My millennial superstar oldest daughter will tie the knot one month from today. Being the father of the bride thus far has been a real treat. With the exception of a few mini-bridezillaish moments the whole experience has been a hoot.
One thing that is very clear with this young lady, is she is her father’s daughter. Well, within 48 hours of the hearing the cute and funny proposal story I was knee deep in tough financial negotiations with the little bride.
I took the pre-negotiated flat wedding allowance approach. You know, the “here’s the money do as you please with it,” method Dads have been using for decades.
She attempted the “whatever amount you say Dad will be fine” line, I low balled her, she then tried the long quiet pause tactic. After the speaking started again, I told her to stop screwing around. I wanted a spreadsheet budget, and reminded her I do financial planning work with 700 families and know how much Indiana weddings typically cost. You want a herd of swans to pull you down the aisle, that’s on you, I only request some decent craft beer on tap behind the bar.
We settled on a number, and with everyone happy she went about spending in her usual frugal millennial way. It’s going to be a fun and beautiful day.
After a little bit of job drama, my daughter and my son-in-law to be have both settled into good jobs at interesting companies. Their combined household is enviable for their age and I often find myself giving advice on some really healthy financial questions, trying to apply my experience working with other families to her decision making.
“Dad, should we buy a house?” No, chances are any home you can afford and be attracted to at 23 won’t maintain its appeal within a few years, especially if family needs change with kids. I would rather see her save cash to keep her eventual mortgage more manageable and especially to avoid PMI insurance costs.
“Dad, will you help me invest in stocks?” Not yet, first accumulate an emergency fund and three to six months of household expenses in a savings account. After these milestones are met, then you can start to invest but you shouldn’t invest the emergency fund or expense cushion savings account.
“Dad, how much should I put in my 401(k)?” I had to think about this one for a bit. Believe it or not, I’ve known a fair number of 30-year-olds (mostly women) who are over-funded for retirement but struggling with credit cards and big mortgage payments. So I told her to put in enough to get the employer’s full match, but that was enough for someone 23-years-old.
When I look at the pattern of this advice I see a theme. The path to financial independence is long. It's not all about the destination and the actual journey toward that destination will define our financial well being for many years.
Nothing mitigates the stress of the many curve balls life will throw at all of us like a big bank account. Come to think of it, that’s the advice my dad gave me, I guess I’m just paying it forward.