First let me say a huge thank you to the commenters on my recent 5 Financial Lessons from my Childhood post. The comments are really encouraging and very much appreciated.
One comment in particular struck a nerve and actually reminded me of something I had forgotten about. Cameron over at SSDD (Save Splurge Deny Debt) commented about a “rough stretch” in his childhood where money was “pretty tight”.
This reminded me of a similar rough patch my family underwent. To be honest it wasn’t all that rough, at least not from my perspective, which is why it probably didn’t stick out when I first wrote about my early financial lessons.
I do remember my dad sitting us down and explaining that our finances would be tight for a while. He told us the company he worked for wasn’t doing well and as a result we’d need to cut back.
Two lessons came out of this experience; the first was of the ‘don’t do what I did’ variety and the second, well it was a lesson that went far beyond the financial. Picking up from where I left off in my previous post about these lessons…
My dad was in upper management in the company he worked for. This position came with many perks; a generous salary, a company car, and stock options. However the stock options became a bit of a double edged sword. When the company was thriving, life was good, but the company wasn’t always thriving.
When the company started to struggle, so did my dad’s portfolio. He was so heavily vested in the company stock that his financial life lived and died based on the company’s performance. It was a classic case of having all your eggs in one basket.
When the company eventually did get through the rough patch and his portfolio recovered, he did diversify. It was a hard way to learn the importance of diversification. I’m grateful for learning from his mistakes and not needing to make this one myself.
7. Prioritize People Over Money…Every Single Time
As a result of the struggles the company was going through, there were going to be layoffs. This didn’t sit well with my dad. He valued people and relationships so much that he couldn’t stand to let people go.
I remember visiting his work as a kid and despite the size of the company, he seemed to know everyone. No matter what department we walked through he’d always greet everyone by name and ask them some personal detail about their life. Not just a generic, “how’s it going?” or “how are the kids?”, but a more personal, “how’s your wife’s pregnancy going?” or “how was Tommy’s little league game this weekend?”
He was invested in more than just the financial side of the company, he was invested in the people. He knew their stories and not just their job title. The thought of having to let some of these fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives go was unacceptable to him.
He did what came naturally to him-he took a substantial pay cut. He then talked to the others on the executive team about doing the same. When there wasn’t room in the budget he created it and he saved as many jobs as he could.
Same Lesson, Different Circumstances
A few years later, after the company had recovered, our family was in a much better financial position. However, a family friend was going through a rough patch. He was out of work and was having a hard time finding employment. He also happened to be a skilled carpenter.
As fate would have it we needed some work done around the house. My dad put together a list and hired him. After he’d completed those projects, my dad found a few more things for him to take care of. He just kept finding things wrong with the house that needed the skills of a carpenter to fix.
Fortunately it wasn’t long before he found regular employment, but I will never forget how my dad helped him get through his own financial rough patch. My dad new this friend well enough to know he was too proud to accept financial help. So he found a way to help him financially and allowed his friend to keep his dignity. (Plus I don’t think my dad was too upset with getting out of a few DIY projects.)
My dad taught me that people would always be more important than money. He taught me that there is a greater good in life. That simply looking out for yourself doesn’t lead to a meaningful life. Putting people first will lead to a rich life, not just a full bank account.
My families’ financial “rough patch” certainly wasn’t the financial hardship that other families faced. We were incredibly lucky to have come to this country with so many opportunities. I don’t think my dad ever forgot how fortunate he was, which is why it was so natural for him to give back.
Again, I can’t thank Cameron enough for sparking this memory and inspiring this post. If you haven’t checked him out over at Save Splurge Deny Debt, you should definitely do so.