The Acorn Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

Polar Opposites

For those that have read about me, you may recall that I have two boys–DivvySon1 and DivvySon2, hereafter referred to as DS1 and DS2–but what I haven’t discussed is how they are quite the polar opposites when it comes to finances.

I am sure many are familiar with the phrase “The acorn (or nut) doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

That is very true with our boys, however the difference seems to be which tree they have fallen from–the DivvyDad tree or the DivvyMom tree.

Like Mother, Like Son

DS1 is much more like DivvyMom in that he has very little interest in stocks or personal finances at all. Retirement is something to think about when he is old, because right now that money is burning a hole in his pocket and he will never finish building his customized car if he focuses on saving money.

Last year I was able to convince him to open an IRA with the incentive that I would match his contribution dollar for dollar.

For me, that was more than a worthwhile expense as I know that time in the market is something that he can never get back and I wish I had started investing when I was a teenager.

Since making that investment last year, which he had zero interest in deciding what to actually invest in and blindly accepted my recommendation of the Vanguard High-Yield Dividend ETF ($VYM), I’ve been casually recommending that he setup an automatic contribution of as little as $25.00 per month just to get in the habit of investing his money.

Radio silence.

When he has engaged in discussion about investing, he has had a very short-term perspective thinking that it would be something to make his money grow quickly so he can afford more parts for his car.

In this regard, he has definitely fallen closer to the DivvyMom tree as her eyes tend to glaze over when we discuss our finances and she defers everything to me. However, to her credit, she has done a great job of getting me to appreciate living a little more in the “here and now” as tomorrow is never promised.

Like Father, Like Son

At the other end of spectrum is DS2, who is far more like me particularly when it comes to personal finances.

Even as a young child, while his older brother would be racing to the store to spend any birthday or Christmas money, DS2 would methodically evaluate every spending decision. At that age, his purchasing criteria was typically based on how much money he would have left after spending the money on whatever it was that he wanted.

As an example, if he had $120 from Christmas and the purchase he wanted to make would result in him having less than $100, he would skip the purchase and hang onto his money.

This past summer he decided that he wanted a new laptop. As he began doing his research, he asked me if he could open up an online savings account to stash the money from his job until he had enough to make his purchase–which he just did about two weeks ago after working as many hours as he could and cutting back on how often he went out for coffee and meals with his girlfriend.

At the beginning of the summer he participated in a summer immersion program at a local university where they taught various topics on finance and investing.

Shortly after that he had asked me if he could buy some stock. At the time he didn’t have any money saved up so I gave him access to an old Roth IRA that I have and allowed him to do research and make a few investments (IQ was his first investment, which he called correctly but exited the position before it really took off because he was nervous).

And then earlier today my phone buzzed.

He sent me a text asking if we could open a custodial account so he could begin his own portfolio. I’ve been hoping that M1 Finance would implement their support for custodial accounts so he can invest without any commissions, however they haven’t provided any kind of timeline so we will be researching options over the next few days (he said he had been looking at Schwab and Fidelity).

Embracing Their Differences

Our boys are a lot alike in many regards, however when it comes to personal finances they are definitely polar opposites.

With DS1, while he might not do things the way that I would or necessarily listen intently when we are discussing various finance topics during family dinner, that doesn’t mean it is wrong for him. He has avoided consumer debt and primarily lives on a cash basis. We did loan him money to buy his car, which he paid off exactly per our agreed plan, and he has paid for his own phone and car insurance for the last two years.

DS2 is much more like me, or at least the me of the present day with his desire to save and invest money, research stocks, and build a solid portfolio that results in financial independence and an early retirement, if so desired.

However, as a father, the important thing in my eyes is that I never stop discussing finances with either one of them and that I continue to be there for guidance and support when asked.

Something that I started doing at the beginning of last year and have really enjoyed is to send them both a weekly email where I select a few blog posts from the Rockstar Finance emails that I believe are applicable or valuable to them, and I write a short blurb about why I selected that article for them.

At the beginning, I told them that I would never question them about whether they read the articles or not, but my only request was that they save the emails in a folder rather than delete them as when the time is right for them, there will be a wealth of information in those emails that will serve them well.

As much as I might like to see them do things the way that I have done them, or am doing them now, I recognize that we all approach things differently and they need to figure out their own way in life.

But no matter what, I will always be here for them regardless of which tree they fell from.

8 thoughts on “The Acorn Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree”

  1. DivvyD –

    Great article and I can’t wait to have kids to see how they approach everything. Similarly, I’d hope that they do the best things for their money, but I also want them to have their own self-journey to pursue it the way they want, with me by their side at any time, of course.

    -Lanny

    1. Thanks Lanny!

      One thing I’ve learned over the years with my boys is not to sweat the small stuff, whether that be with their finances, school, or anything else. With the finances, my older son is not into material items and as long as he’s doing something hands-on he is happy—and as such right now he looks at things from the lens of he never wants to retire nor does he ever want to work a desk job like I have (he’s in trade school for automotive and welding). That doesn’t change my desire to see him save / invest but I also realize his path is his own.

  2. nice post dad and cool idea about the rockstar emails!

    My sons 5 so hes kinda young to really show him the boat. He likes to spend his money currently but thats ok as hes learning something at the moment.

    He wants something around 30 bucks now so i suggested he sell some of our vegetables to the neighbors one day when they all rippen.

    Hes excited for that a couple bucks here and there can add up. These little life lessons hopefully stick with them.
    sounds like d2 is on track already. d1 will follow soon enough.

    keep it up
    cheers

    1. Thanks PCI, and I had seen that idea about the emails on Facebook I think and it has been great. It’s really given me the opportunity to read and learn a lot of great things as well, so even if they did or do delete them, I’ve still found it valuable.

      That’s awesome that your son is selling the vegetables, learning that hustle at a young age is a great thing!

      I’ve found it interesting that even when you don’t think they are watching or paying attention, those lessons are being planted like seeds and when the time is right they will sprout. Both my boys have amazed me at times when they come to me and ask questions about something that I didn’t even realize they were taking in.

  3. DivvyD,

    Fantastic article. It’s great to see that you’re enlightening your sons on personal finance because we know the education system probably never will.

    1. Appreciate the feedback Kody!

      You touched on something that is on my list to pursue in early retirement, and that is creating a personal finance educational program to try and introduce at the middle schools and high schools in my area. I think this is a very under-served topic in the school system, and unfortunately many parents are still trying to figure things out themselves so kids have a significant gap.

  4. Sounds like you’ve done a great job handling the differences between your sons with regard to investing. I can’t say I’d do anything differently, DivvyDad.
    My oldest son has shown an interest in investing, while the younger one hasn’t. My daughter may be following my younger son, as we haven’t engaged in any meaningful discussions on the subject yet. However, I’m at the ready should any of them come with any questions.

    1. Thanks ED, I really appreciate that. I think as parents we need to do our best to plant the seeds and then be there when they begin to sprout for each child. It sounds like you’re doing a great job as well!

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