To say that my relationship with my father was complex would be an understatement. I can’t imagine leaving Canada, going to a foreign country with no marketable skills, not being able to read, write or speak the language. That is exactly what my father did when he left war torn Italy back in 1952. A whole new meaning to “desperate times calls for desperate measures.”
Lesson one: Higher education can lead to better paying jobs
My father had very little formal education and at the age of 12, he left school to work the family farm. It is no wonder that I received many lectures on the value of a good education. It didn’t matter that I used to argue that some university courses didn’t really prepare young people for the working world. His reply was always the same. “You need that piece of paper” (a university degree)
We were both right, the university degree did help me to get my first job but I still had to go through a rigorous company training program. The university courses that I took had very little to do with my career.
Lesson two: The difference between needs and wants
There is no doubt that growing up in a low income environment taught me the difference between what I needed and what I wanted. Watching my dad stretch his paycheck to provide the bare necessaries in life was a real eye opener. It has stuck with me ever since and I still avoid spending money for luxury items.
Lesson three: Own the roof over your head
I am amazed that within six years my parents who were illiterate, with no education, manage to save enough money to buy a house. They earned extra income by renting a portion of our house for over ten years to assist with the mortgage payments. My mother still lives in that house and because it is located in Toronto, it could be worth close to one million dollars today.
Lesson four: Never spent money that you don’t have
My dad never owned a credit card. He paid for everything with cash or check. A few times he did borrow some money from relatives to buy a new car or for medical bills before there was government paid health care. I know that my broken leg put some extra strain on the family’s finances when I was very young.
What my dad couldn’t teach me
Saving for retirement and how to invest your money
Being uneducated, he didn’t know that income from government pension plans would only cover a small portion of his living expenses in retirement. Despite his frugal life style, he would have had to sell the house at much lower prices than today. His untimely death and an inheritance from my mother’s parents has delayed the selling of the house for the past 25 years.
Happy Father’s Day!
Pass on what you know to your children!