By Paul Gleeson, BBS, QFA, CFP
Some financial advisors are born talented, others are made with a little bit of help from their financially savvy moms who taught them some of their first and most valuable lessons about managing money. Even though we provide financial advice to high net worth business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs, much of my mom’s advice still applies today.
Here’s what I learned from my mother who imparted words of money wisdom at a young age (no wonder I grew up to become a wealth manager):
- Set money goals. As a kid, I would get a small amount of pocket money each week in return for washing my parents’ cars. I wanted to buy a star wars model spaceship with my allowance money. Mom taught me to set goals and be disciplined about working for results. So I would put aside a set amount each week through forced savings so that I could buy the toy when I saved enough money. To this day I can still remember emptying my bag of coins on the shop counter as I proudly bought the spaceship. When I meet clients today, one of the first things we do is establish their financial goals so that we can build a customized financial plan suited to their individual needs and wants.However goals (no matter what type) will only be attained if they have real and authentic meaning. Our clients financial goals are set around things in their life that have meaning to them as people – e.g. putting their children through university or achieving their financial independence so that they can travel more or focus their energies on helping others less fortunate then them. I once read that people spend more time planning their vacations than they spend planning their financial future. Amazing but true. Folks, it’s important to create a financial plan so that you know where you’re going.
- Make your money work for you. Occasionally I received birthday money from relatives and family friends that, over time, accumulated into a sizeable wad of cash (well at the time I thought it was). Mom said if I wanted my savings to build over time, I would probably have to put it somewhere other than my tin piggy bank where it would earn interest and grow for me. The next day, we opened my first savings account with my local post office credit union in Ireland. I remember depositing 49 Irish punts (old Irish pounds before the euro came in – Cdn$95) at the time and keeping 1 punt ($2) to fund my spending spree. This was a lot for a 7 year old!From that point on, every time I received birthday money, I would deposit it and I took great pride in having the old lady in the post office stamp my deposit book with each addition I made. My grandmother went a step further (I was lucky to have some very smart women in my life growing up) and bought some shares for me when I was very young – I probably new more about the price movement of these shares than most, as I would check the price of them in the newspaper every day. Today there are a myriad of investment options available that I use for myself and recommend to clients that range from conventional investments like shares and bonds to more sophisticated vehicles such as mortgages, commercial real estate & private equity investments. Is your money working hard for you today?
- Don’t forget about charitable giving. On Sundays we would go to church and when the donation basket was being passed around, members of the congregation donated money. This weekly observance taught me the importance of sharing. I remember finding 20 punts ($40 CDN) on the ground one day in a busy department store, I thought I had won the lottery, my mom suggested I give it to a charity. I remember the pride I had when I split it between two great causes and handed over the money. For the next decade or so of my youth, I would arrive at mass with some coins that I donated each week as part of my charitable giving plan. While this is a simple example, it taught me a life-long lesson about the importance of incorporating regular charitable giving into one’s financial plan. For my high net worth clients, sometimes I set-up donor advised accounts, which are similar to a private charitable foundation but less expensive to administer and more simple to operate. If you’re not ready to take philanthropy to this level, set aside an amount each month that you donate to a cause or charity that is important to you.
- Keep the money conversation going. Mom periodically checked in with me about how I was doing and the financial choices I made. Once I achieved a dream or goal, we would talk about the next one. As I grew, she would introduce me to more sophisticated money management concepts. Today I have ongoing conversations with clients about their spending, saving and investing strategies at least two times per year and often liaise with their accountants and/or lawyers annually to ensure that we’re all communicating and on the same page about a client’s financial assets and business activities.
- Know how to handle earnings from a job. When I was 12, I wanted to get a job but was too young to legally work so I set up my own gardening business. My goal had moved on from a model spaceship to a new bike and a set of golf clubs. When I received a cheque from my first customer, mom sat me down. After she congratulated me on my first taste of financial independence, she introduced me to the concept of “planning my cash flow, setting money aside to buy petrol for my lawnmower and paying taxes”. Much to my dismay, I didn’t get to keep all the money I earned! She taught me how to plan my ‘net take-home’ and how to lower my income tax. Today there are several tax planning strategies available to working professionals and business owners that often go unused. These range from contributing correctly to RRSP’s and TFSAs to altering how business owners take their compensation and save – often not buying RRSPs and instead saving corporately can result in your hard earned money working even harder for you.
- Use credit wisely. When I signed up for my first credit card in university, mom taught me to only use it for emergencies (I didn’t have a lot of spending money in those days). She also wisely advised that I pay off what I owed so that I would not accumulate personal debt. Not only would I earn a positive credit rating, she said, but I’d avoid sky-high interest charges. Many people today rack up their credit cards, unable to pay off their balances and pay only the minimum. Since I work with high net worth individuals, they usually don’t have problems paying off their credit card given their earnings but many of them learned from an early age to balance their personal budgets when they didn’t have much money, so that they avoided racking up debt they couldn’t pay off. They simply developed good habits at a young age and these habits have served them well ever since.
For those who don’t know, I hail from Ireland and Mother’s Day there falls on a different day than in Canada, so Mom receives two Mother’s Day gifts each year from me — a very small way for me to thank mom for lessons learned, and for being such a great mom to me.?
Has your mom (or dad) supplied you with any words of money wisdom? Let us know in the comments below!