successful lives and build their own wealth. The values we pass along will magnify and solidify our legacy to our children, and ultimately their children and beyond.