As I get older I find that I value material things a lot less. I am still partial to gadgets, but soft things like conversations, walks – experiences – have started to matter to me a lot more than things. My writing was supposed to be about investing, how to make $2 out of $1, but existential topics have lately had a greater appeal for me than discussions about stocks or the economy.
Writing this scribble that I’m about to share with you was very difficult, because while I was writing it I kept asking myself “Am I a good father?” and I was not sure of the answer.
Being a Father?
Dana Carvey on when you most feel loved in your life:
“When humans started to call me Dad. That is the word that gets me. You are famous to a billion people but only three people call you Dad!”
I have a client. Her husband was a second-generation American, a Yale-educated lawyer who worked in the family business that was started by his father, a Russian immigrant. Four years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. He put up a great fight, but cancer won, and a year later he was gone, at 66.
He left $100 million, which went to his wife, son and daughter (the kids are in their late 20s). I had a meeting with the family recently. The son’s wife was a few days away from giving birth to a baby girl. As the son and I were talking about his upcoming fatherhood, I asked him what kind of father he wants to be. He said, “I don’t want to be like my father.” I was a bit surprised and asked why.
After my father passed away, his friends would tell me how he was this larger-than-life, gregarious man. I never saw that man. My father worked 16 hour days, seven days a week. He worked in the basement – he’d come up for dinner and go back down. He never spent time with me or my sister. My mom did everything, from driving us to school to taking me to football practice. I always felt like I was raised by my mother. I don’t want to be like that. I want to be there for my kids.
He went on,
My father thought till the last moment that he’d beat the cancer, and so he never expressed his true feelings to me or my sister. A year later my father’s friend told me that my father confided in him that he wished he’d spent more time with us kids.
Listening to him, I felt a sudden urge to run home and hug my children. I also felt enormous sadness. I was thinking, what if he had worked eight or maybe even ten hours a day instead of 16 and had left his kids a $10-million pile rather than $100 million? Would it really have made a difference for his kids’ lives? They are wonderful, thoughtful young adults who don’t have pretentious lifestyles (they live in $200,000 houses and drive modest cars). His son would probably trade all his money for a father who was there for him.
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I am the CEO at IMA, which is anything but your average investment firm. (Why? Get our company brochure here, or simply visit our website).
In a brief moment of senility, Forbes magazine called me “the new Benjamin Graham.”
I’ve written two books on investing, which were published by John Wiley & Sons and have been translated into eight languages. (I’m working on a third - you can read a chapter from it, titled “The 6 Commandments of Value Investing” here).
And if you prefer listening, audio versions of my articles are published weekly at investor.fm.