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READER POLL: Finance, Relationships, Work, Life—Who Taught You? – National Association of Plan Advisors

For good or ill, much of who we are is drawn from the things we bring from home, lessons learned from our parents, by word, by deed, by example. With Father’s Day coming, and Mother’s Day not long past—this week, we asked readers to share their experience(s).


When it came to finance, more (32%) learned from Dad than Mom (18%), and while 15% learned from both, a slim plurality (34%) learned from “someone else.” Grandparents were cited by several, though many in this group were self-taught.

One reader credited a business course offered in high school. Another said it was “On my own—trial and error.” Still another said, “Most of what I know about finances I learned through college classes and industry certifications, or through the research I did while answering clients’ questions.” And still another commented, “My career in retirement plans taught me the most about finance.”

Other observations:

My first lesson was that money doesn’t grow on trees, and my second lesson was simply about the difference between wants & needs. I have tried to pass those lessons down to my children, although I think I did better with my older daughter than I did with my younger son. He’s still a work in progress.

Mom as a young adult, rest learned as I got older (college, work, etc.)

My Mom and Dad both lived a conservative lifestyle, lived within their means, and as a result built a comfortable lifestyle for both me and my sister, and while they didn’t become multi-millionaires they have lived a very comfortable retirement well into their late 80s.

And also Dave Ramsey when I took a class at church.

Pretty clueless until college!

Mom ran the checkbook. Dad worked and earned the money. Mom took care of the house and I believe that decision to be favored by both. Finances were not so much discussed as the process was seen and heard.

I remember my mom going to the supermarket with $63.29 in cash. That is all that could be spent on food that week. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I came to find out vegetables don’t only come in a can! Canned food is cheaper and doesn’t spoil. Talk about budgeting!

I learned about money and finance as my parents had no clue whatsoever.

20% of any money earned or gifted went to savings—no excuses. Bank account was for college not fun money.

I kinda learned, in some ways, “what not to do” from my parents… but then again, they were raising 6 kids on blue collar jobs and sacrificed greatly so each of us could finish college. But as my dad’s dad once said in reference to my dad’s failing teenage business, “Education is expensive, son, no matter how you get it.”


Relationships were a horse of a different influence; “both Mom & Dad” topped this list, cited by 43%, followed by Mom (29%) and someone else (24%). Dad apparently wasn’t much help (on his own) here—cited by just 4%. In the someone else category, grandparents made a good showing here as well—oh, and there were a lot of “self taughts” in this category as well.

Dad always told me to treat others how I would like to be treated. Another one I took to heart was to always give someone a second chance because all of us have made mistakes.

My grandfather

My parents were the first great example of how a relationship should work. I never ever saw them argue and they always had each other’s back, no matter what.

Learned through the school of hard knocks…

Had to learn on my own

Again, on my own—trial and many errors.

My grandpa, he was a shining example of what it means to people to treat them with dignity and grace. Often times when I was out with him in public people would come up to him and shake his hand and tell me how important he was to their success and how he really helped them in their early years.

My mom, siblings, and college roommates probably taught me the most about relationships. When you share small spaces with multiple people, you learn a lot implicitly.

My Mom and Dad lived happily married for nearly 62 years, right up to my father’s passing this past December at the age of 88.

Again, just the basics. Otherwise, just have to learn as you go.

Me trial and error

Teachers and the parents of other kids were most influential.

Being the youngest of 6, much of what I learned was from my 4 older brothers or sister. Mostly good lessons, but not always! ; )


But Dad really shone on lessons taught about work; roughly 47% cited his influence, with:

31% – Both Mom and Dad

15% – Someone else

7% – Mom

Summer into fall of my high school years, dad and I would go for a walk after school/work each evening. I learned so very much about business from him on those walks. I would give anything to do that one more time. He was so full of wisdom and a hard worker.

My dad set a great example of work ethic, that I didn’t quite get until later in life. He put aside all the things he wanted to do to make sure we could pay the bills and so they could make us kids feel like we were rich, although we were far from it.

Watched my Dad really enjoy the work and profession he chose.

My first manager in retirement industry. She taught me and my colleagues the value of researching issues before asking for answer and how much we learn in the process. So, so true when it comes to complexities of ERISA and fiduciary knowledge.

My high school and college track coach.

We would hear about my parent’s business dealings every night at the dinner table.

My mom didn’t choose her career path (registered rep/insurance agent), it was born out of necessity. I remember her regularly studying to further her knowledge of the industry and product offerings. Despite the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated industry, she always had a smile on her face and her clients quickly became friends. During her 30-year career she won numerous sales awards and was recognized as a top producer.

Great work ethic in both of them, they led by example.

Grandparents as well. The value of hard work. That you can accomplish just about anything if you put your mind to it.

Teachers and the parents of other kids were most influential.

My dad was a shift worker. My mom, at times, held down 2 jobs to help make ends meet. They both taught us to work hard and do our best in all situations.


As for lessons about life—well, here the partnership of Mom & Dad really stood out:

55% – Both Mom and Dad

25% – Someone else

12% – Mom

8% – Dad

Those lessons, as it turns out, were mostly both implicit and explicit (73%), some implicit/by example (25%), and some—a few (about 2%) “must have been genetic.” 

As one reader said, “I learned to look back at both of my parents’ work as parents and appreciate much more (having my own kids now both in college) all that they did for me. I am thankful for them and know they did the best they could with what they knew.”

Words of Wisdom

And, of course, we asked readers—whether they were parents or not—what words of wisdom they would like to impart to the next generation:

The importance of a good work ethic and education

Be kind, work hard, make our world a better place by using your God given gifts! Call your mom!

Work hard. Respect others. Don’t spend beyond your means.

Humility and a passion for progress.

All of life’s lessons can be found in the Bible.

Far too many to list here, but hopefully, be a good citizen, work hard & play hard, and never forget where you came from.

The value of a strong work ethic.

The reward of hard work and the important of being kind and thankful.

Dream big and work hard to get them!

I hope I teach them to be independent and self-sufficient. Productive members of society and mostly, for them to find happiness.

I always teach my step daughters to think about their financial decisions before they make them. They should not be made from a position of “want.” Be good humans.

Faith, a work ethic

1. People/relationships first 2. Keep a steady moral compass at all times 3. Use your God-given gifts well.

1. work gets done before play 2. always look for the silver lining in any situation, it is there, you might have to search for it. 3. the Golden Rule always applies 4. honesty is best practice. It’s hard to keep lies straight, so just don’t tell them! 5. communication is key in life

I hope to instill a good work ethic in my children. I have two girls. I want them to grow into bright, independent women that can support themselves. I hope my girls learn the value of saving money for retirement.

Life is unpredictable. You have to take the risk or lose the chance. But it’s good to have smarts, skills and an education so there is a plan B.

You don’t know until you try. The first step (or sentence) is the hardest—get that over with and others will then join in to support you. Save Share Spend. Be where your feet are. The importance of gathering for meals (or game night) on a regular basis.

Critical thinking, kindness and empathy

I’m happily married for 35 years to my college sweetheart and best friend, and we have been blessed with 4 children and now 3 grandchildren. Lead by example, live with authenticity and genuine humility, and be genuinely gracious to all you meet and come into contact with.

Let them know wherever they are and whatever they do, somebody with them now witnessing their behavior either knows them or knows somebody that knows them. Bottom Line: There is no such thing as a secret.

Kid-free for life and loving every minute of it! I do like to teach people of all ages to be kind to each other by example, treating them kindly and by words. We need more kindness in this world today.

I JUST became a parent. I really want my child to take chances in life. I want her to travel the world and not be so stuck in the modern day go to college, find a corporate job, and just work your whole life. I truly believe that she will be able to accomplish so much by experiencing the world and finding something she loves and fulfilling her dreams.

Financial literacy and responsibility from an early age and most importantly to have a strong faith based foundation.

We live in a very self-centered world. There is a great opportunity to serve others and I try to teach my kids to give more, give often and find places to serve others (non-profits etc.)

How to set goals, how to expect more from yourself, how to live a happy life.

Education is not an option in our household, college degree is required. spend less than you make, have FU money by the time you are 40, save 15% of every paycheck, Be kind and have courage, Volunteer-give back to community, Stay involved in church-accept Jesus Christ as your savior, attitude reflects leadership, when people are fearful be greedy…

Be good to people, respect others, give back.

Don’t run into debt to get your education and work hard.

Lead with love, humility & compassion.

Work hard and save your money. Compounding is a wonderful tool.

Lead by example

Empathy and hard work.

Having ethics, morals and values are important. Everything we need to know we learned in Kindergarten. Let’s practice.

Work hard, play hard, be fair. Realize others may not be, but don’t obsess with cheaters. You lose twice.

Be kind and generous, don’t hold grudges, always work to see the best in people, don’t underestimate yourself

A good work ethic

Too late for that. They are all grown and out of here! However, close distance (not all of them) and social media makes it much easier to keep helping them when needed.

Trust in Jesus, read your Bible and say your prayers.

Always give your best. Believe in yourself and your potential… and strive toward it. Forgive yourself and others. Help those in need. Be a friend. Continually learn. Be responsible for you… your thoughts, actions, emotions and intentions. Have faith in God… and try to understand Him.

You really are stronger than you think. Always, always go out of your comfort zone and you will surely grow!!

Do not work too hard or you will miss the important moments in life.

How about the lessons learned from what NOT to do?

Glad I lived the life I have. It may not have been easy, but those things have made me into the person I have become—good or bad, they are meaningful

Travel and travel far, expand your horizons and enjoy conversations.

Many of life’s lessons are learned as an adult. I’ve always reinforced to my children that just because someone is older does not mean they are right. Adults make mistakes so always focus on making the best choices and following your conscience. I have learned so much about life during the last three years since my father suffered a stroke. He has limited mobility and is dependent on caregivers around the clock. He always has much a positive disposition and is at peace. His example always helps me put life into perspective and is a great reminder to me of what is important in life.

There is too much noise. The media, other professionals, politicians all have their own agenda. There are few truly great selfless leaders.

The past year has reminded me not to take my blessings and loved ones for granted.

The best way of teaching life lessons to children is my modeling, because let’s be honest, our teenagers are not going to listen to a word from their parents (and may in fact do the opposite)! Other life lessons have to be learned by experience.

Be grateful, be gracious. Live a life of authenticity and genuine humility. Buying more “stuff,” having more money is not impressive, what you do with having more money, most notably giving back and being unselfish and generous, can be impressive.

It’s much cheaper to marry your second wife first.

Simple, to treat others as you would want to be treated.

Talk is cheap. Lead by example.

It is important to point out that one can be different than one’s parents, you can make your own decision as to what kind of person you will be.

HR is not your friend The corporation at the top cares only about you as your output, stockholders are not the driving force, the CEO’s ego is.

Don’t become so obsessed with work that you miss out on the important things in life. And, don’t wait until retirement to do the things you love.

You don’t have to be friends with everyone but, you must be friendly to everyone.

Ask The Lord before you make decisions and depend on Him for everything.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s NAPA-Net Reader Poll! And Happy Father’s Day!