WSJ: What I Learned from Dad About Money


Listen up. It's Father's Day, and, believe it or not, the old man still knows his way around the block. He still has a few lessons worth learning.

So The Wall Street Journal Sunday asked some really, really smart people in the business and financial world what they learned at home.

The question: What did you learn from Dad about money and finance?

The answers (in a nutshell): Work hard, save your money and diversify your investments.

There. And what dad would disagree?

Sheila Bar
Ms. Bair had a long career in government, including serving as the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. She joined the Pew Charitable Trusts last year as a senior adviser.

Ms. Bair says she learned from her father's mistakes: Don't trade stocks actively. "He couldn't help himself, especially after retiring," she says. "He'd read every research report and traded actively." That, she says, contrasted with her mother, who beat him using a buy-and-hold strategy.

Jack Bogle
Mr. Bogle founded the Vanguard 500 Index fund in 1975, which promoted the use of index investing as a low-cost way to play the stock market.

It was a radical idea at the time, when most funds were actively managed by people who picked stocks. The problem was active management cost more and didn't perform better.

At the end of 2011, Vanguard Group managed $1.7 trillion in assets, focused on keeping fund expenses low.

Keeping costs low seems to be something he learned in his youth. During the Depression, his family used to receive demand notices from the finance company that was trying to collect past-due bills, he explains.

"I remember them like yesterday," he says. The big take-away: "Never get into debt."

Jim Rogers
Mr. Rogers describes himself as a "hard-core unemployed, international investor" and author of A Gift to My Children: A Father's Lessons for Life and Investing. He's perhaps better known for co-founding the Quantum Fund with George Soros in 1973.

He says he learned very early the importance of saving and had jobs at an early age. "Money doesn't grow on trees," he says. "You have to work for it and save," he says, noting that his father even made him pay for his own baseball glove.

Barton Biggs
Mr. Biggs is the managing partner of Traxis Partners, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund. He spent 30 years with Morgan Stanley, most notably as chief global strategist.

When Mr. Biggs expressed an interest in the investment business, his father, the chief investment officer at Bank of New York, gave him a copy of "Security Analysis" by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd.

"When I'd read it he told me to read it again and underline it and only then would he talk with me," Mr. Biggs says. "He was trying to inculcate in me the philosophy of value investing."

Laura Tyson
Ms. Tyson was National Economic Adviser to President Bill Clinton and chair of the National Economic Council from 1995 to 1996. She is on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley and is a professor of global management at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.

"The first thing I ever remember from him was that investing in education was the single most important thing you can ever do," she says. He studied accounting, she explains.

Larry Summers
Mr. Summers has economics in his DNA. His father, University of Pennsylvania economist Robert Summers, died in April at the age of 89.

His mother, Anita Arrow Summers, is also an economist, as are two Nobel Memorial Prize-winning uncles, Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow.

Mr. Summers was Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton and director of President Obama's National Economic Council. He was president of Harvard University, where he is still on the faculty.

Mr. Summers says he was a bit of a geek with a dad who was a bit of a geek. "I learned about the theory of portfolio diversification at a young age—that I should not put all my eggs in one basket."

Bill Gross
Mr. Gross is known as the king of the bond market.

He controls the management of $1.7 trillion of securities through Pacific Investment Management (Pimco), the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm he founded in 1971.

"I was raised by a father of the Depression who learned and taught me by example that hard work is a necessary condition not only for survival, but happiness," says Mr. Gross. "He blessed me with his [work] ethic and allowed me to continue on for as long as my two feet will carry me."

Muriel Siebert
Ms. Siebert, the daughter of a dentist, became the first female member of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, the same year she founded her brokerage firm. From 1977 through 1982, she was New York state's Superintendent of Banks. In 2010, American Banker Magazine named her one of the "25 Most Powerful Women in Finance."

"Money really wasn't talked about," she says. "It wasn't the right thing to do."

Still, she learned about it through a savings passbook. "They would mark your savings book so that you could see your savings go from $33 to $36," she says. "I didn't learn about money any other than the way it added up in the savings book…and what it could buy you."

Michael Spence
Mr. Spence shared a Nobel Memorial Prize in 2001 with George Ackerlof and Joseph Stiglitz for work on market theory. He's a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business.

"My father was in the academic world and was also a partner in a merchant bank in Toronto," he says. "He was part academic, part practitioner. He had a very rigorous mind, made sure I learned math as a kid."

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