We are pleased to share the money memories of Lawrence “Larry” Sprung. Larry, CFP® is the President and Founder of Mitlin Financial, Inc.
Larry is an as active volunteer. He serves on the National Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and is the Co-Chair of Long Island Chapter for the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Also, he was recently asked to serve on the Binghamton University Alumni Board.
HARD WORKING PARENTS
Team Sammy: Share with us a little bit about growing up – your family and community.
Larry: I grew up in a family of four, mom, dad, younger sister, and myself. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood just north of NYC. My dad was an NYC school teacher and always had other jobs, even ran his own business for a long time, to make ends meet. My mom was a stay at home mom. She made sure my sister and I had what we needed, did our homework, and we were able to make our after school activities. My mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was very young, about 13 years old. This took a toll on my family financially and otherwise, it left an impression. We were not broke or bankrupt, but many of the things we would have done as a family if my mom were not sick, did not happen. Much of the discretionary income my parents had went to care for mom. She battled the disease several times over ten years and ultimately succumbed to it.
Team Sammy: What was your first job and how much did you earn?
Larry: My first job was when I was 12 years old, I believe. The only way you could get working papers as a 12-year-old was if you had a newspaper route. I had a route in my neighborhood and at that time I had to deliver the newspapers and also collect payments regularly. Many folks did not pay via credit card or use automatic payments, they were not a big thing then. Many of my customers would pay cash every few weeks. I do not recall the amount I earned, it was fairly nominal but it did teach me many valuable lessons. I had to take care of delivering the papers, selling subscriptions, and collecting payments which provided me with the ability to interact with people, especially adults at an early age.
“LIVING WITHIN YOUR MEANS”
Team Sammy: Would your parents talk and teach you about money/personal finance? What do you remember? Any advice?
Larry: My family did not have a financial advisor or planner. My dad’s biggest asset was his retirement plan and pension that he would receive upon retirement. Outside of that our family did not have significant assets. Many of the lessons I was provided with were about living within your means versus an extravagant life you could not afford. I recall, looking back now, at the struggle my dad had with balancing expenses and my mom’s care.
Team Sammy: Who was your primary or one your main money mentors as a child or teen?
Larry: Looking back, my dad was the only mentor I had regarding money and we did not see eye to eye on many things. At a very young age, I wanted to be successful and well off. I recall one disagreement we had where he argued money could not buy happiness. He referenced what happened to my mom as a case in point. My counter-argument was I agreed money could not buy happiness, but at the same time, there may have been an opportunity for different or better treatments for my mom or ways the money could have been spent to provide her with more ways of fighting her disease. I do not think money would have led to a different result with my mom’s health situation, but there may have been additional options available, and being better off financially would have put less stress on my dad paying for her care. I believe my dad, like many others, do not have a plan in place and/or are prepared for financial issues due to health or other life events that may take place.
MOTIVATED TO EARN MONEY
Team Sammy: At what age did you realize money had value?
Larry: I cannot tell you the exact age, but it was early. It was early enough I was motivated at the age of 12 to get a newspaper route.
Team Sammy: Did you work as a teen and/or in college?
Larry: I always worked from the time I had the newspaper route. In high school and college, I delivered pizza, cold-called, was a caddy, worked in my dad’s business, and worked as a dishwasher (for an hour). I remember one summer I offered my dad to help him grow his business by selling and opening accounts for him. He thought it was a great idea and appreciated it, but was concerned about how he would service the accounts once I began school again. He was right and I did not help him grow the business during my summer vacations because of that. In many ways, I wanted to be independent and I always felt having a job and making my own money would allow me to do this.
BEWARE OF DEBT
Team Sammy: What was one mistake or “boo-boo” you made as a kid, teen or college student with money? And, what was one smart money choice you made?
Larry: One boo-boo I made was overusing credit cards in college. It is something that could have been disastrous but was fixed soon after graduation. One smart money choice I made was extinguishing the debt when I did and cleaning up my credit report right after the mistake rather than letting it fester and potentially causing irreparable damage.
Team Sammy: What peaked your interest in personal finance?
Larry: I always had an interest in money and numbers. Over the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I had an internship at Dean Witter which was my introduction to being a financial advisor. That same summer I also had a job as a cold caller selling photo packages. When I realized how much I enjoyed the internship and I was good at selling things over the phone I felt like financial services could be a good fit. Discovering what the financial profession was about and the fact it offered me an opportunity to help others plan for their financial futures and avoid some of the missteps I saw in my own family was an immediate draw. We talk about critical financial events at our firm all the time. These events could be planned, like buying a house, getting married, or having a child. Others can be unplanned like death, disability, or illness. Having a plan in place for your future and having money saved for your plan will not eliminate the possibility of these events taking place, but proper planning can certainly mitigate the impacts.
“PAY YOURSELF FIRST!”
Team Sammy: One question, I ask everyone is: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?
Larry: Pay yourself first! I think this is a concept that is extremely important to financial success. Too many people spend their days working hard simply to pay bills and live the lifestyle they want to live. To be in a position to retire one day it is going to be important to pay yourself first.
AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Team Sammy: Is it important to teach kids about money? Why? At what age should parents start?
Larry: As early as possible! I recall when my kids were young they had a bank that had three places to put money. There was a slot in the bank for spend, save, and charity. It allowed us to teach them at a young age they should put some money towards each of these areas.
IMPORTANT FINANCIAL LESSONS
Team Sammy: Should personal finance be taught in schools?
Larry: Absolutely, but only if they can do a great job of it. My son, as a junior in high school, signed up for a personal finance course and he ultimately dropped it because it was a joke. They were teaching him such rudimentary concepts most students should have already known that is was not a good use of his time.
THOUGHTS FROM LARRY ON A FEW FINANCE TOPICS
Larry: Student debt is a big issue. I believe you have three main contributors to this problem and they are the schools themselves, the lending institutions, and parents.
Larry: Credit card debt is a huge problem and in many cases it begins at an early age. The credit card companies begin marketing to people in high school. Not understanding the impact of credit card debt at this age and beginning to use credit could lead to life long issues. Our youngsters, and others as well, need to understand how to utilize credit appropriately so it does not cause a lifetime of issues.
FAVORITE BOOK ON PERSONAL FINANCE OR MONEY MANAGEMENT
Larry: The Richest Man In Babylon – the lesson stands out is to pay yourself first. You should consider taking ten percent of your income and set it aside for yourself and then pay your bills and obligations after that.
Larry: “People spend more time planning their family vacation than they do their financial lives.” – Lawrence Sprung, CFP®
Larry: I believe giving back is something that should be taught to children at an early age. Charity has always been an important part of my life and it is still today. The causes I have been involved with and/or donated to have changed but giving has always been a constant. I think this should also be part of the learning process for our youngsters. Since losing my brother in law (my wife’s brother), Keith Milano, to suicide in 2004 we have become very involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
LEARN MORE ABOUT LARRY
To discover more about Lawrence Sprung, CFP® visit Mitlinfinancial.com