Financial advice from my father (when I was nineteen)


Dad at work in his shop
Dad at work in his shop

“Who was there for your father when he died?” Kim asked me a few moments ago. She’s interested in becoming a death doula, so she’s reading a book about end-of-life care.

“It’s odd you should ask that today,” I said after I told her the story of my father’s six-year battle with cancer.

“Why?” she asked.

“Today is the equivalent day in my life as the day when Dad died in his,” I said. “It’s ten days until I turn fifty. Dad died ten days before his fiftieth birthday. So, it’s a somber day for me. I’ll be thinking of him all day.”

Actually, I’ve been thinking of Dad all week.

It started when I published Naomi Veak’s story about how she learned to stop feeling hopeless about money. In that article, Veak shared a letter her mother sent her when she was nineteen years old. Veak was a poor kid at a rich school, and she was struggling to figure out finances. Her mother offered some words of wisdom.

I had the exact same thing happen to me at the exact same age at the exact same college. I was a poor boy at this rich school. During my sophomore year at Willamette University, when I was nineteen, my father wrote me a letter filled with financial advice.

Today seems like a good day to share it with you folks.

Everything that follows — starting with the title “J.D.’s Points to Ponder” — is from my father except that I’ve added a few notes in order to provide context to some of the things Dad wrote. (If you’re super interested, I’ve uploaded a PDF version of Dad’s letter.)

Here’s my father’s financial advice to me when I was nineteen years old. (This is unedited. All misspellings are his.)

J.D.’s Points to Ponder

Warning — Make sure you read them all. There may be some surprises in them so read them all or you will miss them.

Letter from Dad
Letter from Dad

#1 Your scholarship is irreplacable. There is no way that you or I can make up $9500.00 a year difference. Study comes first. Before you panic, read on. I hear you talk about working and unless I missed something somewhere you are talking 32 hours a week at least or was that 24 hours a month on campus?

J.D.’s note: I was fortunate to attend Willamette on a full merit scholarship, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. During my sophomore year, I really did work 32 hours per week. I worked three (sometimes four) part-time jobs.

#2 You were successful at saving a little over $1000.00 this summer. That’s an achievement for you. We will try to do better next summer won’t we.

Letter from Dad
Letter from Dad

#3 Nutrition is important. Don’t slight it. It is your body that supports your mind. If you slight your body you slight your mind so eat your green beans.

#4 Wear clean underwear.

#5 You used to play lots of video games. One of them had a rocket and you had an energy level you had to worry about. Energy was used to travel and to shoot at the enemy. Life is a big videogame. In our society money is the energy. There are certain things you have to or should do so make sure don’t shoot so many asteroids just for the fun of it that you deplete your energy level and someone has to flash on your screen —GAME OVER—.

Letter from Dad
Letter from Dad

#6 Girls can be handy. They are nice to talk to and smooch…

Marcela
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Marcela

COO at oneQube
COO @oneqube | Angel Investor | Proud mom | Advisor @TheTutuProject | Let's Go #NYRangers
Marcela
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