Men Want It All Too: Work And Family

Mr._Mom__1_“I wanted to be able to change diapers.”  That’s what Tim Donohue told me when I asked him about the life-altering choices he’d made regarding the elusive work/life balance.  We had both just read the recent New York Times article, “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In,” revisiting the topic of women with Ivy League pedigree and promising career prospects who’d “opted out” of corporate life to dedicate themselves wholly to the art of maternal domestication.  Judith Warner’s findings were decidedly mixed, but with all of the talk of women on the “Mommy Track,” I was left to wonder, What about the dudes?  What role do men play in weighing their obligations at home and the office?

The debate about working moms is now so ubiquitous that we must conclude it’s a real issue—that women are wrestling with this topic so consistently that the battle waging within them is genuine.  Women, as a whole, seem clearly to want both a) to play a formative role in the upbringing of their children and b) to satiate the desire within to capably accomplish tasks of seemingly greater import than changing diapers or organizing class parties or even holding office within the school PTA.  Regarding the now public discourse over this internal wrestling match, men have done largely what they should—if they know what’s good for them—remain silent (sitting behind their three-olive martinis, newspapers and crossed feet adorned with the slippers June brought to the front door).

I am not fool enough to break that silence, but I do seek to explore whether there is any similar angst, any similar wrestling over this topic regarding their own roles, in the realm of men.  As it appears, there is and they are.

The 60-Hour Work Week

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Tim, Lesley and Louise

Tim and Lesley Donohue live in Denver.  Tim is a mortgage banker, Lesley is a nurse, and they both played a meaningful role in bringing Louise, their beautiful newborn baby girl, into this world.  What makes them unique and relevant to this discussion is that they’ve been planning—for years—to also both play a meaningful role in Louise’s day-to-day care into the future.  They intend to accomplish this with Tim working (roughly) 36 hours per week and Lesley 24, co-parenting along the way.  Why 36 and 24?  They’re compelled by the logic of philosopher, author and theology professor, Gilbert Meilaender, who suggests that in order for a family to support itself financially, practically and relationally, the parents’ aggregate occupational efforts should consume no more than 60 hours.  “We simply can’t have it all,” Tim told me.  So he will don the Baby Bjorn while Lesley works two 12-hour shifts per week.  Tim will fill in the gaps with his flexible work schedule, and maybe they’ll need six-to-eight hours of childcare per week.

No, you don’t just up and decide to do this.  Tim’s been planning on it for over a decade, since well before he even met Lesley.  I can corroborate that because I recall him telling me, very specifically, at a coffee shop, about ten years ago, that he was engineering his work-life to accommodate his life-life.  He wanted a job that offered good pay, lots of flexibility and a boss who trusted his employees to get the job done without being micro-managed.  “I wanted a career that was a good expression of who I am, but that also gave me plenty of space to be who I am.”  Fifteen years ago, when he made these career decisions, Tim was a mentor to high school and college youth.  Today, he’s a husband and a father, a son and a brother, a friend to many, and an active member of his community.

But Tim knew it was going to take a lot of effort to put himself in that position.  In a volatile business that is 100% commission, he started socking away money very early.  He knew that an overabundance of income one year could turn into a drought in another, so he worked to save one, and then two full years’ worth of living expenses as an emergency reserve.  He saved cash to buy a car with no debt.  He bought a house in a high cost-of-living area north of Baltimore, and aggressively paid his mortgage down with every shred of excess income, so that when he and Lesley moved to Denver (with a lower cost-of-housing), they were able to buy a house without a mortgage.  In their mid-thirties.  With two years of living expenses saved.

What makes Tim and Lesley so successful in finding a healthy balance between work and life is that they don’t consider it to be a balancing act.  Instead, they have successfully integrated work and life.

Is it possible that our notion of work/life balance implies that these are two opposing forces, and furthermore, that positioning them as competitors creates inertia that keeps them from being more successfully integrated?

Tim and Lesley make it look easy because of their forethought and the deliberate steps they took years ago to make a more integrated personal and financial life possible today, but most of us didn’t do that level of planning and are entrenched in seemingly irrevocable roles today.  Or are we?

Opting-IN

Women may not be the only ones giving up elite Northeastern educations for parenting purposes.  Andrew Ritter has two degrees in geological sciences (one from Colgate) and plied his trade up the stalactite ladder (or would that be stalagmite?) all the way to Project Manager, around the time he met his wife Jennifer, an attorney.  But as Jennifer’s legal career gained momentum, Andrew was burning-out of…whatever it is that geological scientists do.  He decided to punt his degrees and valuable experience, starting up a residential remodeling business, the work he did during college.  Andrew didn’t fall prey to the “Mancession” of late.  He simply decided that killing himself in 70-hour-a-week increments was not the way he was going to spend the majority of his adult waking hours.

Therefore, when baby Wilson and his little brother Ridgely came along, and as Jennifer’s career arc soared, Andrew had the occupational flexibility to opt-IN to being a part-time stay-at-home dad.  “There’s no question,” Ritter told me, “that it has been difficult financially.”  In a high cost-of-living area, they feel sometimes as though they’re just treading water.

“Was it worth it?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t trade these years for any corporate accomplishment.  I get to walk my kids to school every morning, and when Jen is in trial—leaving at 6 am and returning at 2 in the morning—I can be here to make sure everything runs smoothly at home.”

Maybe the key to “having it all” is simply a willingness to redefine our “it all.”  Or maybe the secret is to pursue our “it all” with less.  (Or both?)

Messrs. Ritter and Donohue both agree that the choices they have made are their choices—they’re not universal and worthy of widespread adoption.  But there are themes here that very few of us would dispute:

  • It’s becoming increasingly difficult for a household to live comfortably and save for the future with a sole source of income.
  • Both moms and dads struggle to know exactly how to allocate their time between the individual purposes to which they feel called and their chosen roles as partners and parents.
  • Dedicating ourselves to a work/life ratio that feels out of kilter eats at us, and can leave us dissatisfied with our efforts in the office and at home.

Our attempts to balance work and family have failed.  But resourceful, forward-thinking moms, dads and companies are getting more out of work and life by creatively integrating the two.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know on Twitter at @TimMaurer, and if you’d like to receive my weekly post via email, click HERE.

7 Reasons I Dumped Facebook

facebook-01It’s official.  I’m off the Facebook grid.  Nobody offended me.  I didn’t have a bad experience.  While I’m not thrilled about the idea of Big Brother watching my every move, I’m not particularly paranoid about social media sharing.   Therefore, I’m sharing why I’m dumping Facebook and committing to Twitter and Instagram.

1)     Facebook sucks time from my life, and unlike money, time is a zero sum game (thanks to Laura Vanderkam for reminding us).  Without question, some of the time I spend on Facebook is edifying and life-giving.  For example, my good friend, Nick Selvi—a husband, father, teacher and musician—is stricken with stage four rectal cancer, and his Facebook page keeps me informed of the battle he and his family are waging.  I’ll miss that, but hopefully I’ll be a real friend and call and visit to support him.

2)     Most of my Facebook friends aren’t (actually friends).  They’re not enemies.  It’s not that I wish them ill, but for the majority of them, there’s a reason we don’t associate other than on Facebook.  For most, it’s not because of a geographic disparity or because they don’t have an email address or phone number—it’s because we’re simply not actual…friends.  (This makes me wonder if the reason I initially got on Facebook was actually a matter of pride.  “How many virtual friends can I assemble?”  I appreciated the reminder from Leo Babauta this week that comparing ourselves to others is an exercise in futility.)

3)     There are other (better) options for photo sharing.  Seeing my friends’ and family’s pictures, and sharing my own, is what I like most about Facebook.  A picture and a caption can generate a belly laugh or bring tears to my eyes.  I also know that it is the real-time exchange of family pics that likely inspired 90% of the grandparents who are on Facebook today—so I’m not going to leave them hanging.  Now instead of merely using Instagram to obscure my lack of photographic skill and then upload pictures on Facebook, I’ll simply use Instagram as my photo exchange medium, inviting only family and close friends to follow me there.

4)     Facebook brings out the worst in people.  How I didn’t quit Facebook during the last presidential campaign, I’ll never know.  The willingness of so many to spew half-baked punditry that almost assuredly alienates them from half of their friends—and convinces precisely no one of their opinion—boggles the mind!  Yes, these offenders are buoyed by the 10 Likes they get from the people who think similarly, but scores more harden their opinion in opposition and are likely offended in the process.  (If this point doesn’t resonate with you, you may be an offender.)

5)     I learn more on Twitter.  Twitter is to Facebook as a biography is to a novel.  I know there’s nothing wrong with reading fiction, but I confess that I (wrongly) feel a little guilty when I spend time reading something that didn’t (or won’t) actually happen.  I enjoy being on Twitter, much as I enjoy reading a good biography, but I’m allowed to feel like I’m better for having done so—that I’ve learned something beneficial.  Twitter is now my number one source for hard news and opinions I value, as well as a relational connecting point.  Twitter is more of a resource and less of a popularity contest.  And let’s face it, for all too many, Facebook is really closer to the intellectual or emotional equivalent of eating a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting.  (It’s not good for you.)

6)     The presence of ads on Facebook is getting ridiculous.  I care more about you than the fact that you like Cherry Coke.  I certainly care more about you than whatever Facebook wants me to buy, and it seems like there are increasingly more ads every day.  Am I the only one who notices that?

7)     Less is more.  I’m on a mission to simplify life, to slow it down to a pace at which it can actually be consumed, not just tasted.  I don’t want to hide behind the ubiquitous, “I’m really busy” as a badge of honor.  I want a lower cost of living (not just financially) and a higher quality of life.  I want to limit the number of [things] that compete for my attention so that I can apply more attention to those [things] I care the most about.  Less is the new more.

Goodbye, Facebook.

If you enjoyed this post, please let me know on Twitter at @TimMaurer, and if you’d like to receive my weekly post via email, click HERE.

(And just to keep me out of any potential regulatory hot water, my comments here are regarding Facebook as a service—not an investment.)

Welth: Is It Wurth It?

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of conducting a 40-minute radio interview with one of the great business leaders of our time.  (I’ve split the interview into four ten-minute podcasts, the links for which follow this post.)  Truett Cathy is the founder of Chick-fil-A and the author of several books, most recently, Wealth: Is It Worth It?  He’s well suited to ask and answer that question, because after beginning his restaurant career over 60 years ago with a single eatery, he’s built one of the nation’s most successful and well-loved restaurant chains. But interestingly, an adjective he’s not entirely comfortable putting before his name is “rich.”  He says, “One of the worst things I can imagine someone saying about me is, ‘He’s a rich old man.’”

But it would be hard to argue either of those.  After all, Mr. Cathy is 90 years old and falls at number 375 on the Forbes 400 list, with an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion.  However, he defies his age by going to work nearly every day and carries himself with the humility and grace of a line cook, not the founder and chairman.

Wordplay

Wealth is a hot word these days; especially in the financial services business, everyone wants to be about wealth.  So now, instead of being financial advisors or financial planners, stock brokers, insurance salespeople or bankers, everyone is a wealth manager or wealth consultant.  If you work with them, their commercials suggest you’ll be one of the people golfing all day or travelling around the world on a $1 million sailboat or sitting on the beach (with your wealth manager, of course) toasting the purchase of your new 5000 square foot beach home.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with golf (except that it’s a miserable sport, chasing that little white ball around); and sailing, for those who know how to do it, is sublime; and if you have the money, right now is a great time to be buying a beautiful beach property—but dangling this utopian envy in front of everyone is what I don’t like about the financial industry’s co-opting of the word wealth.

We tend to believe today that the three words “money,” “riches” and “wealth” are generally synonymous, and I do believe that in the contemporary vernacular, they are.  But that wasn’t the initial intent.  Money and riches, if you follow them back to their original root words in ancient languages, always meant something similar to what they mean today.  Wealth, on the other hand, had a much deeper meaning.  It meant enough.  Contentment.

In Wealth: Is It Worth It? Cathy cautions us of the trappings of financial accumulation, giving us insight into how living through the Great Depression and seeing his own father left emotionally destitute by his inability to provide for his family in that incredibly difficult time informed his own belief system around money.  Far from demonizing dollars, he gives us a framework for virtuous money dealings grounded in Solomonic wisdom.  (Cathy is unabashed in sharing that his money philosophy is grounded in his Christian faith, but he also draws on wisdom from sources neither canonized nor ordained and never seems to get preachy.)

Is it worth it?

But Mr. Cathy isn’t convinced wealth is worth it even after you “earn wealth honestly,” “spend wealth wisely and save it reasonably.”  Even then, we still have the capacity to let wealth accumulation overtake us.  He concludes that the only way wealth is really worth it is “…if you give it generously.”

While this resonates as truth, I admit my skeptical self wants to conclude it’s easy for those blessed with abundance, like Cathy, to admonish the rest of us on the value of charity.  Even he acknowledges it’s unlikely that his children or grandchildren will ever suffer from want.  But having now read his personal and financial story and talked with him, I find not an ounce of inconsistency or inauthenticity.  He applied the same approach to money when living through the Great Depression and standing over the grill in his first restaurant as he does today encouraging us to deconstruct and rebuild our view of affluence.  I also cannot think of a time personally, or with hundreds of clients over the years, in which this particular proverb did not hold true: “If I give water to others, I will never be thirsty.”

One of the highlights of Wealth: Is It Worth It? is an interview Cathy conducted with a friend he has forged in pursuit of his campaign for generosity, the venerable Warren Buffett.  He asks, “Warren, how do you define wealth?”  Buffett answers, “Wealth is having enough.”  Interesting, isn’t it, how wisdom changes so little even over thousands of years.  There is plenty of money out there and a lot of riches, but whether among the rich or the poor, we could all use more enough.

There are many more life-giving tidbits you’ll find throughout my radio interview with Truett Cathy.  The show is organized into some bite-size portions below:

1)     Introduction: A blessing to some and a curse to others 
2)     Friendship w/ Warren Buffett; money and children
3)     Truett’s father; living through Depression; discomfort w/ being rich
4)     “Retirement is misery!”; Chick-fil-A’s secret; when to start giving

Check out comedian, Tim Hawkins, hysterical ode to his favorite restaurant, Chick-fil-A!

Minimize Meetings

by Jim Stovall

Every few days, I am asked to serve on a board or committee somewhere in the world.  I immediately reject virtually all of these requests, not because the opportunities or causes are not valid, but because many boards and committees tend to be inefficient, ineffective, and unproductive.

The lack of productivity does not come from the members of the boards or committees not being talented, committed, or dedicated.  The lack of productivity comes from the fact that boards and committees, by their very nature, exist to have regular meetings.

If we are to succeed in business or in life, we should never confuse activity with productivity.  Productivity is the constant progress toward a worthwhile goal, utilizing a well-thought-out plan.  Activity is quite simply any task that takes up time and creates work.  A hamster running around the wheel in his cage demonstrates great activity but no productivity.

I would be the first to admit there are times that a face-to-face meeting or the process of getting together a group of stakeholders is vital to success; but having the Monday morning meeting, the monthly committee session, or quarterly advisory board review are most often a recipe for wholesale ongoing activity with little chance of any meaningful productivity.

Never hold a meeting if a call will suffice, and never have a call if an email will meet your needs, and never send an email when doing nothing is likely to garner the same results.  This activity hierarchy should be used any time someone tries to corral a large portion of your productive time and turn it into a regularly-scheduled meeting which is virtually guaranteed to make you feel like the hamster running feverishly on the little wheel.

Following are some ways to stay as far toward productivity and away from activity as possible:

  • Reject all invitations to join a board or committee unless there is a specific, well-defined reason that you need to participate that will result in progress toward a meaningful goal which cannot be achieved any other way.
  • Avoid meetings by asking if you can participate via conference call or, better yet, send in your thoughts and input via email.
  • Unless otherwise compelled to do so by your employer, do not post your appointment calendar online where anyone can get to it.  Those huge blocks of unencumbered time where you were looking forward to being creative and productive can be gobbled up and commandeered by anyone in a meeting or committee frenzy.

As you go through your day today, define for yourself what is important, and avoid exchanging productivity for activity.

Today’s the day!

Work and Play

by Jim Stovall

Too many people in the workforce separate their lives into two separate and distinct categories.  They compartmentalize their days into the hours of drudgery and clock watching that represents their job and the freedom that exists when they get to their own leisure and recreation time.

People who work five days per week to get two days of a weekend or who work 50 weeks out of the year to get two weeks of vacation are missing the joy and satisfaction that comes from enjoying their work.

Mark Twain said that the secret to success is making your vocation your vacation.  Twain knew that enjoying your work will not only make you happier, it will make you successful.  If you are in a job or business that you do not enjoy, and you are competing with people who enjoy their work, you are doomed to failure.  You may have the talent and skill to succeed, but your competition who enjoys their work will always prevail in the end.

People who enjoy their work are more efficient, creative, and productive.  If you find yourself in a job you do not enjoy, it doesn’t mean you have to quit today, but it should indicate that you need to start making some changes in your life that will result in you doing work that you enjoy.

If you are among the unfortunate who do not love your job, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Are there parts of your work or your job that you do enjoy?  Maybe you can focus more on this work and make arrangements to make it a larger part of your job description.
  2. Are there jobs available within your organization that you feel would give you satisfaction, and you would enjoy doing?  If so, you may want to consider a transfer, even if it is a lateral move or step down within the organization.
  3. Is there a job or profession you have always wanted to pursue?  If so, what educational or training steps could you take now to prepare yourself to make the move later?
  4. If you don’t know what kind of work would make you happy, think of the things you enjoy in your leisure or personal time, and imagine how components of those activities could make up a job or business somewhere in your community.

As you go through your day today, realize that you can never be totally successful within your profession until you enjoy the work that you do.

Today’s the day!

The Seamless Life

If you noticed my conspicuous silence over the past couple weeks, it was because I went on a family vacation that was largely "unplugged."  Just prior, I contributed a short post including a handful of facts regarding the amount of time we spend working during our lifetimes (101,568 hours, to be exact) with an equal number of questions posed to you.  Through the blog comments, Tweets, Facebook mentions and emails in response, a number of very interesting thoughts were raised.

You better like what you do!

Work_life_balance_sign2 One reader summed it up simply saying, “Work hard and play hard!”  Another, Greg Rittler, quoted a wise mentor of his: “You spend 50% of your time and 80% of your energy at work—you better like what you do!” 

Indeed, it seems many people with options at their disposal deem the pursuit of a vocation about which they are passionate (the advice of another reader, Nathan Gehring) either a myth or an unworthy aim.  Why is that?  Do we rank stability or comfort or perceived safety above a path more meaningful to us?  In short, yes.  Even my college students—around 40 accounting majors each semester—rank job security as the number one reason for their chosen professions in an informal survey I conduct each semester.  They haven’t even graduated yet, and they’ve already shelved their dream job for job security!?

One thoughtful reader, Brian, described my initial post as depressing; and rightly so if we view our time working only as a facilitator of those moments spent outside of work.  Interestingly, he described his current job (online trading) as something separate from the path of a “real job,” already lamenting the time when he may be forced to re-enter in the “rat race.” 

We live a life with too many seams.

And herein lies the fundamental dilemma at the core of this discussion of purpose and passion in our vocations—we live a life with too many seams.  Work vs. Life.  Work vs. Family.  Work vs. Faith.  Family vs. Friends.  Family vs. Service.  (You get the idea.)

I recently conducted a client meeting in which I may have received more wisdom than I was able to impart.  I met with a married couple, each spouse in their 70s.  When broached with the topic of retirement, they both viewed it as an unattractive, if not foreign, concept.  This is not because they absolutely need the money (although it doesn’t hurt, of course), but because their vocations are simply an extension of who they are.  Mrs. Client is an educator—both by personality and profession—endowing generations of college students with her wealth of knowledge and life experience.  Mr. Client leads an entity providing an incredibly valuable community service to the city he calls home.  What greater purpose could they serve retiring, prior to health forcing an occupational retreat?

There was a time in my life when I was acting as many different people.  At home, I was one person.  At school, I was another, and at work, yet another.  With friends from school, I acted a certain way and with friends from church I was different, and so on.  This was followed by an extended period of rebellion, during which I practically sought to disappoint or offend each various crowd with actions contrary to their standards or expectations (I “can’t wait” for my boys to go through that stage!). 

Reconciliation

The last 12 (or so) years, I’ve been attempting to reconcile who I am with what I do, what I say, and how I do it and say it.  Yes, that means I’ve walked away from several different companies and career paths—some because they changed or I became more aware, but also because I changed.  Of course, after 12 years of that daily pursuit, I’m still a green novice, but I’m buoyed by those who live an unabashed life and inspire others to do the same.  (Check out Chris Guillebeau, Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Donald Miller, Leo Babauta, Derek Sivers, Tim Ferriss, Carl Richards, Rob Bell , Pat Goodman, and Jim Stovall, among MANY others, all focused from their own unique perspective on the truth that life is best lived honestly and deliberately.)

Mine is a biased perspective and I have an unfair advantage—my boss, Drew Tignanelli, is also a friend and mentor who is a student of personality distinctions.  He understands me so well that he expects and welcomes my unpredictable evolution.  He’s created an environment in which both employees and our company benefit when circumstances or people change.  If you’re an employer, I urge you to foster such an environment, and if you’re an employee, I encourage you to seek an employer that rewards (and not stifles) creativity and growth…or create it yourself. 

But one friend reminded me that while many people may have the choice of diverging from their original career plans for something more fulfilling, others don’t have that option available, due to a lack of means or ability.  What should they do? To those unable to take that genuine leap of faith in a revelatory moment, I recommend taking just one step in the direction of that which draws you closer to a seamless life, and then follow it with another…and another…      

Announcement coming next week!

In next week’s post, I’ll be making a big announcement that will coincide with an entirely new look for TimMaurer.com.  I hope you’ll check in!

 

“This Isn’t Russia.”

Caddyshack-300x225In the midst of a mentoring session with Danny Noonan on the golf course, Ty Webb, Chevy Chase’s character in Caddyshack, instructs Danny, “You don’t have to go to college.  This isn’t Russia.  Is this Russia?  This isn’t Russia.”  Jim Stovall and I thought you may need a bit more instruction than this on the matter, so we dedicated a chapter to education planning and saving for education in The Financial Crossroads.  We’d like to share some of our contrarian thoughts with you for this week’s Crossroads Conversation…

From Chapter Fourteen: If Cost Were No Object:

2009-porsche-911-carrera-s

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor at Automobile Magazine said, “When someone asks me what car I’d buy if cost were no object, I pretty much always say the 911.”  Ms. Skogstrom is referring to the Porsche 911, the iconic sports car to best all sports cars.  The magazine was reviewing Porsche’s newest creation, the 2009 911 Carrera 4S.  I can remember as a boy, too young to even drive, having one of those hypothetical daydreams as I thumbed through a magazine of sports cars, picturing a wealthy philanthropist walking up to me and saying, “Hey kid, I’ll buy you any car in that magazine——the cost is no object.”  In that recurring daydream, I too have always answered, “The 911.”  There’s just something about it.  But alas, when it comes to automobiles, cost is an issue, so I’ll not be parting with the $109,000 that would be required to buy the 2009 Carrera 4S, “as tested.”

There are very few things in life for which we could actually say money is no object.  The health and welfare of my family is the first that comes to my mind. But even then, I confess that I certainly have allowed money into my decision-making process.  I have, for instance, chosen a pediatrician who is in my health insurance network.  Is there a better pediatrician that may offer a concierge medical service independent of insurance hassles?  Possibly, but I haven’t explored those options because I know the cost is quite high.  For most decisions in life, money may not be the primary driving force in our decision, but we delude ourselves if we claim that it is a forgotten non-factor.

This is no more evident than in the realm of education.  Does education have a price?  As parents, do we owe our children a particular educational path?  Is a college education an entitlement or a privilege?  Before we jump headlong into this debate, let me clarify a few things.  Learning has inherent value that is incalculable.  Education is one of the primary ways that we learn.  I don’t, even for a second, want you to receive a message suggesting that education is overrated.  I teach on the college level and believe that it is one of the more important things that I do in life, but I don’t believe that any and all education is priceless.

Financial Planning for Fathers

Tm1  I’ve learned more about life in the last 6 years than in the previous 28 combined.  It was 6 years ago when I became a father, and I now have two incredible boys—Kieran and Connor—who’ve likely taught me more than I them.  Parenting is a glorious challenge that tests every area of our lives—our marriage, family, and friendships, as well as our productivity, creativity and often times our mental stability!  Financially, being a father is… expensive.  And for those dads who have a tendency to evaluate financial expenditures as a “return on investment,” the return on investment in our children presents a confounding dilemma.  After all, the expense is cold hard cash and the return is nebulous and may not be realized for decades.  

In the end, we dads must relinquish our desire for tangible benefits of parenting and pour our life (and often
Tm2   times, our money) into these little ones, unconditionally.  It is through this sacrifice that we begin to realize that the real benefits of parenting have nothing to do with dollars and cents, but instead intangible blessings and unexplainable joy.  And who wouldn’t trade that—dollars for lasting joy?  Fathering, then, turns out to be an incredible investment after all!

Practically, here are four financial planning areas that every dad needs to address:

Will – Most of us dads think that we’re generally indestructible, but the truth is that the one thing we can be sure of in life is that we will eventually… die.  That inevitability requires us to have a will.  And especially for fathers of young children, the most important financial planning recommendation in your world is to acquire or update a will—most importantly, to stipulate who your children’s legal guardian will be in the case of your untimely demise. 

Life Insurance – The one thing that many dislike almost as much as the thought of their own death is the notion of talking to a life insurance agent.  But the truth remains that if we would be leaving behind a spouse and children who are at least partly reliant on our very existence for our portion of the household, we need some life insurance.  The vast majority of us will ably fulfill our life insurance needs with TERM life insurance.

Education Planning – As dads, we’re not legally or ethically bound to pay for our children’s college education, but if that is something that we’ve pledged to do, we should save for it so that it doesn’t wipe us out once our kids start graduating from high school.  Consider saving 50% of your expected college expenses in a 529 college investment savings plan.

Work/Life Balance – Dads tend to put a lot of weight into our role to “provide and protect” in our households, but if we’re to be honest, we’d acknowledge that we occasionally abdicate ourselves from other roles and duties in the household.  Simply put, our kids grow up fast, and if we make them feel like our work is the most important thing in the world, they’ll quite naturally conclude that they aren’t.  Adults understand the difference between the quality of time and the quantity—but for kids, it’s often just about the quantity!

I had an opportunity to share these same thoughts with viewers of WBAL-TV (NBC) in Baltimore yesterday – Father's Day.  If you want to view the video simply click HERE or click the image!

TM - WBAL - June 20, 2010