The Most Important Money Lessons I Learned From My Dad

On April 18, 2008, my father passed away from cancer. It’s always a sad day to remember, but as each year passes, I strive to honor him by making 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 wrote…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 24, 2023

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On April 18, 2008, my father passed away from cancer. It’s always a sad day to remember, but as each year passes, I strive to honor him by making 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 wrote this blog post years ago, but I have updated it for this year, and it still makes me very happy when I read it and think about him. Enjoy!

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of my dad. The littlest thing will remind me of him, and I am both sad and grateful when that happens.

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 have helped me become the person I am today.

If it weren’t for my dad, I would probably be, at least, a little worse with money. I think I’d probably be a little worse at a lot of things if it weren’t for him.

I didn’t really think about the financial lessons he taught me when I was younger, but I’m so glad that I was able to learn so many valuable things from him. To this day, I still remember little things he shared and taught me, and they help me to keep learning more from him. It’s a crazy feeling to keep remembering things even though it’s been years since he’s passed.

Due to this, I believe that teaching your children valuable financial lessons is key. My dad did tell me things about money, but the best lessons came from watching the way he managed his money while living the life he wanted. Teaching your children about money will help them grow up and be better able to manage a budget, understand investing, know how to save money, and more. I know this from personal experience.

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


My Dad 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.

Besides his family, the other things my dad loved in life were traveling and airplanes (he had his pilot’s license and worked for the airlines nearly his whole life – so my recent April Fools joke, We’re Moving Onto A Plane!, actually fooled quite a few people because they knew this fact about him). He traveled all over the world and 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!). He flew us in small planes, and I even had a great time just sitting at the airport. I’m one of those weirdos who genuinely loves being at the airport.

My Dad loved every single part of traveling, and he passed that on to me.

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 found ways to fit exciting trips in because travel was important to him. This meant that he probably went with less than some people think is possible, when he actually gained much more by budgeting for travel.

We didn’t live in a huge house or have fancy things. In fact, we grew up living in small, cheap apartments because he absolutely hated yard work and maintaining a home, so he liked apartment life because it meant that a landlord took care of all of that.

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 never 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 enough to be able to take trips whenever he could.



He taught me that you don’t need to spend tons of money on material things.

My dad was extremely frugal. He hardly ever went shopping for himself, other than for things such as new work shoes (that’s literally all I can remember him buying for himself, and they were from Kmart).

My dad always dressed nice, slacks with a nice sweater or shirt. In fact, he had the same exact wardrobe the whole entire time I knew him (I’m not even kidding – it was literally the same clothing). He didn’t own a single pair of jeans, a single T-shirt, or anything else like that.

He spent very little money on clothing and that leads to my next thing –

My dad wasted almost nothing. He probably did not realize it at the time, but my dad was a champion of the eco-friendly movement.

He wore shirts until they disintegrated, he loved finding furniture on the side of the road (it still makes me laugh to think about the way our living room looked – a hodgepodge of random street finds), and he hardly ever wasted anything.

When I was a kid, I was embarrassed by the way our home looked, but now I completely understand.

My dad didn’t value decor or material things, he valued experiences.


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, spent less money than he made, and 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 being with my dad and seeing 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 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 them on a regular basis to earn awesome rewards and bonuses.

Thanks Dad for another great money lesson!


My dad 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 was still able to live life the way he wanted to. When he was told that he had limited days left to live, he never once dwelled on the past nor did he say that he wished he would have done something different in order to live a better life.

He was 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. But, that is not true at all. You can still live a great life while managing your money and living 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. It’s funny how much you pick up from your parents at an early age.
    I didn’t learn much from my Dad about investing but I did learn about how to generally live an exciting if frugal life.

    Great post and from someone who also lost their Dad to cancer – it’s nice to hear about the good impact he had on your life.

  2. Kelly

    It’s clear how much you love your dad. What a beautiful tribute to him and the lessons he shared with you.

  3. I definitely learned a lot from him!

  4. Marita

    Hi Michelle,

    Happy to learn that you learned money lessons from your dad. Usually moms teach their kids about money matters.

    It’s really important that we teach our kids even at a young age.

    Thanks for this great post.


  5. What a touching story, sounds like the memories of your dad are strong. I am sure he would be immensely proud of what you have accomplished (which is quite remarkable actually).

    I lost my father to pancreatic cancer when I was 14 years old (he was 50 when he died). He was a doctor as well (Internal medicine). Unfortunately I did not pick up much financial tidbits as a child and had to learn on my own through the school of knocks.

    He has still shaped my plans as he used to delay a lot of things such as vacation when he retired but unfortunately that never happened. I have shaped my life so that I want to have some current happiness via vacations/travel and not put it off for a day that may never well come.

    1. I’m sorry for your loss.

      My dad was able to afford a lot of the vacations because he worked for the airlines. It was the perfect career for him.

  6. you were blessed to have a good human dad around.

  7. Alexandra

    My dad told me, get good credit. Protect your credit. He didn’t say how to do either thing. I went to the library and read finance books to learn.

    I did watch my dad invest in Ponzi Schemes. As far as I know he lost nearly 2 million dollars in Ponzi Schemes. It could be more and he’s not admitting to the other ones.

    I knew the first one was a scam, but he didn’t listen. The scam artists came to the born again church. Born again trust anyone who is part of their community. This is why scammers go to church! That’s where the money is!

    The scam artists showed up in a Rolls Royce. I explained to my parents you can rent them by the hour in Newport Beach, don’t be impressed. My parents said, no they own the car! I said, I’m 12 and even I know that’s an hourly rental from Newport.

    The couple took my parents to dinner at the Ritz in Newport Beach, California. My country bumpkin parents were impressed. If they are this wealthy? We will make lots of money, too!

    I answered the door when the FBI showed up asking, do you know these people? I sure do! Did they run a Ponzi scheme and run off with the money? The FBI agent stared at me in shock. I said, called it! Mom, door is for you!

    This investment was in “prize bull semen” of all things. First of all you can only gave one bull per herd of cows. They kill each other. The male calves are made into veal because they have no use. Second, there are more bulls than anyone can possibly use or need. It’s the females that you need for milk. The bull gets the female pregnant, so she’s lactating and producing milk. That’s the job of the dairy cow bull. The job of the beef cow bull is to impregnate the females to produce meat.

    The bull has one job. That’s it. Get the females pregnant. You only need one.

    My dad was a farm boy. He should have known better. My mom comes from a family of farmers and should have known better as well.

    This prize bull semen scam is still running today. People keep buying into it. I guess it’s a classic.

    My parents didn’t learn their lesson and got taken again.

    I learned from watching my parents…. if it sounds too good to be true? It’s a ripoff and probably a pyramid scheme or Ponzi scheme. That’s my big takeaway from my parents.

    Luckily my parents had plenty of money, but it’s unbelievable to me that people who grew up on farms fell for it. They knew better.

    My dad also showed me how to buy stocks at a high price and ride them into the ground. He listens to pump and dump people.

    I wonder how much money my parents have left after these bad investments? I’m sure they are nowhere near the $10 million they started out and with.

    When I grew up i became distrusting of flashy people. I learned to check the glove box for the car pink slip to see who really owns the car they drive! Is it an hourly or daily rental? Is is a lease? Do they own it? What’s happening here? People lie about their finances too much in the greater LA area, so it pays to be cautious about who you date. Don’t get mixed up with some pathological liar or scam artist.

    I’m skeptical of anyone on TV talking about buy this stock, sell that stock. How much money do they make when people follow their advice? I’m convinced they are manipulating the stocks for their own gain. I’m skeptical.

    Watching my parents made me incredibly skeptical of pitches and I don’t trust the hard sell. I don’t trust anyone trying too hard or being flashy. What’s behind the flashy facade? What sort of financial wreckage are they hiding?

    Just because someone puts on the facade of wealth doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can rent a Rolls for an hour and rent luxury goods to complete the image. Don’t be so impressed by the pretty package. What’s inside the package?

    1. Sounds like you’ve learned some life lessons here. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. As a brand new father, raising financially responsible kid(s) is definitely something I hope to do. How that is going to happen is still TBD. 😛 My dad “bribed” me in college with matching Roth IRA contributions if I got A’s. Haha. Looking back I’m definitely happy he got me started on my retirement savings early. The power of compound interest FTW!

  9. Marco Baatjes

    These are great tips. The same values that are taught to Robert Kiyosaki in rich dad poor dad. Your dad’s values are of that of a rich dad. Me and my friends are surrounded by poor dads however I’ve began to start implementing the same values you talk about in your article and I’m already seeing great financial improvement.

    Thanks for your point of view in your article 🙂

  10. Victor Romero (Instagram: victor_what)

    Wow. I have been reading a lot of your blogs these past few months and this, is truly inspiring to absorb.
    I didn’t know much how you got into the personal finance industry but now it’s even more clear.
    Thank you for sharing, Michele and may your father continue to rest in peace.

  11. Samar Misra

    Love this!!!! You so nailed it and it is so true that money should not limit people and love how your dad travelled to over 50 countries. I hope to follow him while earning less and working in the field of city planning in life.

    I have been to Canada, India, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Dubai, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Germany and Switzerland so far outside of USA or rather DSA(Divided States of America) lol. I have much more to travel to.

    Lastly, how do you feel about MLMs or Multilevel Marketing Businesses or Network Marketing businesses?

  12. Wendy

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. Sounds like you had a wonderful dad.

  13. Ana Melendez

    What a great story, Michelle! I got to tear up reading it. This is a beautiful tribute to him. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of your dad.