Today's economy

Five lessons from my Father

By Kevin Press,

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Image of Kevin Press with his father, John Press.The thing about being a parent, of course, is that you come to appreciate your folks that much more. This is certainly the case with my Dad and me. He and I have always had a great relationship; we just don’t listen to each other all that much. At least not when the golf is on. (I’m joking, for the record.)

A lot of times, though, listening is not the point. I learned a great deal more from watching my parents than I did from listening to them. It’s not that they didn’t have good advice to offer. It’s that what impressed me the most — what rubbed off on me, if you will — was watching them get on with the business of running a family day after day. The behaviour they modelled had more influence on me than the behaviour they talked up.

This was particularly true when it came to finance. My family had a healthy reverence for work and money. The lessons I learned watching my parents raise my brother and me were priceless. There were the obvious ones — work hard, save and invest. Looking back though, I’m struck by the less conventional lessons. These are the ones that made my folks, in my eyes at least, uniquely successful parents.

In honour of Father’s Day, here are a few of my favourites from John Press:

  • If you can work more than one job, do it. When I was young, about six, my Dad seemed to work constantly. His days at the office were impossibly long compared to my kindergarten schedule. And when he finally did make it home, it was with a briefcase full of kitchen-table work. I later learned that, in addition to his full-time job, he was studying to become a chartered accountant and providing book-keeping services to several local businesses. Somehow he also found time for me and Dr. Seuss.
  • Learn everything you can about money. Dad did become a CA, a very successful one. He went on to become an influential executive in the retirement home industry and eventually owned his own consulting business. He’s one of the smartest deal-makers I’ve ever met.
  • Be generous. This is about much more than money. My Dad is the most generous person I’ve ever known. He spends money on people; he gives freely of his time and energy. And he’s seen all that repaid many times over.
  • Be good to yourself. My Dad is an avid golfer, and so he lives next to a golf course. It’s not a lavish set-up, but it makes him happy. It’s what he always wanted, and so he made it a priority. As obvious as this sounds, it’s often a difficult thing to do when your default setting is to think of others first.
  • Do what you love for as long as you love it. So many Canadians have embraced this philosophy that it has come to be a kind of new cliché. It’s still worth mentioning. When my Dad isn’t golfing, he’s working out of his home office. Both make him happy (and one pays for the other). What could be better?

I find myself asking Dad for advice more and more these days. No matter the subject, there’s a kind of uncomplicated sensibility about his advice that I’ve come to appreciate and admire. It always helps.

I bet you can add to this list. What did your Dad teach you about money?

Note: A version of this post was originally published on June 23, 2009.

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