Money maxims: What dads can tell grads

Fatherly advice can translate to finances

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"Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend."

—Polonius giving fatherly advice to his son Laertes in William Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

It's "dads and grads" season, which, besides being retailers' rhyming reminder to buy gifts for Father's Day and graduations, provides an opportunity to examine fatherly wisdom about money — as in, he's not made of it, and it doesn't grow on trees.

The average person buying graduation gifts will spend $97.79, according to the National Retail Federation. Total spending on gift cards, electronics, apparel and other items is expected to amount to $4.7billion, the highest in the survey's nine-year history.

But some pearls of wisdom falling from Dad's lips — intentional or not — will endure long after all those gifts are gone. And they might end up being more appreciated.

What advice would dads give grads about money by way of fatherly aphorisms?

"You can't have champagne taste on a beer budget."

Perhaps no advice is more important than the simple axiom that you should live within your means. That's not so simple nowadays when your "means" go beyond your cash. You can buy now and pay later, whether with credit cards or any number of loans, from payday and car-title loans to home equity loans.

For most people, living within your means doesn't mean living a life of spending denial. But it does mean picking your spots to splurge. Besides, your dad also might say, "A little pain never hurt anybody."

"You keep making that face, and it's going to stick like that."

The second-most important advice is probably that little things, like daily spending habits, mean a lot. You keep making bad spending decisions, like making an ugly face, and you'll be stuck with money woes.

True, buying big-ticket items — houses and cars — matter. But they are big decisions that you'll probably consider thoughtfully.

You have more immediate control over the seemingly unimportant daily spending decisions amounting to dozens of money leaks. It's not bringing your lunch to work once that creates savings, it's bringing lunch every day.

That's why Dad likes to save on utilities with such brilliant utterances as, "Turn off lights — do you think we own stock in the electric company?" and more simply, "Were you raised in a barn?"

Habits matter.

"Use the right tool for the right job," and, "Let the saw do the work."

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one, and that applies often to money.

Buy simple term life insurance, invest with index mutual funds and target-date retirement funds, use a credit union or small community bank and build an emergency cash fund for repairs instead of trying to beat the odds with extended warranties. A simple TV antenna provides a better picture than cable, tap water is usually as good as bottled, and the best way to improve your credit score is to pay your bills on time.

With money issues, sometimes you'll need something more complicated, but have a good reason to stray from simple.

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