It’s almost Father’s Day, the one time each year where we set aside our differences to praise people who make bad jokes and wear socks with sandals. And our dads deserve it: In addition to giving us life on earth, they’ve served as financial court jesters in the halls of our infinite desires, reminding us to get a real job and saying no to pair after pair of Lucky brand jeans. I mean, seriously, if we had a wooden nickel for every time our dads gave us good money advice, we’d be rich. (No, wait. We would never accept a wooden nickel, because that’s what fools do.)
This year, we celebrate dads everywhere by digging into some of their greatest financial advice hits, which is really just our way of saying “We love you, Pops.”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
So far, biologists have tampered with genetics enough to create glow-in-the-dark mice, less farty cows and silk-spinning goats, but no mad scientist has braved the tallest task: a money-growing tree. That’s probably because they’re afraid of angering a whole legion of Very Serious Fathers who rely on this threat to get rooms cleaned and lawns mowed and Subway-sandwich-artist job applications submitted. Too bad advice doesn’t grow on trees either, or else your dad could take the day off, drop you in a forest, and let a maple hassle you instead.
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Okay, you know Benjamin Franklin was a dad because he called himself Poor Richard and was always giving advice about hard work. But despite popular opinion, America’s favorite founding father (see what we did there?) did not invent this phrase. To find the original idiom, you’d have to crack open books like 1691’s smash hit, The History of the Worthies of England, where the worthies were people like your dad, who knew that saving a penny by not spending it is like earning that penny twice. Just think about it: The 17th-century kid version of you must have saved for a long time to buy that powdered wig they’d been eyeing.
“Never spend money before you have it.”
Okay, sure, your dad might post too much on your Facebook wall, but at least he never sent you a twelve-part letter titled Canons of Conduct in Life. That dubious distinction belongs to Thomas Jefferson, who was adamant that his granddaughter Cornelia not blow dough she didn’t have yet, yo, on ribbons and ponies and a neoclassical summer home in Virginia. Oh wait, that last one was Tommy himself, who spent so much money he didn’t have on summer homes and parties that he died deep in debt. But hey, I’m sure there’s an idiom about dads not needing to be perfect to give perfect advice. Regardless, our third president really wants you to cut up that maxed-out credit card.
“Waste not, want not.”
Looking for a summer beach read that also delivers sound financial advice? Look no further than Richard Edward’s 1576 opus, The Paradise of Dainty Devices, which reminds us that “want is nexte to waste, and shame doeth synne ensue.” (Hey Dick, ya ever heard of spellcheck?!) We don’t know what Richard’s other dainty devices were, or even what a dainty device is, but we can probably all agree with his basic sentiment: If you don’t squander all the stuff you have now, you’ll have what you need in the future. So stop throwing those gold bars out the window, and finish that entire bon-bon. You’re going to need them later.
“Money is the root of all evil.”
Who wants to be a millionaire? Not the apostle Paul, who wrote a whole epistle (that’s the Bible’s version of an email) excoriating the idea of money to his disciple Timothy. Technically, Paul said that the love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself, which might not matter to you, but it matters a lot to the many, many people who write blogs about the difference. For our purposes, however, we can keep it simple. Don’t obsess about getting rich; just do what you do for the right reasons. Otherwise? You’re either a) going to hell or b) Paul will talk mad heat about you on the Bible web.
“Time is money.”
This idiom had to have been invented in the eighties, right? When 29-year-old yuppie stockbrokers were buying low and selling high while also always closing? In fact, it stretches back to ancient Greece and pops up again throughout the centuries whenever a shoemaker’s wife needed diaper money or a usurer went to collect an unpaid debt plus interest. It finally landed in Poor Richard’s Almanac, a hothouse of plagiarized advice, where Benjamin Franklin used it to harp on his favorite subject: not loafing around. Basically, if you’re wasting time, you’re not making money, and if you’re not making money, you’re wasting it. So get out there and mow that lawn, son!
“Money can’t buy happiness.”
Diamonds might be a girl’s best friend, but they’ll probably talk about her behind her back after the pool party. That’s because diamonds, like money, can’t buy the stuff that really matters: friendship, family, or
a 50-foot yacht off the Bahamas joy. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought money could buy everything except morality and citizens, and the philosopher Paul McCartney knew it couldn’t buy him love. Just think about it this way: If you master this idiom, the Kardashians will be keeping up with you. Thanks, Dad!
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