If you missed it, read my column about the dad I wish I had. He’s Yoda with a calculator.
I’d also love it if you joined me at noon (Eastern time) to discuss fathers and finance. I want to talk about the financial legacy fathers can leave and also discuss the Color of Money Book Club selection for this month, “All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses — And How We Can Fix It Together,” by Josh Levs, an investigative journalist and expert on fatherhood.
Levs will join me as a guest. Read my review of his book, and learn why we should stop using the term “Mr. Mom.”
To participate in the discussion, click this link. If you can’t join live, be sure to read the transcript later.
I recently attended a wonderful high school graduation for my nephew in Virginia and loved this advice from the principal, who told the 400-plus graduates: “Call home when you don’t need money. If you do, when you do need money you are more likely to get it.”
We all laughed. Well, the parents laughed, especially those of us who already have children who have gone off to college — because we mostly hear from them when they need something.
I love that advice to the graduating class. It’s a lesson they should apply not only to their relationship with their parents but to other relationships, as well. Isn’t that really what all of us want? We need to know that people will reach out and touch us without an agenda. And then when they need help, we are more willing to be there for them — because they had shown all along that they cared enough to call or check on us or just talk.
So I’m devoting this electronic newsletter to those of you who answered last week’s Color of Money Question: What one piece of financial advice would you give a young adult starting out?
Bryan Hudson of St. Louis wrote: “My advice would be: Pay your bills, give them precedence over going out or other nonessential expenditures. Your credit score is a reflection of you whether you like it or not, and you must protect it, and paying your bills is the responsible thing to do.”
And for good measure, Hudson added: “Live within your means at the time; spending more than you have coming in will lead to disaster.”
Linda D. Alexander of Seneca, S.C., had a lot to say. She didn’t stop at just one piece advice. Here’s what she wrote:
“1. Sign up for you company’s 401(k) plan as soon as you pass your probation period. The sooner you sign up, the more you will have when it’s time for you to retire.
“2. Start paying off your student loans NOW. Your debt will be lower before you know it.
“3. Stay within your means!! Don’t try to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ whether it’s your parents, friends, former classmates or colleagues from work.
“4. Don’t use your credit card unless it’s an emergency (i.e., to fix your car, medical emergency, etc.), and start paying off the credit card debt as soon as you can.
“5. Learn to make do until you are able to pay your essential bills first. You can live without your DirecTV (watch movies on DVD, read a book, listen to music, etc.), but you can’t live without heat, water, food or a roof over your head.
“6. Don’t be ‘poor proud.’ If you are having trouble with your finances, ask someone you can trust for advice and/or help. Don’t wait until the last minute. [I totally agree with this advice. Ask for financial help before bailing you out costs more.]
“7. Learn to cook, and bring your lunch to work. You will be surprised how much money you will save when you don’t go out to lunch every day.
“8. Clip coupons.”
Larry Zarker, chief executive of a company in Malta, N.Y., wrote: “The power of long-term compounded interest in a retirement plan far exceeds the smooth taste of those chai lattes. The earlier you start saving, the better.”
Sandi Ruggles of Milwaukee added to Zarker’s advice encouraging young adults on a tight budget to at least contribute enough to a retirement plan to get a company match if there is one. “The company is giving them money, if only they would save a little of their own for retirement!”
For proof that Ruggles is right, listen to Lois Berkowitz, who lives in Arizona. Here’s her story: “In 1978/79 when I was in my mid-20s, I worked for Boston University and Bentley College earning very low wages. Over that period, I contributed $396 into a TIAA-CREF retirement account. The generous employer matching contributions were $934. That totals $1,330. I never worked for educational institutions again so never could add to the account. In 36 years, the $1,330 today has grown to $31,195.78. If this isn’t a good example of the power of compounding, I don’t know what is. So my advice to young people is: Contribute as much as you can towards an IRA and/or 401(k) with an employer match while you are young and let it grow. It’s the easiest way to ensure a secure economic future.”
Margret Hullinger of Lorton, Va., wrote: “Start saving as soon as you can, even if it’s $5 a paycheck to start, and do not touch it! Pretend it’s not there (payroll deduction). It’s astonishing how quickly it adds up to meaningful money.”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.