Three Pieces of Financial Advice I Learned From Interviewing My Father – The Former Superintendent of Newhall School District
Author: Mike McGrath
One of the more exciting things I have started this year is to develop a personal finance podcast and radio show (Your Money Path with Mike McGrath on KHTS 98.1 serving the Santa Clarita Valley area) highlighting the more personal side of personal finance. As it has been my experience that we often get lost in the weeds of how we go about wealth management, investing, financial planning, researching insurance, budgeting, and the like, we often lose sight of why we do what we do. I wanted to camp out on that reality in the hopes of inspiring anyone who listens to make their financial decisions with more intentionality and thus more rigor and thoughtfulness.
Starting from scratch, I thought it would be a good idea to first interview my father. My dad and I have a great relationship and he has always been a powerfully positive influence on my life. So, I asked my dad to share his background, what experiences influenced the financial decisions in his life and, ultimately, how that shaped his story.
What I failed to do in my assessment of this idea was to properly account for his Irish sense of humor and how he would mess with me live on radio without any chance of correction or rebuttal – something we had a great laugh about after the show. He got too much joy, for example, telling the audience how his biggest financial mistake in life was helping me pay for college – all with that twinkle in his eye.
All the sarcasm aside, though, it was wonderful to share that time with my dad and encapsulate a lotmuch of what he has learned in his life. Three things come to mind:
Financial Advice #1: Family Is First
I can’t tell you how many memories I have of my dad and I related to my childhood activities. He was fortunate to work close to home, so he could take time to come to my games, practices, recitals, and school events. He didn’t miss anything. Instead, he would take work home with him, wait until the events of the day were over and the family was in bed, and he would work well into the evening to make up for lost time. Of course, as a boy, that kind of sacrifice went unrecognized. However, when I became a father, I was able to appreciate what a sacrifice that was and found a deeper appreciation of a man who would never claim any recognition for himself. He told me on the show that his motivation was not more money, but using money to care for his family.
Financial Advice #2: Money is the means, people are the ends
My father was the Superintendent of Schools in our area and, as such, was involved in the lives of numerous families over the years. From this vantage point, he had a front row seat to some of the struggles many had, whether that be low access to after-school care, disabilities that made it hard to learn, and challenging family dynamics that made learning especially difficult. He saw how he could use his position of understanding and influence to make a difference. And make a difference he did, as he was a founding member of several nonprofits addressing the needs of children in our community. He did not have millions of dollars to contribute, but he could make the time and had the talent and experience. That is an inspiration my sister and I have taken into our lives and careers, not to mention the countless lives his efforts have inspired and influenced.
Financial Advice #3: Balance Now and the Future
Interestingly, my dad did say that one needs to not be carried away with the pressing matters of today. Taking care of family and being a part of the community provide a purpose for which we get up in the morning and head off to work or to volunteer. However, he challenged me and the listeners to make sure you have a disciplined approach to saving and investing at the same time. Without that, you won’t be able to provide for those you care about in the future the way you do now.
Some of these things he learned the hard way, others were a little easier. However, they are lessons I was fortunate to learn at his feet and now share with all of you. Wrestling with a tough decision regarding a potentially large expense, which could put us back financially as a family, he once said “Don’t worry. It’s only money. Besides, it’s none of my business what others think of us anyway.” Lesson learned.
Information presented is general in nature and should not be viewed as a comprehensive analysis of the topics discussed. It is intended to serve as a tool containing general information that should assist you in the development of subsequent discussions. Content does not involve the rendering of personalized investment advice nor is it intended to supplement professional individualized advice. All expressions of opinion are solely of the author and subject to change without notice.