I was greatly influenced by my father who was very money oriented. Despite not being successful in his own banking career, he independently invested money in land and real estate and ended up doing very well for himself. We always talked about how to save, how to spend carefully and how to ensure not to be in too much debt.
My dad was obsessed with saving money specifically for rainy days, and that’s the main thing I learned from him. I remember how he made sure we had a coin bank as kids. “The number one reason companies fail is because they don’t have enough money. Always have money in reserve and save at least 10% of your paycheck,” he used to say.
Growing up, I had a little investment account through which my uncle used buy stocks for me in companies he thought were good. I became interested in stocks, which is good since I ended up doing that as a career.
My mom was an art teacher and did artistic work for companies. In those days, there weren’t many opportunities for women and she earned much less than my dad. When he died at the age 66, I started managing her money. She wasn’t much into investments, but she was careful about spending. She managed her own checking account and used to do all our taxes before his death.
When you went to school, how confident did you feel about money related issues?
During my high school years, I worked in the summers for the town, digging graves in the graveyard and raking. I saved a little bit, but not much.
My family paid for my college tuition, room and board, and I paid for everything else like clothing, books and extras. I waited on tables through college, but I couldn’t save much. In those days, the ability to borrow was much more difficult, so I had no debt as a student.
I was on a Pre-Med track in college, but my advisor said I wasn’t doing well enough to get into good medical school; so I became a Psychology major. Oddly enough, psychology plays a big role in investment success: People who invest tend to be greedy and buy when prices are way up, but they get scared and sell when prices are down when what they should be doing the opposite and be happy for the opportunity to buy at a low price and sell when it increases.
It wasn’t until I got married to my wife Connie that I began to feel a huge responsibility that made me star saving. When we were first married, we had an old car for two years that was practically falling apart, so we decided needed a new one. That was my first time getting a loan. I was so worried about it that I came home and threw up. I was able to pay it off after a year, and we kept that car for four more years.
We had decided that no matter what, we would save her salary. She didn’t make a lot of money teaching, or even when she started working at the Museum of Modern Art; but, we still saved her salary. I got a job working at Chemical Bank for 3 years and I saved a bit of the little money I made. That little money added up over the years and saving her salary helped us to buy our first house five years into our marriage.
Where are you with your saving habits? Have you saved enough for your retirement?
I was a heavy saver and became even more so as my career progressed. I became a partner in an investment firm in Boston that used to pay bonuses at the end of the year depending on how well employees performed. I wouldn’t tell my wife about that, and instead, deposited the whole bonus into my savings account.
Through the years, I saved each bonus I ever earned. Fortunately, my investments in common stocks also did well and now we are in a wonderful position where we have enough money to not have to worry about it very much.
I think it’s all worked out well. I’m now old enough that I don’t need to save anymore. Connie and I are comfortable, we can do what we want to do, and we can be generous with our children and grandchildren. Looking back, I am grateful and thankful that we did these things. We didn’t inherit very much, and it has been all what we put together ourselves. We had great trips and experiences, we enjoy being with our children and our grandchildren.
Did you teach your kids about money? How and why did you do it?
Of my three children, Holly was the most interested in money. She always created little businesses for herself throughout her childhood. She wanted to know what I did, how I saved, and how invested; and because I loved what I did, I was happy to share my knowledge with her.
My mother gave the kids a good amount of money when they were kids. I invested it for them and used that to teach them how the value was growing. Their investments grew to a decent amount, and they all used it to buy their first homes.
I am the type of person who always likes to prepare for the future. I have never in my whole life run out of gas; when my tank gets down to three fourths full, I always filled it up. I also bought food and hid it in the fridge for those times where my wife didn’t have time to cook.
I would have little investment classes with the kids when they were in high school: I would sit down and tell them how a company needed to tell all stockholders how they did what they did and how much money they made through their report card. I bought stocks for them so they could see how it worked through getting returns.
I am doing the same thing with my oldest grandchildren: I bought them shares earlier than I did for my children. It’s amazing that schools don’t teach kids about investing in schools or even simple budgeting and financial planning. It’s the one thing you that can go through college without anyone ever talking to you about.
Share your #1 savings tip.
I think it’s difficult for people to save because of the “fly now pay later” culture. I believe that not only do people need to learn to save, but they also need to think about being contrary: Don’t buy what everyone else is buying, learn to think for yourself. When people invest in stocks, they panic if the prices drop; but, if the same happens at a department store, people rush in to buy.