My dad was an influential person in my life as far as saving money is concerned. He grew up in humble surroundings and made himself a success. He was frugal and spent his money wisely. His example left a huge impression on me.
Since we are visiting my parents this week in Florida, I thought it would be a good idea to interview him and find out how he became successful, why he saved money and how he did it.
Michele: Dad, I have a blog on saving money. Since you taught me much of what I know, I want to interview you for my blog. First off, do you know what a blog is?
Dad: Blog? Is it the first four letters of the name of the Governor of Illinois?
M: Well, not exactly. It's like a journal on the computer.
D: Yeah, it's something on the computer. I think I've heard of it.
M: Growing up, did your family have much money?
D: No, my dad did a little bit of everything. He was a jack of all trades and master of none. He didn't make much money. Then he died of a heart attack before I was 10. It was 1948. My mom took a part-time job at the 5 & 10 as a cashier. So we had nothing. We lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn.
M: What kinds of things did you do in your childhood?
D: Well, I went to school. We never took a vacation. I worked through school to earn money for the movies and candy and things. I worked at a laundromat cleaning the lint trap and filling up small bottles of bleach. I also shined shoes on the street corner. And I had a newspaper route which I did by bicycle - a bike I bought used for $10.
M: What about school? What type of school did you go to?
D: I went to a vocational high school and graduated from there. Then I went into the army for 2 years.
M: What did you do after the army?
D: I got a job as a clerk at an investment banking firm. I was making about $50 per week. And I went to a regular high school at night to take courses so I could get into college.
M: Then what?
D: After taking the high school courses, I went to City College of New York at night while still working as a clerk. I also did some sales for a friend on the weekend.
M: So did you finish college?
D: No, it got to be too much. I was working overtime for my job and it would have taken too long to finish college. Also by that time I got married.
M: So were you making a lot of money at this point?
D: No, maybe about 60 or 70 dollars per week. And then a friend told me about becoming a court reporter. He said I could make good money. So I went to court reporting school at night for one year. After finishing I got a court reporting job making about $95 per week.
M: When was this?
D: It was 1962 and we had two young children. Times were still tough. We sold our car when the first baby was born to cut down on expenses. I commuted round trip on the train to work for 3 hours total. And we took very few vacations. I did this for about 5 years.
M: And then what happened?
D: I heard about a court reporting opportunity in Pennsylvania with the potential to do a lot of extra night work. All of our family lived in New York and had never lived anywhere else, but I checked out the job.
M: And I know you took it since I was born in Pennsylvania in 1967. Wasn't it hard to leave your extended family and your home state? Why did you do it?
D: I wanted to provide opportunities for my children that I didn't have and the commute would be much shorter and provide for a better quality of life. Yes, it was difficult to leave New York, but it turned out to be a great move for our family. I was able to do a lot of nightwork to make extra money. Plus the cost of living was lower, so we were able to buy our first house.
M: Were you able to live extravagantly with this extra money?
D: Not extravagantly. We did do some things to increase our lifestyle. The house we bought was in an upper middle-class neighborhood. And we took a few vacations. But we lived on only 2/3rds of our income and we saved the other third. We did this by living pretty frugally. We still shopped on the clearance racks. We didn't go out to fancy places or buy expensive cars.
M: What did you do with the money you saved?
D: I invested it. I learned about invesments and stocks when I was a clerk. And I would listen to financial radio stations and I'd read Money magazine.
M: By the time I was growing up, we were doing pretty well. I remember camp and vacations. But I also remember buying clothes in Sears and eating at home. We never had designer clothes or the latest fads for electronics or anything.
D: Yes, we were more frugal than many of our neighbors. Also, I was one of the few dads in the neighborhood without a college education.
M: What advice do you have for people who are trying to save money?
D: Live on less than you earn. Put away the rest into savings for the future. That's what we did. We never lived beyond our means. If we didn't have the money, we didn't buy it.
M: And now look at you. You put all three of your kids through college, retired at 60, and have a condo in Florida.
D: Yes, but it's not near the ocean - it's a modest apartment. It was a present to myself and your mother for all of our frugalness and hard work during our lifetimes.
M: You deserve it. Thanks, Dad for your taking the time to give me this interview. And thank you for the example you set for me. I always appreciated how hard you worked to make it easy for us. You were a big inspiration to me growing up regarding being frugal with your money and saving it for the future.