Vanguard Fathers Day Matt

Why I started a book club with my daughter

Has the universe ever given you a sign?  An unmistakable, it’s-time-to-act type of signal?  Well, as I was sitting at Vanguard’s Leadership Symposium in Philadelphia last fall, a topic hit my radar for the third time in the span of a few months.  And since good things come in threes (right?), I committed then and there to take action – and my kids and I are glad I did.  Yup, in this Vanguard blog, I’m talking about my kids.  Let me explain…

I started my Vanguard career in April 2001 working in our Legal department in Malvern, PA.  A lawyer by training, I was initially our “intellectual property guy,” though over the course of 9 years, my responsibilities grew and evolved until I was leading our Corporate Legal Services group and reporting to our General Counsel.

Because Vanguard encourages its crew to have a breadth of experiences, I had begun exploring leadership opportunities outside of our Legal department and outside of our PA campus.  So in 2010, I moved to Vanguard’s Institutional business and, at the same time, my family and I (wife, four kids, one dog) moved to Scottsdale, Arizona.  I’m very grateful to Vanguard for the fantastic opportunity to grow!  Moving outside of my comfort zone work-wise and moving across the country were huge changes for us as a family.  In many ways, these shared experiences of change brought us closer together.

Vanguard Fathers Day Matt

Of course, I’ve always been involved in my kids’ lives – reading to them, playing games, doing yard work together, teaching them to drive (two so far!), etc.  And I’ve coached all four of them on various youth soccer teams – I’ve lost count, but something like 18 teams overall.  My work at Vanguard was always flexible enough that I could do these.  But as the kids were growing older, I was getting worried that I was missing something.  Enter Stew Friedman…

Stewart Friedman is a professor at Wharton and author of several books on the topic of having a richer life by integrating elements of home and work.  I’m summarizing, but his view is that you can do real-world exercises that improve performance and increase your leadership capacity by better integrating all parts of your life. It’s a powerful and motivating message.  I knew Vanguard wanted me (and all its leaders and crew) to have a richer life. I remember receiving this message three distinct times – at a Vanguard executive development program, during a conversation with other Vanguard leaders, and at the Leadership Symposium (where Professor Friedman himself presented!).  It was time to act.

One of the things I did was ask each of my children to write down a handful of things they would like to do with me, just the two of us.  They all came up with fantastic ideas, fun and interesting things – why hadn’t I done this sooner?!?  My 17 year-old daughter, Maddie, had a few ideas – among them were to learn about money and investing, and for the two of us to read a book together and then discuss, like a book club.  So with Stew Friedman’s guidance, we “integrated” these two ideas and decided to read a book together about money and investing!

Vanguard Fathers Day Matt

Maddie and I read The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.  Though written in the mid-1990s, its core lessons still ring true – the keys to financial independence involve living within your means, being frugal, and spending time on budgeting and planning, among others.  They were great lessons for Maddie and helpful reminders for me.  And wonderfully aligned to Vanguard’s investment philosophy and mission as an organization.

Here’s what Maddie had to say about the experience:  “I’ve had a lot of fun doing the book club with Dad.  When he asked what we could do together, I thought of books because we both like to read, and thought about financial things because I don’t know a lot about it and he works at Vanguard.  Now, not only has he taught me about managing money, but we’ve had some meaningful and grown-up conversations beyond that, too.  It brought us closer together and, to me, reinforced the value of reaching out to those you love.”

It worked so well that Maddie and I are now on our 3rd book, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck.  We are having a wonderful time exploring and connecting over these books – and discussing life in general.  I’m a lucky and super-proud dad, and I’m glad for the opportunity to reflect on that with Father’s Day just around the corner.  Thank you universe (okay, really thank you Stew Friedman and Vanguard) for giving me that unmistakable sign!

-Matt W.

Vanguard Fathers Day Matt

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