Junk town. On Tuesday I found out that Mrs Planner and I are having a baby boy. I’m already a dad to a lovely little lady, and I’m very excited to meet my son later next spring. I can’t possibly imagine that being the father of a son is any better than being the father of a daughter, but time will tell…me the obvious. The relationship that I had with my father is/was amazing. I want to get off to a good start with my boy. Since he can’t read…yet, this is my first letter to him. While money doesn’t define me, its understanding is what I have committed my life to. Therefore, this letter is my best stuff. This is: what I would tell my own son about money in 500 words or less.
I love you. I wanted “I love you” to be the first words that you ever read from me. It’s important that you know that I love you, because I’m about to talk to you about relationships. Relationships are life. Your relationships will define you. Your ability to nurture, grow, and maintain relationships will make your life either easy or hard. But here’s the rub, boy, many things will disguise themselves as something other than a relationship, when in fact, all things are related to relationships.
Take for example, money. Money appears to be about everything except relationships. Money seems to be about getting what you want. Money seems to be about giving you things that you need. But it’s not. Money is about relationships. Why do your mother and I forego vacations from time to time? Because we love you. We want to pay for your college education. This requires sacrifice. Sacrifice becomes palatable when a sacrifice becomes about a relationship. There will be times in your life when you want to buy something for yourself that you can’t afford. There will be times in your life that you want to make your wife happy by buying her something that you can’t afford. But the reality is that if you really value your relationship, then you will do what’s right for your family, not just instant gratification. Sometimes saying no means “I love you.” Thirty and forty year-old adults have a tough time with this concept, so I thought I would start teaching you about it early. And by early I mean five months before your first breath.
I have had the good fortune to look into the financial lives of thousands of people. I don’t take this privilege lightly. The major downfall of modern financial humanity is the inability to see the forest through the trees. Many people that read my financial thoughts often think that I’m a proponent of deprivation. When in fact, deprivation has nothing to do with it. I’m not asking people to “go without” blindly. I’m merely suggesting that people think 10 years ahead when making any financial decision. So that’s exactly what I’m asking of you. Always think 10 years ahead when making a financial decision.
When you are 18 and entering college, think about your financial decisions. Because you are likely to be paying the price for them when you are 28. When you are 25 and thinking about buying a house instead of renting, think about your life at age 35. And don’t make the false assumption that you will automatically be in a better financial position the older that you get. It’s your willingness to scrutinize important financial decisions in the moment that gives you the right to have a secure financial future.
And finally this: money has nothing to do with money. As long as you know that money is about habits, discipline, and relationships, you’ll do fine. I’m excited to teach you more about life, but I wanted to start with the basics. Life is relationships.
See you soon,
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.