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3 Money Lessons From Fathers

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Few things in life can change how men think about money more than becoming a dad. You’re bound to learn new tricks while juggling child care, family-friendly activities and everything else.

To get insight into the wisdom fatherhood can provide, we talked to two dads — LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz and LendingTree student loan expert Michael Kitchen — about their top financial habits and skills.

As Father’s Day (June 18) approaches, here are their top three money tips.

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No. 1: Saving needs to be a top priority

When parents talk about saving for their kids’ futures, that doesn’t only mean a college fund.

“It’s about understanding you have no idea what life is going to throw at you,” says Schulz, whose son is 16. “While there’s no way to prepare for every possibility, by building an emergency fund, being properly insured, looking into alternative revenue sources, taking advantage of employer 401(k) matches and following other methods, you can help your family be better positioned to face what may come.”

In other words, preparation is key. The longer you have to save money and invest, the more you can benefit from those habits.

“It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of time when it comes to savings,” Schulz says. “It’s the whole ballgame.”

Even investing a few dollars consistently when you’re young (like in your 20s) can grow into impressive sums of money when they’re allowed decades to do so, he says.

“Don’t be discouraged if you can only save a few dollars when getting started,” Schulz says. “At that stage, building the habit is the point. Keep it up. When you’re older, you’ll be grateful you did.”

If you have debt, Schulz says it’s still important to focus on saving as you pay it down. This way, you’ll be able to break out of that cycle of debt if anything unexpected arises (and it inevitably will).

No. 2: Keep spending in check

Kitchen, who has a 14-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, says he was told repeatedly before having kids about how expensive it would be to raise one.

There have been money challenges, and sometimes the kids will want things we can’t afford, even if some of their friends have them,” he says. “But at the end of the day, the most important needs for their development — like love, a sense of belonging and learning to be a responsible person who cares for others — don’t cost anything.”

That’s why it’s critical to pick your money battles. And watch out for lifestyle creep, which can eat away at your budget.

“The most important financial habit is living beneath your means,” Schulz says. “It can be easier said than done, especially in a time of rampant inflation and sky-high interest rates, but everything starts from there.”

In a similar vein, you should be proactive about avoidable expenses. Paying your bills on time, whether that’s signing up for autopay or carving out a bill-paying session each month, is essential. That will help you avoid late payments, which can come with fees and negatively impact your credit.

“There are few things in life that are more expensive than crummy credit,” Schulz says. “Poor credit can cost you thousands of dollars over your lifetime in the form of higher interest rates, more fees and so on. Do whatever you can to protect it.”

No. 3: It’s OK to ask for help

It’s no secret that having kids is expensive. A 2021 LendingTree study found that the cost of basic expenses (including day care) to raise a child in the U.S. equals $20,152 annually. That’s no small sum, and it can be overwhelming at times.

“Be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek help,” Schulz says. “Being a new parent is so, so, so hard, and anyone who tells you differently is wrong. Lean on friends and family who offer to help with anything from babysitting to cooking to yardwork.”

If you’re overwhelmed financially, you could contact a nonprofit credit counselor. They can help you budget and take control of your debt. Other resources you might seek include social media swap groups, state and federal programs designed to help kids and parents who may be struggling, and local resources such as food pantries.

“It’s unlikely you’ll be able to afford everything you want for your children, but also know that whatever financial catastrophes hit you, there will almost always be solutions and people to help,” Kitchen says.

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