When I was growing up, I asked my parents if we were rich. They replied that we were okay, better off than most (not their exact words). To my ten-year-old brain, that sounded about right.
Later on, I realized there was more to it than that. From the steady stream of relatives asking for help to the way people jokingly called him "Don" (just like in the movie Godfather), I figured out that we were more than just okay.
My dad is rich. I didn't always know it, but now that I can do the math, that's the only word for it. He didn't win the lotto, inherit his money, or even steal. He worked hard. In fact, he worked all the time. When he retired, he worked some more. He also worked smart. He didn't spend a lot. He paid his taxes. And he helped people when he could. Here are a few things I learned from casual conversations with him over the course of many years.
1. It's never too late to save. He started at the age of 40. I started seriously investing money just recently at 39. So I've got a head start. And if I had known what I know about investing now, I would have started earlier. But yeah, it's never too late. You don't have to start with a lot of money either. All you have to do is start.
2. You don't need to go crazy with risky investments. Slow and steady wins the race.
My dad is often described as "phlegmatic" (versus my mom's "choleric" nature): slow to move and slow to anger. He's not prone to risk-taking or extreme sports. After reading a book about Warren Buffett, he smugly told me that he and Buffett invested in the same way: not to make a quick trade but as a long-term investment. I replied, "Why aren't you as rich as Warren Buffett then?" He, in turn, just smiled. He didn't need to show me a bank statement to prove that he was right.
3. You don't need the flashy car.
My dad always wanted to buy a Mazda Miata, a modest sports car if you've ever laid eyes on the price tag. My mom never let him have it. Or maybe he never let himself buy one. While his contemporaries were buying Benzes and BMWs, he was buying nice cars too, just cheaper ones, and nothing in-your-face. He saved his money instead. He never had to prove anything with the car he drove.
4. Some things are worth spending on.
My parents are thrifty. But there are times when my dad goes really big. During weddings and funerals, you always want to get an envelope from him. I've always been grateful to be on the receiving end. He's been known to buy a nice camera or sound system every now and then, but those are rare times. He's better known for spoiling his kids in the right way. In my case, regular travel to nice places and eating in nice restaurants inspired me to want to be rich enough to afford that lifestyle. There is no better way that he could have instilled this lesson in me.
I am still working on becoming a rich dad. If I become half as successful as my dad, I'll be a happy, happy man. He taught me that money is great to have, but not for the reasons most people think. It's nice to buy stuff, sure. But it's great to have when you're sick, or when someone you love needs help. You see, the love and admiration he gets from his family, that's where my dad is richest. Hopefully, some of his money smarts rubbed off on me.
Photo used under Creative Commons from atkinson0000.