A guest post from Shell Tain, the Untangler of Sensible Coaching, in Portland Oregon.
The story is all about me and my dad, A. C. Royden Stone, known as Stoney. A little bit of context about Dad and money. My dad was born in Oklahoma in 1925, and he lived through the dust bowl as a little kid. My grandparents moved to Wyoming in the 30’s and opened a ‘lunch room’ which was run by the family. Dad served in WWII and was a POW held in a German prison camp. When my parents first met he was riding the rodeo circuit and dealing poker for a living. By the time I was five he had sold insurance, had ‘made it rain’ for farmers in Washington by selling ‘seeding clouds’ and was managing a Pepsi plant in Minnesota.
He was what one calls a ‘self-made’ man. Later in life he went on to become a TV producer, manage cable TV systems, and—even later—motels. This background sets the stage for his relationship with money. He always had a bunch of cash, and was likely to buy a round for the bar. I don’t think he ever really tracked it or accounted for it—which makes his earnest and engaging methods of getting me both comfortable and savvy with it all the more remarkable. I was an only child, born in the early 50’s, and a girl. He wanted to make sure I was smart and self sufficient when it came to money.
He started me early, and he made it engaging, fun, and emotionally rewarding. When I was really young it was more about numbers than money. The tool he used then was to teach me how to play poker. Important life lessons were learned through learning old gambling terms—about “breasting your cards” (not flapping them around), and “not betting on the cards to come” (assuming the right cards will show in the next deal). Really good things to know in addition to the numbers piece.
When I started getting an allowance part of the deal was that in order to get the allowance I had to keep a ledger of my spending. It had two columns: Income and Outgo. If it was up to date and balanced, I got my allowance. The brilliant part here was that he had no judgement around what I spent, he just wanted me to account for it. Trust me, if this had been my Mother, she would have had judgement about every entry, and I would have not been able to succeed. I think that was an inherent part of his strategy, he wanted me to feel good about this money stuff, so he framed it in a way that I would.
Amazingly it was only a couple of years ago while talking to a client about my dad’s ‘money training’ that I had a clear insight about this one thing he did. He would borrow money from me on a Friday night in order to take my mother out. This started when I was about nine. I was delighted to help my dad! I felt so ‘grown up’. And he would always pay me back on Monday with interest, so there was that cool idea of ‘investing’ thrown in there. What I didn’t realize, but am now sure of is that he never actually needed to borrow the money! He ALWAYS had a wad of cash. He was doing this so I would learn about money. Yay, Dad!
There were other examples and the last one I’ll share is no doubt his favorite! I was about 13 and wanted a sewing machine. My dad said that if I saved half the money he’d give me the other half. I saved and saved money from baby sitting for quite awhile—in those days baby sitting was 50 cents to a dollar an hour! When I had the money together I went to Dad and he asked how much the machine I wanted was. I said: “$125.00”, and he said: “Okay, then I’ll give you $62.50” to which I said: “No, just give me $60.00. I want owning interest.” In that moment he was the happiest man on earth. He had successfully taught me about money!
It is no wonder that I ended up an accountant. The actual magic is that I ended up a Money Coach. See, my deeper nature is not about crunching the numbers but about understanding why people do what they do. So with the great relationship that my dad helped me create with money, I was not only able to manage and understand money, but to notice when others were bewildered by it. When another executive I worked with came into my office one day and, after closing the door, sat down and said: “Shell, I need your help, I can’t balance my checkbook!”, I knew that this was not a skill set issue. It was deeper than a method—it was in his head. That was just another event that led me to my current career of helping people untangle their money knots…and fundamentally, without my dad and his loving care in helping me be at ease with money, that would never have happened. I’ll love him forever, for that, and so much more.