Fatherly financial advice you can use all year round.
For many people, the best financial advice has often come from a source they know well: their dad. In honor of Father’s Day, we wanted to provide some good fatherly advice to share from someone at Commerce Bank. As for who that person would be, the obvious choice for us was someone who has been a father figure to many Commerce team members during his long tenure at the bank, Chuck Kim.
Kim is the chief financial officer for Commerce Bancshares (Commerce Bank’s parent company), which means he is responsible for all financial functions of the company and leads multiple lines of business. As he is proud to mention, he is also a father of three and grandfather to five – with a sixth grandchild on the way. He enjoys having lots of little ones around – “I love babies; I’m a real baby guy,” he says – and considers himself lucky that all of his kids and grandkids live in St. Louis, as he does.
“On weekends we do a family supper, and it’s absolute chaos,” Kim says.
“My kids, their spouses, five grandkids, everyone’s there. It’s loud, and it’s great. I love seeing everyone all together. The grandkids enjoy being with each other and seeing them connect is amazing.”
Kim adds that as he gets older, he often contemplates the impact he wants to have on the lives of his loved ones. “Watching everyone grow up, you think about the legacy you want to leave,” he says. “I think about the values I want my kids and grandkids to hold to over time.”
That philosophy extends to financial guidance as well. By his own admission, Kim has given a lot of fatherly advice about money to his kids over the years, and he looks forward to sharing his wisdom with his grandkids, once they’re old enough to be ready for savings accounts that aren’t shaped like a pig.
In the meantime, Kim was more than happy to generously share some of the knowledge he’s acquired over his many years at Commerce on a variety of subjects.
“Establishing and handling credit responsibly over time is key. It starts with using a credit card responsibly early in life, then maybe an installment loan for a car, and that eventually builds into buying a first home and managing all the financial intricacies involved with that. Handling credit responsibly early on is important; it lays a foundation for later. Also, if you want to go into business for yourself at some point, having good credit as an individual helps you establish credit for your business.”
Saving money and investing for retirement.
“Start early. Take advantage of 401k plans that your employer offers and make sure you’re putting enough into it to maximize whatever match exists. The fact that 401k money is hard to touch helps with discipline – you’re less likely to spend it. You can also borrow against it, which is nice. So, start with the 401k. Any extra money you have available after that, start setting it aside in a savings account – something really liquid – until you have two or three months of living expenses saved. Once you get to that point, then you can take anything extra and invest it in whatever will give you the best returns.”
Avoiding bad debt.
“Generally speaking, debt you incur to pay for a house you can afford and maintain is good debt. The same is true for a loan to get a reliable car that you need to get around and get to your job. Debt for luxury items, that’s more questionable. I define a luxury item as anything you want but don’t really need. I think those items should always be paid for in cash; save the money first, then buy. If you can eventually do the same with cars – buying them with cash – that can save you a ton of money. The same is true if you can afford a 15-year mortgage.”
“Don’t be house-poor. I don’t want to buy the biggest house if I can’t afford to fill it with furniture. Buy something that you can afford today, not what you hope to be able to afford in a few years. And set aside money each month for maintenance. If you can’t maintain your house, you’ll miss out on getting the most value for it when you sell.”
“Avail yourself of all the life insurance your employer offers. That’s usually the cheapest way to buy it. Beyond that, you need to assess your personal responsibilities and determine if you need to put any additional insurance in place. You want to have enough to take care of your family if need be. Life insurance is very important to have early in life.”
“Crypto is very high-risk. It’s very volatile. Don’t put any money in it until you have your emergency fund built up and have retired any high-interest debt you have. You also shouldn’t do it until you’re well established in terms of systematically saving for retirement or other obligations like your kids’ education. Only put money into crypto if you can afford to lose it. And don’t put money in there if you may need to get it out quickly.”
Your biggest financial regret.
“Like many young couples, there was a time when my wife and I had too much credit card debt. Repeatedly buying things you can’t afford and getting yourself extended in credit can take years to pay off – avoid it at all costs. There were times when more money was going to service debt than doing good things for my family.”
The best financial advice from your own father.
“My dad wasn’t a big finance guy. He probably never owned a mutual fund, much less a stock. But he taught me to work hard. He believed the best path to doing well financially was to work for it and be careful with the money you earn – don’t waste it. That’s the way he lived, and he set a great example for me.”
There’s nothing quite like fatherly advice when it comes to finance. And while Chuck Kim may not be your father, the wisdom shared here is yours to apply to your own financial future as you see fit. Best of all, you don’t have to wait until Father’s Day to use it.
- The Dads of Commerce share thoughts on pandemic-era fatherhood.
- Tips from Commerce moms on preparing financially for kids.