This is my first Father’s Day without a father. My father died last November and since then, his absence is apparent at big events, like my niece's recent college graduation. But I really have missed talking to him about all of the everyday stuff that we both loved— financial markets, sports, or a rerun of a favorite “Odd Couple” episode. My father brought me into the business world at an early age. He was an options trader on the floor of the American Stock Exchange (AMEX). Early in his career, he tried to follow his father into retail, but was lured to the floor by the excitement and the hours. At the time, the U.S. exchanges were open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Even when the trading day was extended, my father maintained that he had a great job, where he could both earn a good living and attend all 96 high school soccer games that I played.
In fact, one of the earliest lessons that I learned from Dad was that a job or a career that allowed you the time to do other things in your life was probably more valuable than the one that would pay the most. “Your colleagues and control over your schedule will become more important as you get older,” he advised.
I followed my father’s footsteps and became an options trader on the floor of the Commodities Exchange in New York during the heyday of physical exchanges in the late eighties. It was helpful to have Dad remind me that as a trader, one had to accept making mistakes. “It’s just part of the deal—you are going to have a bad day, month or even year. The key is to shake off the mistakes, learn from them and keep going.” That advice has served me well from the early days of trading, to the management of client money as an investment advisor, to my current stint at CBS News.
My father was a great believer in endowing his daughters with a sense of financial responsibility. When I was considering two different jobs after college, one paid a lot less than the other, but had a much bigger upside. Although the higher paying position was the safer choice, I was enticed by the greater potential. When I discussed the choice with my father, I told him that I was worried that it might be tough to pay my rent for the first six months at the lower salary. He smiled and said, “Then why not sell your car so you have the money in the bank to pay the rent for a year?”
While my parents could afford to help me pay the difference, his approach made me far more responsible for the ultimate decision that I made, which was to take the lower paying job. That kind of conversation was consistent with my father’s go-to mantra: “A big part of wealth building is to spend less and live within your means. And when the good years come along, sock away as much as you possibly can, because you never know when a bad patch might arise.”
When it came to investing, my father was a great believer in patience and discipline. “Nobody rings a bell at the top or the bottom, so develop a game plan, where you force yourself to take money off the table and rebalance on a periodic basis. Remember not to fall in love with your positions and to wait 24 hours before making any major purchase or sale that deviates from the plan.”
With all of the success that he enjoyed throughout his life, my father really didn’t care too much about money. He wanted to provide a good life for our family, but he was not an accumulator. Last Father’s Day, I remember walking into a restaurant with Dad and although he was not sick yet, he knew something was not quite right. He looked at me and said, “The best thing I have ever have done in my life was to raise two wonderful daughters.” I have thought about that beautiful sentiment a lot over the past seven months, because it helps me realize that my father always understood what was important in life.