5 Times Dad Was Right About Money

Despite what you may have thought as a teenager, it turns out your old man actually knew a thing or two — particularly when it came to money. True, Dad's wisdom might have sounded like corny jokes, dusty cliches, or weird logic at the time, but there was some great information in there among the eyeroll-inducing humor.

So at the risk of having him say "I told you so," let's take the time to recognize some of the ways Dad was right about money. Here are five of the money lessons he taught us well:

1. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"

Your dad probably told you this to protect you from con artists, frauds, and crooks, as well as those friends of yours he never liked. When you were a kid, Dad probably wanted you to remember his advice when a friend told you that you could definitely get away with whatever scheme they were trying to talk you into. But it's important to keep this advice in mind when you are offered a "once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity" as well.

It's easy to see dollar signs (or imagine a Ferris Bueller-like day of playing consequence-free hooky) when someone is presenting you with an offer that seems too good to be true. Reminding yourself that dear old Dad would probably tell you to back away slowly from such an offer can be enough to make you stop your impetuous rush toward untold fortune — or a whirlwind tour of Chicago in a stolen Ferrari.

2. "You don't need that"

When I was in elementary school in the 1980s, all the cool kids wore Jordache jeans, which my father very patiently explained to me that I didn't need. He clearly did not understand the importance of that horsehead label to one's standing in the social hierarchy on the playground.

When Dad told you that whatever item you believed was vital to your life and happiness was not something you needed, you were probably just as disappointed as I was. But as infuriating as it was to hear this, he was helping you learn the difference between wants and needs. To this day, I can hear Dad's voice in my head telling me I don't need whatever impulse purchase is trying to come home with me. I usually listen to him, too — unless it's a pair of awesome jeans.

3. "You've got Champagne taste on a beer budget"

Wanting something you cannot afford seems like a simple enough problem to solve when you're a teenager living at home — ask Mom or Dad to buy it for you. That request does not often end well for the teenager. Many an aspirational teenage consumer gets this sarcastic response from Dad regarding the relationship between their taste and their budget.

Coveting things you can't afford can destroy any budget, and your dad wanted you to understand that it's a short trip to bad finances if you try to indulge your high-end tastes. Dad was trying to teach you how to be realistic about your budget and stick to indulgences that you could realistically handle.

4. "Money doesn't grow on trees"

This is one of the greatest hits of dad sayings, and you probably heard it many times throughout your childhood. He'd dust this old chestnut off whenever you were blatantly wasteful, or whenever you asked for something that he wasn't willing to pay for. In some households, turning the thermostat up by a single degree would result in Dad materializing from nowhere to remind you that trees just don't produce currency.

At the time, this lesson just sounded like Dad being an old stick-in-the-mud. But he was actually trying to remind you that there is a cost to money. Someone (ahem, your parents) had to work for the money necessary to keep the house at a comfortable temperature, replace the toilet paper you used to TP your friend's house, and buy the guitar you so desperately wanted but you never actually practiced playing.

As an adult, it's much easier to understand that money isn't freely available when you realize you have to work in order to earn more. Suddenly, it makes sense why Dad turned into a financial botanist whenever you spent his money.

5. "The best things in life are free"

If your dad was anything like mine, he might have told you this when you asked him for money. While his attempt at being funny was probably not well received, the actual message also made you roll your eyes — since there are plenty of awesome things in life that you have to pay for.

This is a lesson that needs to marinate for a while before it resonates. Teenage you may have just seen this cliché as a cover for your dad not wanting to give you money to go out with your friends. However, adulthood often brings the realization that the things that really do make life sweet — like sunsets, belly laughs, kisses, and naps — are not things you can buy. Dad was right when he told you that you don't need to spend money to enjoy the best of life, even if he was a little too schmaltzy in how he told you.

Appreciating Dad's words of wisdom

Many of the things your dad told you about money might have sounded hokey when he first said them, but it doesn't make them any less true. Let your dad know how much you have learned from him, and how much you appreciate his wisdom, if not his sense of humor.

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