Father’s Day 2020: Some More Of Dad’s Tough But Helpful Money Lessons

“How much money do you have saved in the bank? You ONLY have $2,000 to $3,000 saved? That’s NOT money!”

Before I start this story, I want to issue a warning to the “low attention span” people. This post is roughly 2000 words. Thus, if you can’t focus for that long, feel free to leave now go and read something else. I can assure you though that this is a fun and educational story with some very important points at the end. With that, I’m going to jump in.

Well it’s that time of year again, Father’s Day. As such, just as I prepared a 2020 post for Mother’s Day, I’ve prepared a 2020 post for Father’s Day. Like my first ever Father’s Day post on my blogging platform, this story involves a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, money and wealth building. As with all my Dad stories, this one made a lasting impression on me as I hope that this does for any readers.

In his prime and slightly beyond, my Dad was a force to be reckoned with, one which struck fear into me, even in my early 30s. I lived with him in New York State’s Capital Region during my postdoctoral fellowship which turned out to be an educational experience on several different levels. It was a surreal two and a half years in hindsight that forever changed me. Some of the changes were due to external factors while some were due to internal factors.

Just before leaving Ann Arbor, MI for the Albany area, I picked up Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book and discovered the worlds of financial literacy and wealth building; worlds I didn’t know anything about at that time. Most of my life I had my eyes set on being an employee. Reading about being and an investor and all the concepts associated with it was exciting. According to Kiyosaki, there were people becoming wealthy not by slogging off to work everyday and punching a clock, but instead by acquiring financial asset investments.

In addition to Kiyosaki’s books, I purchased a copy of his game, “Cashflow 101”, the electronic version. Unlike the board game version which you have to play with other people, I could sit down at my PC and play every night. The goal of the game is to get out of the “Rat Race” and onto the “Fast Track”. For those who have never played the game, you must choose a profession. The chosen profession comes with a salary, and a certain number of assets and liabilities. The cost per child varies with profession as well.

The game is realistic in that high income professionals like doctors, lawyers and airline pilots make more money than the janitors or the web designers, but they also have greater expenses and usually more student loans in the case of the doctor and lawyer. Take a look at my 2018 Father’s Day blog post which has a special significance for my brother, my father and me. That post coincidentally involving careers in medicine and law which Dad wanted my brother and me to pursue. Going back to the game, individuals playing the game must figure out how to generate enough passive income from their investments to pay all of their bills monthly and annually. This allows them to become financially free and moves them onto the Fast Track, and live the life of wealthy business owners and investors.

On the road to getting out of the Rat Race, in addition to getting the opportunities to participate in stock and real estate deals, participants sometimes also have children, have to purchase doodads (random expenses or luxuries which drain your money), and face unexpected crises like car accidents, all of which can act as financial setbacks. This forces players to think about their objectives creatively and still figure out ways to get out of the Rat Race. In terms of the game, I’ll stop there. It’s an intoxicating game, and it’s one that I highly recommend. Suffice it to say for now, that as I played and started learning, I started experiencing a paradigm shift and aspired to do the same things in real life, that I would later find was easier said than done. By the way, Dad saw me regularly playing the game and probably thought I was nuts.

* * *

One of the things Robert Kiyosaki discussed in Rich Dad Poor Dad was real estate investing and I became interested in it. Some friends of mine in the area were also interested in it and turned me onto our local real estate club which I won’t name. There were monthly meetings where the President encouraged us to get into deals and to, take action. There were also big time real estate speakers like the land lording guru Don Beck, whose program involved putting your rental properties on cruise control and also creating rental leases that were as protective as possible for the land lords against the problem tenants.

Most of the club members were seniors in terms of age and my two friends and I may have been the only minorities there. Coincidentally an older woman, named Mary, agreed to mentor me. Mary had been in the game for a while and had already started acquiring properties. I think she had her Multiple Listing Service (MLS) certification and had the ability to search its databases. I met another younger guy, whom I’ll call Tyler, who also had the wealth-building mindset and was living it. We talked one Saturday during a field trip we took around our area to look at properties. Tyler turned me on to T. Harv Ecker’s book, “Secrets of The Millionaire Mind”, which is a short but good read.

Like our President, Mary also encouraged me to do my first deal and we started looking at properties in the Albany area. I recall once going into an empty brownstone and looking around with her near the Albany state capital where my research lab was located. We eventually found a duplex in the downtown area, with a flat roof and one tenant living in it already. Mary suggested that I could live in one unit for a little and rent the other unit out (owner occupied). Eventually I could move out and ‘cash flow’ the entire property. It all sounded cool and a little scary. I wanted to do it, but how would I do such a thing?

* * *

For those unfamiliar with purchasing real estate, there are usually three critical items lenders want to see: employment history of some sort (especially if you’re new), your credit score and savings of some kind (over a series of months, not random gifts). Depending how savvy you are, you may be able to structure your deal so that you don’t have to pay the closing costs up front. I just barely qualified in terms of my credit score. It wasn’t great at the time, but it was just good enough. I’d only finished my Ph.D. one to two years earlier. I paid my bills on time, but I was over-leveraged credit-wise for numerous reasons which I won’t discuss here. Finally, I had $2,000 to $3,000 in the bank, but I knew that I would need more. Where would I get it from though? Enter Dad!

Now before I go on, let me warn you that this part of the story gets a little painful, but exciting at the same time. I could save this detail until the end, but it’s worth pointing out here. One of the things this experience (and others) taught me going forward was that while we are all physically living on this world together, we can all exist in different worlds and have different world views. Science is a world of its own. Salsa dancing is a world of its own. Writing is a world of its own. Real estate investing is a world of its own. Being an employee is a world of its own. Each world has its own unique set of rules and mindsets.

Dad was an employee and an excellent at budgeting and saving. He was also risk averse money-wise, and he had his own personal real estate experience that turned him against land lording forever. According to Dad, he once had a tenant in his lower unit, an older woman. According to Dad, he went downstairs to collect the rent one day, and the woman slid into a supernatural trance where her eyes rolled back and her ears pointed upwards. From that point on Dad never wanted anything else to do with real estate investing and land lording, no matter what the upside was.

I don’t know whether Mary suggested it, or by default I decided to ask him for a loan, but after much internal deliberation, I did and that’s when things got, how shall I say, exciting. I know my father and my ask lacked confidence. I was pretty scared actually. He didn’t say no immediately, but instead looked me with a blank stare and told me he’d think about it. I intuitively knew that instead of simple yes or no, it was going to turn into a long drawn out process, and Dad didn’t disappoint.

Dad did, in fact, think about it. His thinking stretched from days to weeks which for me was like death by a thousand cuts as one of my favorite YouTube content creators often says. He asked me questions about my investment idea often from the other room when I least expected them. In some instances, we were in the same room and he’d ask me questions about it with his back to me with no eye contact. Yes, I know it’s odd, but it was just how he communicated with me at the time. At some point I told him to just forget about it, but it continued.

“How much money do you have in the bank?” I don’t remember when in this ordeal that he asked me this question, but I just remember that he asked it. The question suddenly made me feel defensive, naked, picked over and violated. “The bank will want to know how much money you have!” Dad was right about this as I found out in the future when applying for mortgages and refinancing on my own. I actually uttered these same words in a money-related dispute with an ex-girlfriend; that didn’t go over well, by the way, so be careful in those instances.

“I have $2,000 to $3,000 in my savings and my Self-Directed Roth IRA,” I pensively replied.

“That’s NOT money!” Dad quickly and sharply declared with the precision of an assassin. His words were cutting, and I felt insulted and angry afterwards. I didn’t understand why this whole thing had to drag out like this, and I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just sit down and have a simple step by step discussion about why it wasn’t a good or bad idea. The thing I learned later though was that Dad was right.

What Dad meant by saying that, “$2,000 to $3,000 is NOT money,” was that it wasn’t enough money to safely do what I was thinking about. As in all cases, money is relative. There are people who don’t have $400 saved up and there are people who don’t have $1,000 saved up, so to those people, $2,000 to $3,000 is a lot of money. Speaking of $1,000, losing $1,000 can hurt if you’re not prepared to lose it, which I did when trying to do a real estate deal one to two years after moving to the Washington, DC area.

I want to tie up this blog post with my major learning points from this story. They are as follows:

• It’s best to invest safely: Whether you’re investing in real estate, stocks or something else, it’s important to do so from a place of safety. At the time of writing this, to me that means allocating funds strictly for that purpose separately from your essential expenses. This way, if the investment falls through, you’ll still have a place to live, food to eat, clothes on your back, etc. Investing is different from outright gambling, but think about how much more fun a trip to a place like Las Vegas is when you have enough money with which to gamble. Don’t invest your emergency money, the rent or the mortgage. This leads to my next point which involves friends and relatives.

• Be careful about involving the finances of friends and relatives in your business/investing ideas: From 30 plus years of being his son, I knew that Dad was risk-averse and didn’t play around with his money, but his not loaning me the money turned out to be the best thing for both of us because it would’ve poisoned our relationship, potentially beyond healing. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable around him, and it would’ve always been on his mind whenever he thought about me. If you have a money idea, I think the best things is to figure out how to launch it on your own, or until its far enough along for others to see the upside (and benefit for them). This way, if you take the loss, you take it on your own. If you are going to partner with friends or relatives, make sure you share the common vision and that they understand the risks. Finally, I’ve learned that when you’re launching an idea, whether it’s stocks or some other opportunity, savvy investors/partners are more likely to participate in your idea if they can see that you’ve already thought out and invested a significant amount of your own resources into it, unless of course you have an extensive track record of doing what you’re proposing.

• Real estate is a fun and potentially rewarding area, but a complex and dangerous one too: Robert Kiyosaki’s Cashflow 101 is a fun and educational game which to this day I highly recommend. It’s just that thought, a game played with fake money. The game is designed to expand and transform your mindset. Getting out in the field and taking action which most real estate teachers teach, is a different matter. Getting an investment property was a good idea, and Dad admitted that, if I recall correctly. However, not only did I not have enough of my own money in the bank yet, it also wasn’t clear if I was staying in the area.

Now let me be clear. Am I saying not to own property out of state? Absolutely not. There are investors who own property in other states or cities, and in some instances other countries. Most of them are experienced though. They have the systems in place to be able to do so, and in some instances, they’re partnering with other experienced and like-minded people.

Think about the martial arts. Dad was a Judo guy so let’s use Judo. The masters in martial arts dojos typically wear the brown and black belts, and one must practice and train hard to reach those levels after starting at the color white. Some trials and errors are involved in ascending to the brown or black belt levels which includes blood, sweat, tears, and being thrown to the mat innumerable times in this case. I would equate this to my lost $1,000 described above which I’ll revisit later on. In short, at the time of my asking Dad for that help, I was the equivalent of a white belt in the real estate dojo.

• Be careful who you share your dreams and aspirations with: Finally, I’ll just say that not everyone is going to understand your dreams and visions, so you can’t share them with everyone. This includes friends and relatives, and this is what Robert Kiyosaki meant towards the end of Rich Dad Poor Dad about finding new friends. Let me be clear in that this doesn’t mean discarding your old friends. It just means that if people don’t understand the world you’re operating in, have had a negative experience in it, or are just not like-minded in general, they may kill your dream. This goes for significant others and love interests as well. So, for your own sanity, be mindful.

So that’s all I have to say on this matter, and I hope that this was educational for someone. It was a bitter situation to go through at the time, but I can look back and laugh at it now. I can also admit that Dad’s response towards me helped me see things from a new perspective in terms of the world around me regarding personal finances, dating and mating, and finally, when being approached by friends and/or relatives to help them start their own ideas like coffee businesses, for example.

Thank you for reading my 2020 Father’s Day blog post. In the past I’ve listed my previous Mother’s Day and Father’s Day blog posts out, but this time I’ll simply refer you to the bottom of the cover page of my blogging platform where I’ve listed out select personal stories from my collection. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please subscribe to any of my four YouTube channels. Lastly, follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Reflections on the classroom from a veteran of the school system revisited

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and a key focus is Education. Dad was a critical piece of my journey towards my earning my STEM degree and starting my career. I originally published this piece in the Examiner back in 2012, shortly after he retired from education. I lived with him for almost three years prior to starting my federal science career, and learned some things about his career in education simply through watching, observing and talking to him.

Dad taught in one of the ‘lower’ two districts in New York State’s “Capital Region”, and this account captures what it’s like for some teachers who work in ‘lower income’ communities. While Dad agreed to let me publish this piece, there was some deliberation over its content as he wanted to be truthful while not offending anyone. This piece raises several key questions. Do parents have a role in their child’s education? Is it the school’s job to do everything? Lastly, what are the ramifications for kids getting passed through the system without doing the work, and what ultimately happens to them?

* * *

Dad retired from education after 20 years of teaching Life Science in junior high in one of New York State’s eastern central school districts. When asked about being an educator and the daily issues he faced, he focused mainly on the attitudes and preparedness of his students and their parents. He also focused on an administration that highly emphasized passing its students, probably due to outside pressure which eventually trickled down the to its faculty. The issues he discussed were not unique to his district, and were common in lower income communities across the nation.

“One of the hardest parts of the job was getting the students to believe that I knew what I was talking about,” he said. The adolescent years are known to be the start of a rebellious period in the lives of young people. It’s not only challenging for parents, but also for educators. He further added, “Many of my students came to school hungry and without having breakfast. It’s hard to learn that way!”

Dad spent a lot of time discussing parenting saying, “Somewhere there was a disconnection between the parents and what the students should’ve been doing at home, particularly their homework. The parents should’ve been helping to reinforce our program at home. If we could’ve just gotten the parents on board, things would’ve gone more smoothly.”

“Parents aren’t what they used to be. They seem to act as though they can just make babies and it’s the school’s job to raise them,” he lamented about parents who weren’t proactive and vigilant about their children’s education.

“When I came home, I frequently saw my father reading,” he continued. “In some families, kids come home and see Mom and Dad watching TV and not reading, and will do the same thing. For African American and Latino kids, reading is very, very important,” he said passionately.

Whether it’s a low income district or a high income district as described in the writings of Dr. Ralph G. Perrino of the former Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, strong parental involvement seems to be a key ingredient in the success of students.

When he visited the University of Michigan when I was in graduate school, the famous (and now maligned) neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson, originally from inner-city Detroit, openly acknowledged that he wasn’t a strong student early on in his life. He further acknowledges that it was his mother’s insistence that he read and continually expand his mind that set the stage for his successes.

Dad finally voiced his frustrations with the school system itself saying, “In many districts there is a lot of pressure on teachers to pass students who may not be measuring up to the teacher’s expectations and what’s outlined in the curriculum.” In short, whether intended or not, the expectations for his students were being lowered. He further encountered quite a few students and parents who expected passing grades without the work being done.

“The school district was phasing out effort, good behavior, homework, and classroom participation. My students’ grades were eventually based mostly on tests and quizzes,” he said. He closed by saying (with conviction), “The problem is that when these students go out into the real world, they’ll be in trouble in job settings.”

* * *

I want to close by acknowledging all the educators who go to work every day preparing our future generations. It’s a very important and sometimes underappreciated career/job. I’ll always remember seeing Dad go away to school every day, grading papers on the weekends, and enjoying his summer vacations. His experiences weren’t unique, and they applied to many schools in other cities across the country.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:

The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in academic achievement
The benefits and challenges of using articulate speech
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege
Who will benefit from Apple’s $350 billion investment?
Father’s Day 2018: Dad’s doctor and his lawyer, and a discussion on careers
Father’s Day 2017: Reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons

If you’ve found value here and think it will benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Father’s Day 2018: Dad’s doctor and his lawyer, and a discussion on careers

Your brother is going to be my Doctor, and you’re going to be my Lawyer!”

Happy Father’s Day. My 2017 Father’s Day blog post talked about some of my father’s life and money lessons, and there were many. I wrote some more about us in my second essay submitted to A Voice For Men entitled: Two very well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: Reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’, which discussed how my brother and I had to figure out several aspects of manhood on our own. There weren’t a lot of men around growing up, and there were limitations in what we were taught by the men we did know.

For this 2018 post, I’m going to go in a different direction and will discuss what Dad wanted both me and my brother to be career-wise, versus what we actually became. This piece isn’t an “ode to fathers” per se, but instead a set of thoughts and ideas based upon something my father said to us as children, which will serve as a jumping off point for things me and those in my circle regularly discuss today as adults – things that have impacted our family dynamics as the years have gone by. As described in my piece Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in academic achievement, Dad’s fatherly guidance helped me reach my academic potential. He also stimulated me to start thinking about potential careers at an early age.

* * *

“Your brother is going to be my Doctor, and you’re going to be my Lawyer!” Dad said on one of our summer visits in the mid-1980s. The three of us were crossing a street in downtown Schenectady, NY and he turned and gave his proclamation to the both of us – communicating with one of his hands – his signature style. Like many parents, Dad had his own plans for what we should be. Somewhere alo4ng the line, he determined that it should be a Medical Doctor and a Lawyer, and as with everything Dad said, he said it with lots of authority, pretty much commanding us.

Not having either in my immediate family circle on either my mother’s or father’s side, I didn’t know much about what lawyers did. I had some idea of what medical doctors did because I had gone to see them on numerous occasions as a child. One of Dad’s first cousins was in fact a medical doctor, but we didn’t see him enough to be able to ask him about his career. In elementary school it hadn’t occurred to me what I wanted to be career-wise, though I got the inkling that it would be something scientific after really enjoying “Life Science” in the seventh grade – essentially beginner’s Biology. My brother had begun showing signs of being both artistic and creative.

But what made my father so enamored with medical doctors and lawyers in terms of careers for his sons? Dad was always one for stability which is why he became a junior high science teacher. Neither of his parents had gone to college, so he was a first-generation college graduate. From what I can see, some parents naturally want their children to do better than them. In the mid-1980s, the conventional wisdom was that medicine and law were two very high-profile professions which would lead to affluent and comfortable careers/lifestyles.

“I know that your grandfather would be very proud of you being a doctor and all,” Dad said on several occasions regarding my Ph.D. years later. He didn’t necessarily understand what my doctorate stood for or the skills it represented, but the title of ‘Doctor’ meant a lot to him – something I witnessed in the coming years both positively and negatively. Coincidentally, I think he initially discouraged me from pursuing a doctorate – potentially because he only knew Ph.D.s in the context of the school system, and not the ‘Research’ and ‘Regulatory’ worlds.

With one of the principles of my blog being “Critical Thought”, I believe it’s important to look at things in their entirety. So, while Dad wanted these two prestigious careers for us, what would it have taken for us to get into these two professions? The answer is it would’ve taken lots and lots of school for the both us and then, most likely, considerable debt to pay back. This is something very important to consider for parents and students looking to attend college to pursue ‘White-Collar’ careers.

In terms of higher education, thinking out the entire plan long-term is critical – considering the cost of the degree, how to get a quality degree for the least amount of money possible, what the expected salary will be on back end, and finally how much debt will need to be paid back. According to a 2014 article in Forbes, the average amount of debt for Law School graduates ranged from $84,000 to $122,158. Also, according to a recent 2018 article by Credit Donkey, the average medical school graduate finishes with $192,000 of debt.

Keep in mind that these are on top of however much debt was accrued during one’s undergraduate studies. The numbers probably weren’t as high thirty years ago, but it’s important to be mindful of blindly chasing certain careers based upon titles and prestige. If it’s something a student really wants to do, that’s different, but the costs still ought to be considered.

If you run the numbers and your prospects aren’t good, I would recommend not going into debt for that particular degree. A mentor recently taught me that the economy actually dictates the need for specific careers at a given time. I don’t know what the prospects were like for lawyers in the mid-1980s when Dad announced his wish for me, but as I progressed in my education, I heard more and more stories about the market being ‘saturated’ with them. I likewise heard that the landscape for medicine had changed, and in some ways, it wasn’t as lucrative a career as it once was.

In terms of my career, I figured it out as I went along. I had an interest in the Biological Sciences and thus followed that path. I pondered going to Medical School at one point, but decided against it after a professor at Johnson C. Smith University encouraged me and some of my classmates to study up on what it entailed – the demands, the lifestyle, and the backend costs.

It’s also important for students and parents to keep in mind what the student is good at, and where their gift/passion lies. While I turned out to be the son that was interested in the Biology, my brother’s gifts were completely different. He turned out to be a ‘design and build’ –type of guy. He had the gift for designing things, constructing things, taking them apart, and he was quite formidable with tools and devices. He started studying Architecture in college but didn’t finish, but in hindsight, he may have also been well suited for one of the ‘Skill Trades’ – something that didn’t come up as a child as college and ‘White-Collar’ careers were emphasized as opposed to ‘Blue-Collar’ careers.

Speaking of the trades, since finishing my own education, I’ve realized that there is power in learning one or more of the skill trades. There will always be the need to build and fix things. That includes: the electricity and plumbing in your home, airplanes we travel on, the public transportation vehicles we ride to work on every day, and so much more. If your refrigerator breaks down as mine did recently, for example, you either have to buy a new one or hire someone to come and fix it – unless you can do it yourself.

Unfortunately, our society looks down on the Blue-Collar careers in some ways, though they pay very, very well and don’t require the schooling doctors and lawyers need – the same is true for the debt required to train for the latter two careers. In my opinion, individuals who are proficient in the trades people are willing to pay for; and those who also have some business training, stand to make lots of money as they can do things like start their own companies and hire other people.

My brother never finished college and has become a bit of an inventor/entrepreneur which actually is the route that our technology giants like: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg took. There may have been some luck involved for each of them, but these men are reminders that in some instances, ideas and skills are more powerful than the degrees themselves. Today for example, there are quite a few individuals making significant incomes without being ‘degreed’ – those who can write code for Blockchain Technology applications for example. Also, while my brother isn’t degreed, he’s also not saddled with a significant debt payment of any kind – a tremendous advantage.

As for me, depending on your belief system, I got lucky. I pursued a Ph.D. in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field at a time when the economy rewarded individuals with such degrees. What’s even more significant is that I finished only with a little bit of debt from my undergraduate studies. Because I pursued a STEM degree, I didn’t pay for any of my graduate studies so I didn’t have a hefty loan to pay back for those five to six years of graduate school. This brings me to my closing point. It wasn’t until I finished that phase of my science training that I realized that I was missing something very, very important – something some kids are given early, and something others stumble upon later in life if at all.

Regardless of whether or not you get a college degree, a trade or some sort of entrepreneurship, the critical piece is understanding money. Something not discussed much in our younger years was wealth-building – something that is possible for everyone, and independent of one’s career choice as it involves a specific set of behaviors that I’ve written about in my Net Worth and Debt Snowball pieces. Understanding the concepts of Wealth-Building: budgeting, living within one’s means, delaying gratification, investments, and ‘Compound Interest‘ – these are the keys to a great and bountiful life, not necessarily the careers and titles themselves, contrary to what many people think.

Prestige and titles are nice, but if you read Dr. Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door, you’ll see that there are many high-income professionals who look the part, but who are actually struggling. In my blog post about the Tax Reform and Jobst Act, I referenced a 2016 article in the Washington Post entitled: The shocking number of Americans who can’t cover a $400 expense which showed that even some individuals making over six figures, surprisingly couldn’t cover such an emergency.

I never wanted to be one of those people. I may be different from most, but I’d rather secretly live nice and comfortable with a simple outward appearance, as opposed to looking wealthy and struggling behind closed doors. That’s a personal choice however – one which everyone must make for themselves.

* * *

In closing, our parents sometimes have dreams of what they want us to be. Some kids actually go ahead and fulfill their parents’ dreams while others go their own way. In some instances, our parents can discourage us from what we really want to do based upon what they know and feel from their lives.

There is thus a complex set of decisions to be made based upon: what one really wants to do, their unique gifts, what they’re passionate about, and how they’ll be able to earn a living on the back end. In the end, the economy dictates what’s needed at that particular time – it will determine who gets hired and how much they will be paid. Lastly, no matter what path is chosen, the critical piece is understanding money. Once again, Happy Father’s Day.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Two very well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’
Father’s Day 2017: reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons
Mother’s Day 2018: Memories of my grandmothers
Mother’s Day 2017: one of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in academic achievement
The benefits and challenges of using articulate speech

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Father’s Day 2017: Reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons

Last month I wrote a piece in celebration of Mother’s Day, so it’s only fitting that I write something in celebration of Father’s Day as well.  The Mother’s Day post was about a specific piece of advice my mother gave me about my engagement and looming marriage a couple of years ago.  As jokingly stated in that post, Dad didn’t give me much advice in that particular instance.  He did give me lots of guidance throughout my life though.  Over on my “Heroes and Quotes” page, his is the first quote which was some advice he gave me at a young age about how to succeed academically.

There was much more though, particularly in way of advice about money, women and other things – lots about money and women.  He sometimes consciously taught me things, and some things I learned simply from observation.  With two of the key principles of my blog being “Creating Ecosystems of Success”, and “Empowering Others”, I’m going to reflect on some of his money lessons and some of their deeper and associated life meanings/significances – some of which I had to question.  As in most cases, I didn’t understand everything that was being said then as I do now.

As I go through some of this stuff, keep in mind that fathers are important – biological, step-, or mentors of all sorts.  According to data from Kid’s Count in 2015, 66% of African American kids were raised by a single-parent while the national average was 35%.  My parents divorced when I was three-years old and I thus grew up in a single-parent household for the majority of my childhood.  While I’ve sometimes looked back and wondered what it would’ve been like to have my father in the house, the blessing was that while he wasn’t physically there, it was important for him to be as visible and accessible as possible.

“Always make sure your children know who you are.”  He tried hard to keep up with the words of his own father who died during his teens.  It sounds like a simple thing, but as I grew into adulthood myself, went through college and even started dating, I realized that not every father did this, especially in the black community.  The results often times were catastrophic with long lasting ramifications, especially in dating or ‘pair-bonding’ – a separate topic all in itself.

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“You just did something I don’t like.  You didn’t count your change.  How do you know that the cashier gave you the correct change?”  I was an early teen when this discussion took place.  I had just paid for something, took the change the cashier gave me and immediately stuffed it into my pocket.  A stern man, his words, “You just did something I don’t like,” stopped me dead in my tracks.  I didn’t think he was paying attention, but sure enough he was – in general Dad was always paying attention to the most minute details even when you thought he wasn’t.  He also remembered things long after you forgot them and would bring them back up when you least expected it.

When I discovered what he was unhappy about, it made sense to me and I started counting my change.  I even started calculating in my mind the change I was supposed to get back from cashiers before they gave it to me.  The lesson here was to be careful with my money, and to trust no one.  Years later he observed that I was in fact careful with my money.  I told him that I had gotten the behavior from him.  He replied saying something very profound, “Well son, when you have to make child support payments, you have to be very careful with your money.”

“You always keep your receipt because you never know when you’re going to have to return something.”  I don’t know which came first, this lesson or the change counting lesson, but they weren’t far apart.  His father had gotten on him about this when he was younger.  He had allegedly gone into lower Manhattan to buy some underwear and returned home without the receipt resulting in his getting scolded.

“When you get paid, you want to account for all of your expenses.”  This was an early lesson about budgeting.  We didn’t sit down and do one right then and there, and I wouldn’t master it until at least ten years later, but I always remembered the discussion.

“You always pay yourself first.”  This lesson came shortly after I started working, though again as a teen, I didn’t grasp the power of this advice until later.  It had tremendous implications in one’s prime earning years where diligent individuals save for both emergencies and investments and build wealth while others spend all of their income.

“You don’t quit your job unless you have another one to go to.”  Dad gave me this sage wisdom between my junior and senior years of high school after quitting my very first job at the Denny’s Restaurant, near the Buffalo airport.  I lasted three months at that job which consisted of washing dishes, cleaning up the restaurant, and taking out the garbage.  I didn’t last long enough to have to shovel snow in the winter.  The place where I really wanted to work for my first job was McDonald’s.  At the time it looked fun to me.  I was happy to have an income, but after a while I grew tired of working at Denny’s – coming home sweaty, greasy, and exhausted.  Without talking to anyone, I quit that job right there on the spot with no other job to go to.  It was then that I came to the understanding that I had no more cash flow – a sign of immaturity.  The only positive thing about that situation was that I was still in high school and wasn’t required to contribute to any of my mother’s household bills.  Some adults quit their job without having a replacement and put themselves in a pickle; often burdening those around them.

“You always keep money in the bank because you never know when an emergency is going to arise.”  There’s a very funny story behind this lesson and it involves a woman – something very dramatic and stressful according to Dad.  For my own safety, I’ll just stick to the lesson.  At an early age, Dad stressed the importance of having money in the bank due to unforeseen emergencies which inevitably happen to you, or to someone around you.  In this particular quagmire he had gotten into, having some money in the bank helped him get out of it.  He also regretted once not having $5,000 available for a mortgage down payment on a house he was renting.

“You can keep dating her if you want to.  You might have to miss your electric bill.”  This sobering advice came during my first year in graduate school in my mid-twenties.  It was one of my first experiences learning something that Dad had talked about for most of my childhood – women and money.  At least most of the ones we knew came with a price tag, and wanted to be wined and dined.

I had, unfortunately, taken a liking to someone whom I dated for one to two months who openly admitted she was needy, which I didn’t understand at the time as she had already started her own career.  Inexperienced at dating, she grew frustrated with my meager finances and my lack of understanding of what was expected of me.  Dad’s advice here, which came in a hurtful and mocking tone, was simply communicating that I needed to determine whether or not I could afford this particular female.  I decided that I couldn’t.

It’s an important set of questions for all men to ask themselves when meeting a potential partner.  Can I afford her?  Does she line up with my priorities?  Will she tank my finances?  This was also one of the first times I could personally feel the pain, the scars, and the poor fortune my father experienced in the dating jungle after he and my mother split – as there was lots of despair, and little hope or encouragement in his words.

“When you have to make child support payments, it forces you to be very careful with your money.”  I have to be very careful here as this is a sensitive topic, and my mother generally proof-reads my articles.  Throughout my childhood, Dad sometimes lamented about making child support payments – not because he didn’t want to support his children, but because I think he had a hard time making ends meet on his own end.  During my childhood, he eventually took a second job in the military to pay the bills.  It’s a sensitive topic because while he felt maxed out, my mother felt as though he wasn’t doing enough.  And I’ll stop there, but suffice it to say that in many instances men and women see money (and life) differently.  In some instances, as the ones being asked to provide, it can seem like your best is never enough – a hard pill to swallow.  He and I talked about this a lot as I got older and I started experiencing my own scrapes and bruises with the opposite sex.

“The bank is going to want to look at all of your bank statements when you apply for a mortgage, and $2,000 isn’t any money,” Dad scoffed at me, making me feel five feet tall.  I was still living with the big guy during my Postdoctoral fellowship.  I had started reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad series and had joined my local Real Estate Investment Club.  I wanted to make an ambitious move and get my first investment property – a duplex which I would live in and eventually rent out for “Passive” income.  I needed some help with the closing costs and associated expenses, so I asked him for a loan.  It was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Instead of a nice teachable discussion about the ups, the downs, and the ins, and outs of trying such a thing – it turned into him putting me in a proverbial headlock.  It dragged on for days and days as he mulled over it, and asked me random pointed questions about it – his analysis and communication styles.  After a while I just wanted to drop the whole thing, and I concluded that I never wanted to be in a position to ask his help for anything money-related, though I did once more, and returned to the same conclusion.

In hindsight while it was smart to want to create a passive income stream, it wasn’t a good idea in that particular instance.  I wasn’t going to stay in that area long-term, and I wasn’t experienced enough, and didn’t have enough money to manage a property from a long-distance.  What was funny was that many people don’t even have $2,000 in the bank they can access quickly.  That said, he was right in that it wasn’t a substantial amount of money.  He was also right in that prior to qualifying you for a mortgage, the banks do want to know everything about your financial history.

Dad was also jaded in terms of being a landlord from a prior experience, as he once had a tenant in his lower unit – an older woman.  According to him, he went downstairs to collect the rent one day, and the woman transformed into a malevolent, ominous, and demon-possessed state.  It scared him at the time and forever soured him on being a landlord.

“I wouldn’t invest in the Stock Market if I were you.”  This bit of advice was given to me in my 30s when I expressed that I wanted to buy some stock by the end of that particular year.  Because of his own life experiences, Dad was averse to losing money.  Coincidentally, one of our closest cousins recommended I get in the game and buy stock, and even today experts like Dr. Boyce Watkins, strongly advocate blacks getting into the Stock Market.  So who was right in this case?  Who was to be believed and trusted?

This gets back to one of the points I made in my 2017 Mother’s Day post.  As we grow into adulthood, I think we all get to a point where everything our parents tell us can’t be taken as the gospel and in some instances must be questioned and or pondered critically.  In this particular instance, yes investing in stocks does involve potential loss.  An important consideration going in though is whether or not you understand that there is a potential for the loss, and whether or not you can absorb the loss.  In other words, do you have emergency money in the bank, and is the amount to be invested allocated for that reason?  Can it be easily replaced for another round?  This is a much different thought process than simply stating, “You’re going to lose your money if you do that.”

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If the tone of this blog post was in part melancholy and mixed, then it reflects our father-son relationship which has been full of contradictions and mystery.  When I look back at my youth many of my childhood experiences were marked by concerns over money.  I’m not saying that I grew up in poverty because I didn’t by any means.  I don’t really remember my mother, whom I spent the majority of my childhood with, talking about money a lot, but I think she shielded my brother and me from some things – sheltering us, as one of my aunts often said.  I did look around at peers, such as my best friend and realized that I didn’t have Air Jordans, Starter Jackets, Karl Kani, or any of the trendiest apparel of our cohort.

Most of the money-related talks as I grew up actually came from my father and as you might have gathered from this post, many of them had some sort of pain associated with them.  As I’ve gotten older, I understand things much better now.  As we get older we start to see that our parents are people who make mistakes themselves, and are not perfect though at one point we may have thought they were.  In some instances we start to understand their pains and struggles.

Over the years our father-son relationship has gone through a lot of changes – some good and some bad with multiple ups and downs.  Overall I’m grateful for everything my father has done for me, and I tell him that every time I see him now (my mother too).  That said, as I think President Obama said years ago, for children whose biological fathers are missing, there can be other fathers too.  And even if a child’s father isn’t a good one, or can’t supply everything needed, there can again be other fathers to fill in those gaps.  I certainly have many.

There are a lot of podcasts and men’s stations on places like YouTube these days – many talking about the importance of fathers.  My favorite in this current station of my life is Paul Elam’sA Voice for Men” – content I would recommend for any man still figuring things out in our society – personal values, dating and marriage, and finally gender/societal roles.  Fathers are very important if for no other reason than to lend a balanced perspective on the world.  This is true for both boys and girls who themselves will eventually both grow into men and women.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Two well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: Reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’
Mother’s Day 2018: Memories of my grandmothers
Mother’s Day 2017: One of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in academic achievement
The benefits and challenges of using articulate speech

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