Great Financial Lessons My Dad Taught Me – Money Doesn’t Have To Make Your Life Miserable

On April 18, 2008, my father passed away from cancer. While it’s a sad day, I always strive to make each day better than the last. I know that’s what he would have wanted, and I would like to dedicate today’s post to him. I’ve written this post before, but I have updated it for…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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On April 18, 2008, my father passed away from cancer. While it’s a sad day, I always strive to make each day better than the last. I know that’s what he would have wanted, and I would like to dedicate today’s post to him. I’ve written this post before, but I have updated it for this year, and it still makes me very happy when I read it. Enjoy!

My dad was a huge part of my life, and it only makes sense to talk about him today. This is especially true because he taught me so many important financial lessons that I think about all the time.

If it weren’t for my dad, I would probably be, at least, a little worse with money.

Due to this, I believe that teaching your children valuable financial lessons is key. This will help them grow up and be better able to manage a budget, understand investing, know how to save money, and more.

Below are some of the many great financial lessons my father taught me.


He taught me that I could afford to travel.

One of the biggest financial lessons my father taught me was that I can afford to travel.

My dad traveled all over the world. Besides his family, the other things he loved in life were traveling and airplanes (he had his pilot’s license and worked for the airlines nearly his whole life). He always made sure to fit traveling into his life in any way he could, and I gained many great memories from it.

I still remember him taking me to Disney World ALL THE TIME (I loved it!), flying in small planes with him, and even having a great time just sitting at the airport. He loved every single part of traveling.

He created hundreds of photo albums from his travels, which I still look at on a regular basis. I also recently found a travel journal he kept that listed all of the amazing places he traveled to.

If you are thinking my dad was rich, he wasn’t. Instead, he worked with his budget and always made sure to fit exciting trips in because that is what he believed in.

For example, he bought a new Camaro in 1984 (this was his baby), and he drove it up until a few months before he passed away in 2008. He didn’t care about furniture, electronics, or anything else. He would often work long hours, he hardly ever called off work, he always had a budget, he always saved money, and more.

He was all about travel, and he managed his money well so that he could take trips whenever he could.


He taught me not to live paycheck to paycheck.

My dad was all about having a budget. He went over his budget and his checkbook nearly every single day. Working for the airlines meant that he occasionally got laid off and rehired over and over again.

Due to this, he always made sure to budget his money well.

He always had an emergency fund, he always made sure he spent less money than he made, and he always made sure to put as much money as he could towards retirement.

My dad did anything and everything to make sure that we didn’t have to worry about money or go without anything that we needed when we were kids. It’s a trait of his that I loved. Even when he would get laid off, he never acted like it was a big deal because he was always prepared.


He taught me that credit can be used to my advantage.

The topic of credit cards and credit came up a lot when I was younger.

I remember one day my dad was complaining about what I thought was a scammy credit card commercial. I was super young and said, “I’m never going to have a credit card!”

My dad then told me that if I used them correctly, credit cards could be used to my advantage. Even though I was young, he then explained how to use credit cards, and I now use credit cards on a regular basis to earn awesome rewards and bonuses.

Thanks Dad for another great money lesson!


He taught me that money doesn’t have to limit you.

Out of all of the money lessons he taught me, this last one is probably the most important.

Even though my dad passed away too young, lived on a budget, and saved for a retirement that he never got to experience, I truly believe that he still lived the life he wanted to live.

He was still able to travel all over the world and visited many, many countries. I’m not sure how many countries he visited but I know it was well over 50.

I think the most important money lesson I learned from my father is that money doesn’t have to control you. Even though you will never know when your last day is, you can still save and spend your money wisely, while also living the life you want.

Too many people believe that they can’t lead a good life on a budget. That is not true at all. You can still live a great life while managing your money, and without regret.

What financial lessons did your parents teach you? What financial lessons will you make sure you teach your children?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Mustard Seed Money

    I’m sorry to hear that your father passed away but it sounds like you learned so much from him. I have to admit that I learned more from observation of my parents than from getting hard and fast rules from them. They were great examples in not taking on debt and living within their means. It has afford them the life that they live now and it’s something I am trying to emulate for the future 🙂

    1. Sounds like you have great parents 🙂

  2. Michelle, your dad sounds like such a great guy. What an amazing man of wisdom. My parents didn’t teach me much about money, but they have taught me a lot about perseverance and about treating people right. Those lessons have served me well. We’re working to teach our children about wise financial management and avoiding debt, as well as teaching them the valuable lessons our parents taught us.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Michelle. As a cancer survivor myself, I can strongly identify with this. There’s a lot of great wisdom packed into these lessons here. A lot of people hold themselves back because of money and the fear that comes with it. Thankfully his insight has rubbed off on you!

  4. Michelle,

    I’m sorry to hear about your father. Thank you for sharing his financial lessons. In Orthodox Christianity, we say “Memory Eternal” for our loved ones that departed this life. Clearly, his memory and legacy lives on in you. My mother battled breast cancer twice, so I can only imagine what your family went through.

    I wish I could say my parents based on great financial wisdom, but they lived more on the middle class mindset of use credit for everything. And not necessarily in the way your father described. I spent a lot of mid-twenties escaping that thought process and making plenty of mistakes with money myself.

    For my son, Davey, we want to instill in him similar lessons to your father’s. However, what I hope he learns most is that he can start a business if that’s what he desires. My wife’s family had rental property and my wife and I had our own real estate sales team. I want him to work for himself (if he wants to) and never know what it’s like to work in a cubicle. Entrepreneurship all the way.

    Thanks for sharing,


  5. Erica Holland

    This is such a sweet post, Michelle. I’m sorry for your pain and loss, and I’m sure this time of year is difficult for you. It sounds like you had such an amazing dad who instilled wise and important values in you. You have done him proud and are an inspiration to so many people, myself included!

  6. My parents made some real mistakes with money (such as not investing for retirement), but for the most part, they taught me the most important things. When I was 12, my parents sold everything we owned and we moved to become missionaries. That was a life-changing experience! It taught me that experiences trump things, and that people are more important than money. We lived in a country that was poor but filled with people who loved life, hospitality and generosity. My dad became ill due to the climate there, and a friend of ours, who showed up at our house with holes in his socks, offered to pay for his surgery. 🙂 Truly incredible.

    Also, my parents are entrepreneurial. My dad has owned a successful business that supported his family for 40+ years. My mom did one business after another, all of them successful (she would just get bored quickly lol).

  7. Beautiful post, Michelle. Thanks for sharing. My dad has also taught me about credit cards (travel points!), budgeting, and lines of credit since I was little. His ability to save money and still travel and have a great life sounds just like my dad. I’m so sorry for your loss. Take care.

  8. Lindsey Mozgai

    I lost my mother to cancer as well a few years back. She was one of the primary influencers in my frugal and writing journey.

  9. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves

    Michelle, I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your father was an incredible individual and an amazing father! You must have felt so special and loved going to Disney and flying with him. 🙂

    His perspective, and yours, that a budget is not about limiting your ability to live a full life is perfect. Being responsible with money frees you to truly enjoy the things you love, instead of adding stress to your life by overstretching your wallet.

    Will be thinking of you and your dad today. Thanks for sharing his lessons!

  10. Cherelyn

    Hi Michelle! Thank you so much for sharing this very inspiring message about your Dad. Sounds like he was such an awesome father! I wish my Dad has taught me about managing my finances well when I was young. Money was never a problem when I was growing up. I always get I want. But since I became an adult and lived on my own, I find it hard to stick on a budget. And I got married to a man who doesn’t know how to handle money as well. So its always a struggle. Eventhough we’re earning a pretty decent income, it feels like we’re always living paycheck to paycheck. But it’s never too late, right? Thank you for always inspiring me with your blog! You rock!

  11. Michelle, sorry for you loss, but your father seemed like such an amazing man!

    He taught you some awesome financial lessons! I hope to be the same way with my son.

  12. Wow. Sorry to hear about your father. Mine passed away from cancer on April 13th 2009. So we just went through the 8-year anniversary of his passing. Tough stuff.

    This is a nice tribute to your father’s memory!

  13. Shannon Rooney

    So sorry for your loss, Michelle. Sharing the things he taught you is a great way to honor his memory.

  14. Great life lessons passed down by your father.

  15. Anthony Apicella


    Great post!!! Shared it with my daughter and granddaughter……

  16. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I lost my mom a while ago and, even though it’s been years, the hurt doesn’t go away. I think it’s a wonderful tribute to your dad to think about his legacy (you!). I hope to teach my kids to love themselves and to live their lives.

  17. Priya

    Hi Michelle,
    I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I too lost lost my mom to cancer and I know how it feels. This post is wonderful tribute to your dad. 🙂

  18. Hi Michelle – great story about your dad! I, too, had a great father who left me many good memories and lessons about being kind and helping others always…. the one financial nugget I remember best was from my grandfather, though….. he used to say, “If you take good care of your money, it will take good care of you!” – I’ve tried to remember that thru the years, and hopefully the savings I have (due to his good advice) will allow me to be a full time RV’er like you are!!

  19. Right Hand Money Man

    I love the intentionality it sounds like your dad lived with. If you take control of your money and set priorities, you can live life in the driver’s seat…even in the driver’s seat of an ’84 Camaro!

    I lost a grandfather to cancer, and cancer sucks. Praying you’re able to reflect on good memories and have peace in this time.

  20. ReachingTheCrest

    Great tribute to your dad. Sounds like a smart guy.

    Lost my dad in 2003. Not a fun club to be a part of.

  21. Yes, managing my money was the first important lesson that I learned from my parents. They taught me to pay for my own insurance policies even while I pursued my first summer job. See, that’s what seems to pay off really well now that I can manage so many credit cards without faltering on my payments.

  22. I loved reading the lessons your dad shared with you about money. They actually aren’t typical (in my experience) but are exactly what I want to pass on to my daughter! Thanks so much for sharing and I’m sorry for the loss of your dad. I’m sure you miss him every day.

  23. Your father taught you some great money lessons. My mother taught my siblings and I to save our money.

  24. Mike Collins

    Your dad sounds like an amazing guy. I’m sure he would be proud to see where you are now. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Sonia

    Thanks Michelle!

    I am just now getting into that mindset of planning an awesome life! Retiring early, starting a blog, and planning a retirement trip of 3 months in the spring of 2018 are all a result of that mindset. Rather than letting someone else tell me when I can retire, I’m going to tell life when I’m retiring! It is so freeing, but so scary to be in the driver’s seat!
    I love your blog and hope to emulate you and your principles.

    Take care,


  26. Travis

    Sorry for the loss of your father, but thanks for sharing these great tips.

    It sounds like your father was a smart man and ahead of his time! When you wrote he taught you to properly use credit cards, I was thinking WOW…he figured that out fast b/c there weren’t a ton of great rewards like there are today!

    Again…thanks for sharing.

  27. So sorry that you had to lose your father at a young age. Sounds like your father was an amazing man with a very wise knowledge about money and life. Some great lessons and memories you were able to learn from him. God Bless

  28. Jen Smith

    My dad passed away April 29, 2006. Sharing memories of the lessons he taught me gives me so much joy. It’s so encouraging to see your dad’s best qualities living on through you. He’d be proud!