Skip to main content
News Release

Father Knows Best: CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Professionals Share How Their Dads Taught Them the Financial "Facts of Life"

June 09, 2014

For many Americans, lessons about money and financial responsibility begin in childhood with one of our very first teachers, our dads. In honor of Father’s Day, Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board) Consumer Advocate, asked CFP® professionals from around the country to share the financial wisdom they learned from their dads and father figures in their lives.

“For many CFP® professionals, having a financial mentor or teacher early in life was the true start of their career preparation,” says Blayney. “That wise mentor was often a father, who by quiet example or patient instruction, imparted to these future planners the financial ‘facts of life’ now shared every day with their clients.”

A number of recurring themes appeared throughout the stories shared by these CFP® professionals, featured in the latest installment of CFP Board’s “Let’s Talk Planning” blog and its “Financial Planning is for Everyone” series. 

Words of wisdom from dear old dad include:

  • How you live, rather than what you have, determines financial success. Marguerita Cheng, CFP® (Washington, D.C. area) learned from her father – a Chinese refugee who emigrated with just pocket change and the clothes on his back – “not to define myself by what I have, but by my accomplishments and education.” The dad of Lynn Ballou, CFP® (San Francisco Bay Area) stressed the importance of women becoming independent and self-sufficient – a real departure from the thinking of the 1950s when she was growing up.
  • Use debt wisely. Many CFP® professionals learned from their fathers the right – and wrong – reasons to borrow money. Use debt for appreciating assets, such as homes and educations, and avoid it for assets that lose value over time, such as cars. David Zuckerman, CFP® (Los Angeles) gives his dad credit for this formula: “Never allow a car and other depreciating assets to represent more than one tenth of your liquid net worth.”
  • Do your homework. The father of Joseph Kelly, CFP® (Bordentown, NJ), unable to attend college having gone off to war, taught himself investment and business fundamentals. He then taught Joseph how to research investments and analyze financial ratios before making any investment decisions. Heather Ettinger, CFP® (Cleveland, OH) learned from her father – a criminal investigator – how to do background checks on stocks by researching everything that could be known about a company.
  • Focus on value, not price. An institutional equity trader – and the father of Andrew Gardner, CFP® (Houston) – used to say, “Don’t confuse brains with a bull market.” The moral: avoid overconfidence in investment decisions. And Dan Mathews, CFP® (Overland Park, KS) shared his initial embarrassment over his father’s constant haggling, but he now credits his dad for helping him to understand that “price as marked” is often just a starting point for smart negotiation.
  • Mistakes can be good teachers, too. A few financial planners learned what NOT to do from their fathers. For example, John Hauserman, CFP® (Baltimore, MD) remembers his father living just for the moment, which is why he encourages his own children to put aside savings for the future.

“Despite our different backgrounds and circumstances, many financial planners – myself included – learned a great deal about life, money, smart decision-making and the importance of planning for our futures from our fathers,” says Blayney. “It is this wisdom that imbues and enhances our calling as CFP® professionals, and allows us to serve our clients ethically and effectively each day.”


“Let’s Talk Planning” is a blog by CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, with posts each week with practical financial planning tips for consumers, as well as insights into the latest developments at CFP Board.  In addition to offering counsel on timely and evergreen financial planning topics, once a month Blayney will remind readers that “financial planning is for everyone,” with tips for consumers of all ages and life stages.