To Honor Father's Day: The Best Money Advice Dads Ever Gave

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Little boy putting coins in piggybank with his father
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By Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK -- More than three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) plan to celebrate Father's Day this year, with family members, friends and others spending a total $12.7 billion on the holiday, or about $116 a person on swag for dad on his big day.

Not that dad would approve of all that spending on him this year, or any year.

Americans -- finance professionals, regular folks and business owners -- say the best advice they ever got from their fathers about money leaned toward the conservative side.

"My dad worked for corporate America when I was a child," says Don DiCostanzo, chief executive of Pedego Electric Bikes in Irvine, California. "He saw that I demonstrated sales skills early on and he encouraged my entrepreneurial aspirations. From the time I was about 10 years old, my dad helped me find things to sell door to door."

The first items were garden and flower seeds, but not everyone had a garden, DiCostanzo says. He decided light bulbs were a better offering, since everyone needed them. "My dad advanced me the 50 cents a pack and I would pay him back after I sold them at $1 a pack. My dad's advice about borrowing, margins and sales helped me set a foundation for future success. Most importantly, he showed me early on what it felt to experience success."

For Scott Smith, chief executive of, the takeaway from his lessons from his dad focused -- not surprisingly -- on building and maintaining a budget. "My dad emphasized the importance of living within your means," Smith says. "Immediate gratification felt from an exciting new purchase may feel good in the moment, but it isn't worth going into debt. If you have to incur debt to pay for something, don't do it. Instead, save up money over time and pay cash for things. He'd say, 'Always buy a used car when possible. As soon as you buy a new car and drive it off the dealership lot, the value decreases.' It was always good advice."

Saving for tough times is another popular maxim from American dads. "Advice that has been carried down from generations in my family -- last passed down to me from my father -- is 'Don't just save for a rainy day, save for a hurricane,' " says Mindy S. Hirt, a wealth adviser at Argent Trust in Nashville, Tennessee. "It wasn't until I started working with him and could see it applied in some many different situations that I really came to appreciate his wisdom."

"When my sister, an elementary school teacher, first contributed the maximum to her retirement account in her first job, the HR department contacted her to make sure she did not make a mistake. There was no mistake -- she was just heeding the 'saving for a hurricane' advice," Hirt says.

Hayley Foster, owner of, a women's business advisory firm in Port Washington, New York, says her dad always had her back. "He was a serial entrepreneur, and having a daughter gave him the chance to share his corporate wisdom and lead me in the direction of someday being a corporate executive or an entrepreneur just like him -- and I wound up doing both," she says. "He always told me 'Put as much money into your 401(k) as your company will allow. It might seem like a lot out of your paycheck each month, but it's tax-free dollars that will grow quickly and give you a cushion later in life.' When I got divorced a few years ago, having that account with a nice chunk of money in it was a huge relief."

For Shaun Eli Breidbart, a comedian and executive director of the Ivy League of Comedy in Scarsdale, New York, the mantra was be realistic and live your financial life accordingly. "For investing, my dad, who was successful as a small investor, once told me: 'You're never going to buy at the bottom, you're never going to sell at the top. Get over it. Just be happy if you're doing a good job.' "
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