The words of wisdom that made all the difference in my life came from my father.
He worked as a mapmaker for the Army but had a keen interest in the financial world. We were not a wealthy family, but he saved and invested and closely followed interest rate fluctuations and other financial news.
My father’s “words of wisdom” came not in the form of a pithy phrase, but in his regular discussions of money matters with me, even when I was just a young boy.
His passion was clear. We talked about money at the dinner table. I have fond memories of joining him on occasional outings to buy government bonds.
He taught me the value of saving and the importance of having a financial plan. Most important, he showed me that building financial security is not just about the size of your paycheck, but about how you manage what you have.
My father would be proud to see that I ended up at TIAA-CREF, a financial services company with a long-term focus and a mission to help people achieve financial well-being.
I try to “pay it forward” by sharing what he taught me with others – especially the college students I meet on visits to TIAA-CREF’s college and university clients nationwide. Here’s what I tell them:
- Start saving young, because saving even a little bit on a regular basis can have a huge impact on your lifelong financial well-being.
- Give as much attention to your financial life as you do to your career or your social life.
- Commit to building your financial education. Understand the concepts of personal finance, and know how to use credit wisely. Understand the terms of your student loans and learn about effective debt management tools.
- Set long-term financial goals even as you budget for short-term necessities and the occasional “luxury.”
These concepts are pretty straightforward, but given today’s economic realities, they are perhaps more important than ever before. When I share them with students, I always think of my father – and of how grateful I am that he shared his wisdom with me.
Roger W. Ferguson is president and CEO of TIAA-CREF.