My dad loved playing football and golf, but he and I actually bonded over finance, not sports. A brilliant banker and a senior vice president at JP Morgan Chase, he made sure to teach me about money and personal finance at a young age.
In fact, he took me, his oldest daughter of three, to work with him before Take Your Daughter to Work Day became widespread. We went to foreclosure auctions and watched “Straight Talk on Money” with Ken and Daria Dolan. At lunch, we pored over 401k statements and budgets, and he showed me why it is so important to match employer contributions and increase the overall contribution each year.
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My dad’s finance lessons were invaluable. He taught me to spend less than I make, to pay credit cards in full, to remember that my money in the future was worth more than my money today. But his lessons on credit and debt hadn’t yet hit home when I turned 18.
He said to me, “You can go to a state school, and I will pay 100 percent of your tuition, or you can go to a private school and take on debt in the form of student loans.”
When Dad explained the ins and outs of debt to me, I said, “Why would anyone ever take out debt?” I was so naïve then, but the choice was clear to me: I went with the state school.
My dad’s lessons rang in my head for the next four years, as I watched what happened when the student loan checks arrived on campus. Almost everyone cashed their loan checks and went on spending sprees. The bars, restaurants and department stores were packed with students spending what seemed to them like free money.
I was always unhappy on those days. I remember the bitterness of feeling “left out” like it was yesterday. But I remembered what my dad taught me, too.
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Of course, we all know how this ends. The time to pay the piper came for everyone with loans. We know now the average debt on college loans is $37,172. The money those students spent on parties and new clothes dug them into holes of debt that only compounded over time.
I was fortunate enough to start my first job with zero debt, ready to save for retirement. But I was especially fortunate to have a strong financial education from my dad, a gift I appreciate more with each passing year.
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