Thankful for fathers that guide so well
There is a detective series called Foyle's War set in late 1930s as Great Britain is called to war yet again, with barely a recovery from the First World War. The pastoral scenery, the English countryside, those quaint rural villages and towns steeped in 1,000 year-old stone-built forts, are monuments to history so ancient and yet still so vital.
The lives of the ordinary and the privileged are viewed in a careful prism of wartime solidarity. Fused survival together, but keeping those oh-so-careful class distinctions, these people are united in their deprivation of food and basic comforts, their fears (they were subject to enemy bomb raids for many months), and their fierce determination to resist at all costs the conquering ambition of another enemy of the free world.
Every single able man went to war, along with even more who lied about their ages either being too young or too old. This was their expected role, and unwritten duty to family, God, and country, and they knew it clearly, volunteering without hesitation.
Men made the decisions while women, too, provided vital supporting functions, at that time (nor for more than 70 years) they were not allowed participation in open warfare services.
It struck me in scene after scene how the traditional roles of men and fathers, almost 80 years on, have changed dramatically, and yet, in many respects, have not changed.
Today in modern societies, the majority of parents are employed, while many of the distinct roles of yesteryear are blurred, bringing a greater equilibrium to the familial financial equation.
However, fathers are still regarded and relied upon to fill many traditional roles. They are the ones who will defend us, the ones who will take on those prickly problems such as taking out the trash, managing the family pets, repairing living quarters, maintaining the car; the defender and hero against neighbourhood bullies, moderator and teacher, negotiator, and for wise financial acumen and as upholder of ideals. They are a calming influence. Dads every day subliminally impart to the family the message of doing what is right and the consequences of wrong.
So what do we know and remember personally about our dads and their financial acumen?
Dads demonstrate extreme commitment every day. They may be personally dissatisfied, employed day after day in jobs that were often disliked, dull, or dead-end, but they exercised discipline, commitment, very hard work in the quest for a promotion or success in a new venture. They had to. Every single penny was needed for the family.
Here are a few reminiscences about our dads contributed from various sources. Memories that have inspired and challenged us as adults to manage our finances to the best of our ability.
• Anonymous. My dad was a serious, serious saver. He never spent a cent on any “extras” because he said he needed nothing. In contrast, two of his siblings were in turn flagrant gamblers and alcoholics. More than once, he bailed them out of jail, or found them paid jobs. He never hesitated either to generously help his children financially when crises evolved, as can happen in any life situation.
• This dad (a widower) was determined never to be a burden, but to leave his three children an inheritance. He lived in Bermuda on $22,000 a year (2003) and emphatically stated to me that he did not need more. Now, that is devotion.
• Dad always said: “Buy one item of quality, rather than six of dubious provenance. Quality will last forever — ageing only makes it look better. Guess dad was right there, since top designers have a huge market for distressing new clothing to old for the ultimate sophisticated look.
• Avoid debt — it can kill you mentally and physically knowing someone else owns you and your property. My dad worked 16 hours a day, eight for his employer and eight for his family. He never spent anything on himself. He passed way too young, but he left each of his children a small home.
• Don't buy it if you don't need it. Our dad had two outfits only for the last five years of his life. One for Sunday church, one for the rest of the week. He used to say that it was his soul that mattered, not how he dressed.
• Pass it forward. Help those with less, if you can, dad said. Remember that when our family was sunk in severe financial trouble, a Guardian angel gave us a lifeline.
• Never give up. Take what you are given in life, and get on with it.
• Keep learning to improve your lot. Our dad spent endless hours (I hope pleasurable time) writing short stories in printed long hand on yellow lined legal paper. He routinely mailed them off to publishers hoping for that one big headline, but it never happened. I still remember seeing some of the rejection letters and his minimising his disappointment. Then, he would write another and another. He passed that perseverance on to his children. Today, we would have launched a blog for him, then published every single one of those stories. Imagine what could have been.
• Dad always said (and so did our mom): “Always, always, make sure you can support yourself.” You never want to ask for financial favours or borrow from friends. It changes the relationship and you will lose respect for yourself.
Fathers today have many roles to play, conventional, non-traditional and human. Fathers make mistakes; but, they are no more perfect than we are. Give your dad the respect that he deserves, just for being there for you. After all, our dads are part of us, forever.
Happy Father's Day.
Martha Harris Myron CPA PFS JSM, Masters of Law: International Tax and Financial Services. Appointed to the Professional Tax Advisory Council, American Citizens Abroad, https://americansabroad.org/. The Pondstraddler* Life™ financial perspectives for Bermuda residents with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org