Money Lessons From My Father

Money Lessons From My Father

Jun 16, 2021

This Sunday is Father’s Day.

It has been three years since the last time I celebrated Father’s Day with my own father. Papang was the typical frugal Ilocano. He also lived to experience the war and his father was part Chinese. Put all these together and you have someone whose favorite expression was, “Nagngina!” (Too expensive! in Ilocano)

I used stories about him in my discussion of the Anchoring Effect in FQ Book 2 Why Financial Education Alone Does Not Work (a crash course in Behavioral Economics). It’s the story of how Papang became the more “kuripot” parent when we got older even if he was the more “galante” one when we were growing up. Mamang explained it by saying, “Your Papang is stuck in the price levels of his pre-retirement days, when he used to buy things for the family.” In other words, he was anchored in the price levels of the 1980s, the era when we wore shoulder pads and used Aquanet hairspray.

But there’s something else about Papang’s money habits that I want to talk about now. Even with the little that he had, he managed to be a romantic. I remember him always setting aside a budget to buy gifts for Mamang on special occasions. He would sometimes ask one of my older sisters to help buy those gifts. That was “his thing.” It gave him joy to give gifts to his wife.

I remember one of his gifts to Mamang that I really liked. It was a figure of a lady made of shells in different sizes, shapes, and colors. As a young kid, I thought it was the most exquisite thing I’ve ever seen. I called it the Shell Lady. 

There was a time when some of my maternal relatives were so fond of “arbor.” Do you know that Pinoy term? It’s when you want to ask for something from someone, you say, “Pa-arbor naman.” But their style was something else. They would pack the item already, then just inform my mom, “Oh by the way Pepay, I already packed your ___________. Thank you.” with a big smile. I never saw my mom object to any of those arbors. One of the things that got “arbor-ed” was the Shell Lady and my mom just gladly gave it to my grandmother. I was sad. I remember even asking my dad if he minded. He said he didn’t.

It was a lesson on gift-giving. When you give something as a gift, you just allow the receiver to do what he or she wants to do with it.

Papang was also happy to receive precious gifts. I remember my brother giving him a pair of Prada shoes and he was so thrilled. He always wore them. One time, I had an afternoon date with him. I brought him to the Celebrity Club. We had lunch, then I said, “Pang, let’s have a foot massage together.” He agreed then when he took off his shoes, he said to the therapist, “Uy saan mo nilagay yong sapatos ko? Mahal yon! Baka hindi mo kayang palitan kung mawala mo.” But of course, he said it in his usual kengkoy manner that the therapist just laughed at his cruel remark.

He’s such a joy to give precious gifts to. He will always wear them, use them, and will always tell everyone who would care to listen that his child gave him this and that as gift. Marvin and I gave him a really valuable gift as a big surprise. He was thrilled to bits. And guess what? I think everyone in church knew about it!

Now that I remember all these stories about Papang, I realize how much joy gifts can bring to people. And do you know that the giver (the willing one, of course) also gets a lot of happiness from the act of giving?

As we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s remember those lessons about money and other things that we learned from our fathers. I’ve been missing both my parents a lot these days. But I am consoled by thoughts of them living and loving each other, expressing their love in the many weddings they also had, and in the gifts they gave to each other – both tangible and intangible.

This bracelet is very precious to me because of the dedication at the back, “March 19, 1968 (Mamang’s birthday) To my beloved wife Love, Pinong”

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers! Join us on Thursday on our Kumu show and get a chance to win Kumu coins.


1. For this quarter’s issue of Money Sense, we are featured in the cover. When I read the title given to our family, I kinda cringed. 🙂 But thanks Money Sense and we do hope that more families will be inspired to talk about money healthily instead of leaving it as the elephant in the room. You may get your digital copy of Money Sense here –

2. To learn more about your money behavior, get your copy of FQ Book 2. Get copies for your loved ones too. The principles you will learn from here are not only applicable in your financial life but all the other important aspects of your life.

To know more about FQ Book 2, watch this short video .

How good are you with money? Do you want to know your FQ Score? Take the FQ Test and get hold of your finances now. Scan the QR code or click the link