Dad’s Frugality

My parents have always been frugal. When I was younger, I thought of them as cheap. Miserly often. Don’t get me wrong — there was always food on the table and I had comforts I took for granted, frankly. It’s just that I graduated from an affluent high school where my peers were driving Porsche’s. I drove Chevy’s. A 1966 Impala my junior year and a 1979 Chevette my senior year. I was mortified. My friends would fly out to Colorado over winter break for some skiing and would go down to Panama Beach for spring break. I stayed home. We took occasional summer vacation trips, usually to visit family, but otherwise my parents took very few trips, instead depending on television and movies to fulfill their travel fantasies. When I went to college, I pledged the most prestigious fraternity. It allowed in two public school kids a year. I was one of them. Everyone’s parents were country club rich and they all seemed to drive a Mercedes. By then, I was driving an Olds. I was mortified. We wouldn’t go out to eat or to movies. Dad believed in putting money away for retirement. He hammered that home to me so many times, that if I had a dollar for every time he told me that, I’d be rich now. Unfortunately, I’ve always had bad spending habits. When I had the money, I spent it. When I was out of work, I cashed in my 401K to make it to the next job. I don’t have much saved. My parents lived in a modest house, although it was nice and in a distinctly middle class neighborhood. When they moved from Knoxville to Chattanooga to be near me, they “down sized” to a smaller house and saved money that way. They were retired by then, so it mattered. Dad spent a lot of money on one venture, and I’ve been worried about their financial future. Dad apparently had been too. He spent the last two years looking for a job, before getting a part time job as a driver for Enterprise three months ago. It had to be humiliating for him, because he’d been in a position of authority in a white collar business for 50 years. Still, he said he needed the money. I haven’t been able to work due to health concerns, although I’ve been looking recently, so he had been helping me out financially, which made me feel guilty, because he could ill afford it.

So imagine my surprise when Mom and I went to meet with Dad’s financial adviser after his death and found out he had stashed a pretty decent sum of money away all these years! Mom won’t have to worry at all, and I’m hoping she’ll be around for 20-25 more years. (She’s 83.) He did well. His frugality paid off. He was a great example and I feel like I’ve been a disappointment to him because I wasn’t able — and in some cases, willing — to follow his example. I have an average life insurance policy, so that if I should die, Gretchen would have something, but it’s not enough and I know it. Of course, we all wish Dad were still here. It’s been over two weeks now and I’m still trying to get used to the fact that he’s dead. We all are. But Dad did well. I’m proud of him. And now I’m somewhat upset that they didn’t use some of their money to take some of the trips they wanted to take. Oh well. Life goes on.