I enjoyed going to the bank with my father. He’d take me and my brother inside its cavernous interior and it awed us.
Mind you, the fact it was a bank wasn’t what impressed us. It was the building itself. Despite its modest exterior, the dark paneling on the inside spoke of a fineness we rarely saw, save for the occasional television show.
We always wondered what the point of going there was. Then, one day, my father surprised us. You could sense his enthusiasm by the smile on his face. “Boys,” he said, “it’s time for you to grow up. It’s time you had your own bank accounts.”
“Cool,” we thought. Or rather, “Cool?”
It seemed silly to take the little money we had and “spend” it at the bank. We didn’t get “savings.” We thought it was our money. Why should we give it to the bank? We should be spending it on something we wanted.
But we didn’t. And we learned. It’s the same lesson children learn even today (see “The #1 Retirement Saving Goal for Teens and Children and the Most Useful Strategy to Get There,” FiduciaryNews.com, January 4, 2017).
What I know now that I didn’t know then was the benefits of building a regular savings habit. It turns out to offer the same psychological fulfillment as collecting baseball cards. Of course, unlike my baseball cards (which I still have today), college took all that savings I so meticulously counting in my pre-teen days.
But that early savings discipline sowed the seeds for my later savings passion. Although it wasn’t brought to my attention until after college, it wasn’t too hard to connect the dots between savings and retirement once I started working after graduation. That became the priority, even before securing a permanent residence. Of course I wasn’t a fool. I figured out a way to both save for retirement and buy a house. Once I got that mortgage, though, retirement savings accelerated dramatically.
Now think about this in terms of what it means to be a fiduciary, to act on the best interests of those you serve.
My father behaved like the ideal fiduciary. At the time, the word might have been foreign to him, but the duty wasn’t.
He understood that we, as children, didn’t know what our own best interests were. So he took it on himself to direct us in a way that would encourage us to make the right decisions and avoid the worst possible mistakes.
In the rush-rush world of today, parents can often see their children as remaining children. They see it as their duty to forever cover them with their wings, to provide that ever-lasting “safe” space children all too willingly accept.
My father could have “protected” me from the savage world and tending to my financial needs rather than teaching me how to do it myself.
But would that have been in my best interest?