Twenty Year-Old Father Taught Me About Financial Responsibility In 30 minutes



Financial responsibility follows you for life and one young father shares his life plans with me and with two powerful words “He wants” becoming the driving force behind his journey in all aspects of life.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What would you do differently if you could go back in time?” I have, and knowing what I know now there would be some changes to the way that I save money, earn money and invest it.

My life was automated because I was so focused on school and working that even I may have paid more than I should have at times. Financial Responsibility was nothing my fellow University friends would think about while in school. It was no big deal to blow money down at the pub or to take a girl out on a lavish date with all the trimmings. Money was no object when it was given by the bank of mum and dad.

When I was in my early twenties I bought my first house then sold it to buy a bigger house. I wanted in the real estate game big-time and that meant that I had to get a jump-start at a young age.

Related: How I bought my first home at age 21

Not many young kids have real estate on their to-do list these days. Shortage of money for a down-payment is a main reason but most kids want to enjoy their younger years and not worry about “adult responsibility” which translates into “financial responsibility”.

It’s more about “Student life” which equates to finishing school, gaining experience and travelling the world before planning to settle down and possibly starting a family. The problem is many of these life-seekers don’t have the cash to back their life-style but feel they are entitled to it. You can’t live on a dream when it comes to money. Either you have it or you don’t so stop pretending that it will fall from the sky. I can assure you, it won’t.

Everything that has to do with becoming an adult starts with a dream, goals and money. Not all millennials are not focused on buying the house because education and career comes first. Not everyone does it in that order, I didn’t but for the most part financial responsibility is the furthest thing for some of them when it should be the first thing on their minds. They don’t teach this stuff in school you know.

It always amazes me when I hear young adults say how they are in debt and there is no way they could afford to buy a car, rent an apartment or even pay off their debt. Never-mind going to school, it’s just impossible because there is no money to pay for it even though Ontario Student Assistant Programs (OSAP) are still around helping these kids get the education they need. Well, the financial portion of it.

Related: How I paid off my OSAP fast.

It’s easier for some young adults to just work rather than go to school to get a diploma, trade or degree and come out with large amounts of debt. Not everyone has a spending account where mommy and daddy have saved for them over the years. I sure as hell didn’t have one which made me work even harder for my savings. This helped to broaden my knowledge about money and financial responsibility at a young age. I did that on my own with some push from my parents.

Even though we now invest in what some would consider a “Golden Ticket” account or the Registered Education Savings Fund (RESP) for our son we WILL make sure he understands how to earn money and how to value money. We won’t just hand it over to him and tell him to have a fun education.




Even if you are a multi-millionaire like 21 year-old Justin Bieber he needs to take some form of financial responsibility for his wealth kingdom along with hiring a good financial advisor. My point is that whether you have limited income or a well-flowing stash of cash you need to think about your future.

Unless you plan to work until the day you die or well into your golden years then spend your money and live day by day, month by month. But if you want to enjoy the last forty years of your life presuming you retire early at fifty and live until ninety, don’t screw up your money along the way. Thus life.

I’m not really sure what is going wrong these days with the younger generations but what I do know is that not every kid has their priorities backwards. I learned some valuable financial advice from a twenty-year old in which I told him, “You’re going to make it with that mindset”. Most weeks we bring our son to a local private club where they have a toddler and baby play group.

The kids are able to use all the gym equipment and mats along with various toys set out by the staff. Our son loves going and for the small entrance fee he gets to play with his friends, make new friends and tire himself out so much that he has an afternoon nap to calm his busy boy body down. Parenting success if you ask me.

Friends of ours who are twenty years old typically meet us with their son at the gym once a week to hang out. My wife met the mother at a play group and they instantly connected even though there is a distinct age difference. Sometimes I think she considers my wife a mother-figure since her own is not in her life.

I’m still working 7 days a week so this is a great way for me to get involved with my son since my wife is with him pretty much all the time. Sometimes she says she feels like a single mother because I’m not home so much but she knows that I’m doing this to better our lives and my career.


When the mother doesn’t want the kids


While chatting around the gym there was one guy who kept talking to my wife who later included me in the conversation. This guy is always at the gym so we’ve shared a quick hello and good-bye on many occasions. Although, this time he decided to talk to us and what my wife learned from him is that he is a single father to two children a 2-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. Both of his kids are VERY active.

It was interesting to learn he was a single father and that the mother did not want the kids because of her drug addiction. She couldn’t afford them. Don’t spit your coffee out, I don’t make this stuff up. I was just as intrigued to find out more so I continued to talk to him.

He has his kids full-time and when he works his father looks after them. He makes decent money working in a factory but wants to go back to school to earn an apprenticeship. He says that if he doesn’t do something about his career his kids will never have the life that he always wanted.

It was certainly a conversation that was non-typical of a stranger but what we learned is that he truly wants to make changes to take charge of the financial responsibility of being a dad. As a father with a wife at home I couldn’t imagine going it alone but what I’ve learned is that when change happens we either embrace it or dump it. This isn’t so easy with kids.

While his ex battles severe depression and drug addiction he busts his butt trying to make ends meet. He is only 24. This was the first money related conversation we had at the gym and it sounded like he appreciated the tips I passed along to him. With my career experience I had the knowledge to help him with some of the questions he had no answers to.

I went back to school when I was 30 and made it which he found quite inspirational although he’s not interested in the years of school I put in to get where I am. He’s hoping to get in and get out and do what he needs to do for his family. Fair enough, I get it.

Then this happened….

The second money conversation related to the couple we were visiting with that morning. I should have brought a bigger coffee. Really, I don’t do this much financial chatting in such a small space of time outside of the blog.

Sometimes when I hang out with older people the conversation can get stale fast and the younger adults I feel we don’t have much in common but when the money conversation pops up I don’t mind spending time chatting.

While I was taking a break to enjoy a beverage my wife took over for me and chased our son relentlessly around the gym while I hung out at the bench with our friend, Jason. Jason is a 20 year-old new father to a gorgeous, very happy 20 month old boy. His fiance is only 19 years old and loves being a mother. They both work full-time and rent a room in her parent’s basement to save every penny they can, while they can.

Just recently she started working full-time in fast-food while she studies part-time at College. He on the other hand works full-time but the hours are scattered throughout the week due to the complexity of his job.

He started to tell me how he registered for College and would be starting this coming September working in a trade that would give him his Red Seal. I thought that was great because he knew that if he didn’t so something about his career now that it may impact his little family. I almost felt like I was the resident gym counsellor for men who wanted to go to school. NO big deal…I could handle it.

Related: Are skilled trades a better choice for Canadians?


Abusive childhood memories


As we chatted the conversation dug deeper reminiscing about his childhood and how crappy it was. I’ve said on many occasions that there are people who have it worse but I’ll admit his upbringing was rough. When he heard that my parents were still together and love to go on vacations he said to me,  “I wish I had a family like yours growing up“. What did he mean, “like mine”? It’s hard growing up in a family with addictions, abuse and especially when you feel hopeless or stuck like he did.

It’s hard not to compare your life with someone else’s but when he told me that for fun his dad would have him help him sort bricks of cocaine at the age of 2, I was all ears. Not only was his father in jail for many years his dad was a drug dealer.

During the ages of twelve to fourteen it was not uncommon for Jason to have a stash of over $500 in his wallet at high-school because he was the go-to guy for drugs. He learned how to deal drugs from his dad to make money and not get caught by the cops even though he said it almost happened.

He’s not proud of what he did and regrets it.

Money was a big deal to him and it wasn’t extra income it was money to put food in his stomach and buy clothes and whatever else he needed. His father most days was drugged up and stopped nothing short of beating him for silly reasons.

He lived with him for many years and has lived through very dark times not knowing what tomorrow would bring. His mother was no different but he knew that if he lived with her that things would be much different for him today. You would assume that he is this bad-ass guy but he has manners, helpful and motivated to change his life. He wants to take financial responsibility of being a young father and earning a career that will provide for his family for many years to come.

While his father lay almost lifeless on the couch with drool coming out the side of his face his brother hid in the bedroom most days. Jason knew that he couldn’t change nor help his father because his father needed to help himself. He’s beaten his dad up before which he later regretted because he’s not a violent guy but his family life and what his father was doing ate away at him like standing in the pit waiting for the devil.

He wanted his father to stop because he grew up and understood how wrong everything was.

He wanted a normal family.

He wanted to be loved like the other kids at school.

That never happened.


All I ever wanted was a normal family that did things together, laughed and loved unconditionally


Although he believes his mother and father both love him he realizes that the only way to break the cycle is to change his mindset. At seventeen years old his now finance got pregnant and that was his ticket out the door. He didn’t have to be afraid of his father any longer because he was free.

He has since moved in with her family where they rent the basement and bank all of their money. He told me that he wants to save up and buy her a ring so he could marry her. The conversation was nothing short of a confession about how much he is in love and his wish to complete a College education so he can take financial responsibility so their son didn’t have to grow up the way he did.

He’s never lived in a house before as his parents were either on welfare or living in low-income housing that was always messy with bare cupboards. Nothing about his life was explained to me as what most would consider “happy times“. In fact I was in shock to hear some of the things that his father had done to him.

Child abuse should never be tolerated but when the children are scared they even lie to the authorities which he confessed he did many times to explain broken bones and cuts while at the hospital. He’s not alone as there are many children out there today who are going through the same thing, fear.

So now he has a handsome little guy and a beautiful finance who will one day be his wife. He explained to me how they save the income that they have now in a bank account and it’s nice to have a healthy balance because they used to always worry about money.

In the past they would spend money without regard to it but as soon as they had their son everything changed. He said his co-workers make fun of him when he says that he has to meet with their “Financial Advisor” to go over their portfolio. That’s right not only do they budget their money the way Mrs. CBB and I do they also hired a financial advisor.

Most twenty year-old adults aren’t having meetings with a financial advisor but not all twenty-something adults have kids either. It’s a bumpy ride no matter what way you view parenting but they’re making it through. I asked him if they had any debt and he happily answered, NO. That’s the kind of answer I was hoping for but he said they plan to keep it that way apart from some big-ticket items like buying a house. They plan to pay cash for his education and another used vehicle.

The years of abuse never exit his mind but he has learned to tuck them away and works hard not to let them bother him. His son deserves to be happy and to have parents that have his back and take him touring around the country exploring and learning. Most of all he deserves to be happy. All the things he wanted to do with his parents and never had the opportunity will come true with his little family one day. He’s going to make sure it happens because he wants it that bad.

The financial advisor that works with them has set them up with a Registered Education Savings Plan, TFSA, Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) , Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GIC) while helping them to save money without seeing it. You never do miss money when it’s taken away and stashed somewhere for a later date. You may know that it’s gone but you know it’s going to grow.

Related: Is it savvy to cash in my RRSP’s to pay off debt?

Now that they are young they decided to maximize their investments, have a Will drawn up and signed up for life insurance and critical illness insurance. Taking financial responsibility feels good Jason says and although his father-in-law is trying to help him with his education sometimes you just have to give kids a push and hope they come home with the gold.

Seeing your kids in debt is painful so imagine how he feesl knowing his own parents can’t pay the bills nor budget money. This is how he felt but now he feels free, debt free and free to live life. The minute he left he felt a burden lifted from his shoulders. Remember everything happens for a reason.


Financial Responsibility 101 from a twenty-year old


So what did he teach me about financial responsibility?

First of all he’s 20 and I’m in my late 30’s which means I could potentially be his father. I’m guessing he thought we had debt, a mortgage and lots of bills to pay since my wife does not work. If you know my wife and I we don’t often open up about our finances but on the odd occasion we aren’t scared to say that we’ve paid our mortgage in full a couple of years back.

I loved listening to him educate me about finance and how important it was to invest and save. He told me how they shop at second-hand stores and don’t eat out often. Little did he know that we were in their shoes once and financial responsibility was the most important part of our journey apart from Love. It’s become a part of our life although I can’t say that I was as informed as Jason was at his age. I didn’t get involved with a financial advisor. I was strictly real estate focused.

Life is certainly not a get rich scheme but there are many ways you can get ahead and live a fulfilling life and it all starts with taking financial responsibility no matter what age you are. Your life, is your life. If you fear it, leave it. And so he did.


The almost Millionaire next door


Little did he know until we told him that we were debt free and hoping to be worth a million dollars in the next year or so. This may be chump change to you but we’ve worked hard to build our net worth over the years especially having to return back to school for a second career.

Similar to what I do with this blog he was doing with me hoping that his tips would help us out with our finances. I’m almost certain that most of what he was telling me was what his advisor had explained but I was alright with that. They gave me back hope that the younger generation will start to think more about taking financial responsibility rather than blaming the system or their parents for their financial failures.

It’s been great learning about how to coupon and what the scanning code of practice is all about from him. He knew and he told me how amazed he was watching the show “Extreme Couponing”.

When he was telling me the story about living with his father his eyes stared empty ahead, finger on the lip and no facial expressions. He is numb to the way his family life turned out but determined to make positive changes. This September he will be back in school and when he’s done he wants to propose and get married. He’s happy that their son will have a proper education and hopeful for the future.

When I asked him what he would do differently if he could go back he said, “I’ve just started a new financial journey and I have no intention of  looking back because he’s turned the page”. Although he regrets what he’s done in the past he won’t let that hinder his future.

He wants to be able to put his son in sports and take him on vacations but most of all he wants to buy a house that he can call home with his family. All this and he’s just turned twenty!!

What I learned today in conversation:

  • Save your money because it’s nice to have money in the bank without worry
  • Start investing young so you can have more in the future
  • Hire a financial advisor if you need one to help you
  • Don’t worry about what other people say about your wish to be frugal and invest money
  • If you just put an extra payment on your mortgage every year that will save you years of interest
  • Read every chance you can get about finance because the more you know the better you will understand.
  • If your past sucked don’t let your future take hold of you. You are the only one who can change and break the cycle
  • Hang out with younger people because they can teach you by sharing their experiences
  • Hang out with older people because they can do the same
  • Financial responsibility doesn’t fall on one person because it becomes a family responsibility to make sure they are all contributing to the success of meeting or exceeding goals.
  • If you want something bad enough you can make it happen

It’s amazing how someone can educate themselves by reading financial books like Jason at a young age and then turn around with such confidence to tell others how his life is going to be much different from the abusive, broke life he grew up in. He wants a better life he told me. Smart kid if you ask me. More kids need to be like Jason. Determination starts with-in.

Never underestimate the conversation of someone who is younger than you. They may just surprise you even if you are old enough to be their mom, dad or grandparents.

Did you take financial responsibility when you were a child? What did you do? What do you wish you could have done but were not allowed or ready to do? Should financial literacy be taught in the school system?

So many questions but generation after generation needs to hear this before nothing is left but memories.

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Mr. CBB was born and raised in the United Kingdom who then moved to Canada where he is a permanent resident. He recently became a father to a very busy toddler who allows him to be a kid at heart. He bought his first house at the age of 21 after University and his second at the age of 24. Both Mr.CBB and his wife are Debt and Mortgage Free and they did it all in under 5 years using a Budget. Canadian Budget Binder is a place where he shares their financial experiences with his readers and hopes to learn about theirs. Welcome to CBB!


  1. Sounds like you might be able to become a role model of sorts for this young fellow. I had financially responsible parents, so thankfully money management was never much of challenge for me to learn. Of course past performance doesn’t guarantee future results.

    I think financial literacy should be taught. I think it’s more meaningful & long-lasting coming from family instead of a teacher, but something is better than nothing.

  2. As I learn more and more about personal finance, I feel almost required to help educate younger folks about the importance of saving, investing, and living within your means. Many kids are coming from families like Jason and are setup to fend for themselves at a young age. Some develop good money habits out of necessity or luck, but I think most just inherit the habits of their parents…

  3. My father is a good role model. He is an accountant and very knowledgeable about financial management. He actually inspired my mom to be a saver as well as an investor. Now, he is teaching us to be like them too. I am very lucky to have this kind of upbringing because I know this will pay off later especially when I have a family of my own.

  4. Sounds like an interesting conversation you had with this young guy. I can relate to many of his family issues growing up in one way or another. Likewise, we as kids had nothing to eat & had abusive addicted parents. Oh well. I think it just made all of us more determined to not be like them & to make a good life for ourselves & our own families. My siblings & I all hate debt for the most part & we’re all quite responsible with our money. We obviously didn’t learn it from our parents. Sometimes knowing what you DON’T want in life helps you clarify what you DO want, namely, financially stability & freedom.

  5. Great article and 11 fantastic lessons. Looking to the future rather than the past is a key one. Too many thing are easy to put off tomorrow until you realise that it was years ago you planned to do it.

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