Money Confessions: The Best Of Dads’ Money Hacks Since The 1970s (and Dad Jokes)

SingSaver team

SingSaver team

Last updated 08 July, 2021

Real stories about money from real people. Money Confessions, a SingSaver series, will excite you, inspire you, and leave you wishing to get financially woke.

If we had a dollar for every time our Dads gave us a life lesson or an unsolicited Dad joke, we'd be billionaires by now. To celebrate Father’s Day, we take a look at some of the best financial lessons we’ve heard from our old man.

Imparting meaningful life lessons is always something we can thank our dear old Dads for. That, and a generous helping of eye roll-inducing jokes.

In many ways, our fathers are our first mentors. They were there for our first words, our first two-wheel bike ride and — as we got older — they helped us grapple with our understanding of money and how to handle it wisely. It’s safe to say that the financial aficionados we are today wouldn’t exist without their teachings.

In celebration of Father’s Day, we've asked around and gathered a collection of money lessons that were instilled in us from our first financial gurus, AKA our Dads. Prepare to take notes, laugh and shed a tear or two. 

#1: Financial planning takes two, especially in a long-term relationship

Lyla Judes, 31, Social Media Lead 

Whenever I ask my Dad something, he would always redirect me with a simple “ask your Mum”. But in all seriousness, the best advice my Dad gave me on financial planning is to plan with my partner and our responsibilities in mind (although it’s important to plan it alone too). These responsibilities include mandatory expenses like utility bills, mortgage payments and groceries.

Lesson learned 

When I got into a long-term relationship, my father’s advice was ingrained in my mind — so much so that I consulted with my partner before committing as I wanted to avoid making assumptions. Open communication is important in relationships and it’s something I see my parents practise. Trust is also a key. My Dad trusts my Mum entirely in making financial decisions, and sometimes even consults her to pick her brain. Ultimately, he knows that her intentions are always good.

#2: When it comes to gambling, the house always wins

Dawn Tay, 29, Art Director 

When I was 13 years old, my Dad brought me on my first gambling trip on a cruise. He gave me S$1,000 and told me that any winnings I made were mine to keep. What’s more, he said he would cover the losses if my luck went south. About 30 minutes into it, I unceremoniously lost S$200 and started to cry as losing that money was a big deal to me at that age. 

He then told me that this was a lesson for me to never gamble as it would never bring me riches. I remember asking him what he would have done if the reverse happened, and I was on a winning streak instead. 

To that, he said, “Gamble ten times and you’ll lose nine times.”

Lesson learned

Although his parenting method was a tad unconventional, it left a lasting impact on me. To this day, I am hyper-aware of the dangers of gambling even if I were to partake in a few rounds of mahjong with friends.

Another vivid memory from that trip that I’ll always remember was seeing the people who lost all their money, sitting by the side of the cruise. They looked so depressed. They were also the prime targets of opportunistic loan sharks who would offer them a loan on the slim to none chance they could turn things around and make that money back. Seeing that vicious cycle before your very eyes makes for a sobering lesson indeed.

#3: Make your money work its hardest

 K.J. Ng, 27, Project Manager

True to the whole theme of Dads, my Dad gifted me the all-time classic Rich Dad, Poor Dad when I was 12. 

Lesson learned

One lesson from the book that struck me until now is don't work for your money, make your money work for you. That got me interested in growing my money through various financial instruments and robo-advisors out there instead of leaving it to languish in a low-yield savings account. Seeing as it all started from a book, it was bound to happen.

#4: Cheap doesn’t always mean value-for-money 

Denissha Yogendren, 25, Freelance Content and Copywriter

Over the years of raising me and my younger brother, my Mum and Dad picked up on a few nifty tricks in order to stretch their dollar as far as it could go. My Dad is a firm believer in not buying the first thing he sees. Instead, he would take a few days to think it over and decide if the item, so enticing in that moment, loses its lustre over time (and after some sensibility kicks in). 

That trick goes a long way in preventing buyer’s remorse. After all, no matter how ‘cheap’ the item may be, it’s money that you’ll never see again.

Lesson learned 

Knowing the value of things is always at the back of my mind when I shop. I find that when there’s a smorgasbord of ‘cheap’ stuff online, you’ll buy something at the lowest price thinking you’ve made the best deal… till it arrives in shoddy quality and barely lasts a year. 

Instead, I learned that the thing with the most value for money is the one that’s the best in its range — especially for big purchases that you’ll use for years to come, like a laptop, aircon or refrigerator. 

#5: Live below your means, even when you have the money

Kendra Tan, 25, Lifestyle Content Writer 

My Dad was a trader at DBS for 16 years. From his time there, he gained good insights and experience on the Singapore stock market. He always advises me on which SG stocks are worth buying. However, I'm on my own when it comes to US stocks, and that is when his advice really kicks into gear. 

He teaches me to play it safe. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and going for the more volatile GME and meme stocks, I tend to pick stocks that I think will perform over the long term, like 20 to 30 years down the road. 

On top of this, he is also a very frugal person. Even though my Dad is financially comfortable, he refrains from splurging on luxury items and prefers to buy things at their cheapest. Every cent saved is important, similar to how each drop of water makes an ocean.

Lesson learned 

A true testament to how he walks the talk, I learned from a very early age the importance of saving money. It is practically ingrained in me. He tells me which shop has the best deals and not to spend money impulsively because money is difficult to earn. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done. While all my friends are out there splurging (heck, I’m human and even I get tempted at times), I will always remember him telling me to ask myself if that item of my desire is truly a necessity. If the answer to that is a hard no, I won’t buy it. To this day, I’m thankful that his frugal habits rubbed off on me as I will never go broke (touch wood) or get to a stage where I feel like I have to worry about my next meal. 

#6: Saving money can be an art form 

K Hardy, 33, Barista

My Dad has a mini obsession with S$1 coins. He would stack them, organise them and arrange them like a piece of art or jigsaw puzzle in accordance to the year they were made. He would do it every month and at the end of it, he would save up a sum of money. I guess you can say he was making a lot of cents.

Lesson learned

He had a unique take on saving, which was ‘save money like it’s an art’. In other words, find what motivates you to save. For him, it’s the fun in arranging and stacking the coins that motivates him — he’d even get a kick out of the sounds the coins make. It’s a nice reminder that saving doesn’t necessarily have to be a chore — with some imagination, it can be fun too.

His perspective on saving is in line with a Malay saying that goes like this, “Sikit-sikit lama-lama jadi bukit”, which literally means, “Bit by bit over time, it will accumulate into a mountain.” This taught me that growing one’s savings doesn’t have to involve enormous sums of money. Instead, you can start small, and eventually your consistent efforts will add up to a significant amount.

Read these next:
Best Savings Accounts in Singapore to Park Your Money (2021)
Money Confessions: Super Mums Share Their Personal Finance Management Story
7 Things To Consider When Buying Endowment Plans For Your Kids
Best Robo Advisors To Auto-Pilot Your Investments In Singapore
5 Habits of Super Frugal People You Should Follow If You Want To Save Money

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