A father and son count cash dollar bills and coins

Financial advice from dad

Jun 15, 2021
Empower Insights

Whether you need help changing a flat tire, replacing a sprinkler head or stopping a leaky faucet, dad is likely your first call  

He’s Mr. Fix-It for a reason.

But studies show Dad is also often the go-to option when it comes to building a durable financial strategy and developing strong money skills. While some dads say, “When you pay the rent, you can make the rules” over and over, many actually pride themselves on providing their children with real direction. That includes, for instance, giving valuable advice on budgeting, saving and investing.1

“My dad always set the example,” says Jim Frelinger, a human resources professional. “When I was growing up, he made sure my sister and I understood how important it was to stay prepared for the future.”

Frelinger’s dad, who served in the U.S. military, relied on a consistent approach from the moment he joined the armed forces.  

His recipe for success?

“He would put 10% of his annual salary away for a ‘rainy’ day,” says Frelinger, who now has a son and a daughter of his own. “He learned that from (my grandpa), who managed to raise six kids and retire at age 57. That philosophy has been ingrained in me from the very beginning. It’s something I still try to do.”

As he’s gotten older, Frelinger has worked hard to keep the 10% tradition alive. In fact, as soon as he was hired at his current company, he immediately began contributing 10% to his 401(k) account. “That number has always been in the back of my mind,” he says. At one point in his career, Frelinger even took it a step further by allocating 1% of every merit increase he received from his employer toward his nest egg.  

“It adds up fast,” Frelinger says.

Meanwhile, Frelinger is also following in his dad’s footsteps when it comes to padding his own rainy day fund.  

Like most experts suggest, Frelinger typically aims to have enough reserved to cover three to six months’ worth of his normal bils.2 It’s a just-in-case stash he only dips into when he’s faced with an unexpected expense, such as an auto repair. After all, as his dad taught him, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“You never know what can happen,” he says. “Having some extra cash on the side is one less thing to worry about in life.”

A father and daughter divide coins between several mason jars for savings

What other tricks and traits did Frelinger pick up from his dad along the way?

Celebrate Father’s Day with these simple tips:


There may be no better feeling than purchasing a brand new vehicle. The smell, style and shine are hard to beat , and many see that feeling as an attainable financial goal.

However, just as quickly as you cruise off the lot in your smooth ride, its price will start to decline at a similar speed. Research reveals that a new car can decrease in value by hundreds — and even thousands — of dollars by the time you arrive home. In your initial year of ownership alone, it can depreciate by 20%.3

“I was always told to buy used,” says Frelinger, who drives a compact that had 30,000 miles on it when he bought it.

“It may be ‘old,’ but it’s a good deal.”


The bigger, the better.  

When Frelinger was a kid, his family often vacationed in larger crews in an effort to pinch pennies on a middle-class income. That included seeking out every promotion or bargain they could find, such as taking advantage of the group packages offered by the local community organization. “We were frugal,” he says.

Rightfully so, of course. Today, a summer trip can total more than $2,000 when you factor in food, lodging and transportation.If you’re like most Americans and depend on a credit card for certain costs, you could also rack up over $1,000 in debt.4 Going in with your friends, neighbors or siblings and booking a getaway together may be a more affordable way to see the world while sticking to your financial itinerary.5


For generations, saving has run in the Frelinger family.

So Frelinger is doing his best to share the financial advice he gained from his grandpa and his dad with his own kids, who are “definitely aware of the 10% rule.” In addition to opening separate accounts for them when they were younger, he’s also encouraged them to stay smart with any money they receive as gifts for holidays, birthdays and milestones. His main message? “Keep some for fun and deposit some for later.”

They’ve listened, too.

“My son just started his first job at a restaurant,” Frelinger says. “He’s using his tips for spending and putting the rest in the bank.”


Start saving today with an Empower Investment Account

1 Lending Tree, Jacqueline Demarco, “Dads Are the No. 1 Source of Financial Advice, Survey Reveals,” June 2019.

2 Empower Retirement, “How much emergency fund do you really need,” March 2020.  

3 Carfax, Rick Popely, ”Car Depreciation: How Much It Costs You,” February 2021.

4 Nerd Wallet, Erin El Issa, “Family Vacations Can Mean Big Costs and Little Lies,” April 2018.

5 Empower Retirement, “Savings tips for mapping out your next summer vacation,” September 2020.

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