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Life Lesson: The Value of Earning Your Way

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I’ve worked in the financial services industry for over thirty years and I’ve seen the industry change in dramatic ways. People often ask “What is the life lesson that has impacted you the most in your profession?” The following story is my answer to that question and the bedrock for my interactions with others throughout my career:

My dad was an auctioneer and dealer of secondhand goods long before the advent of garage sales. When people decided to sell their home, they often called him and he would buy the contents of an entire home or estate. Sometimes, “stuff” would end up in his “Sales Barn” for liquidation by auction or private sale. It was an avocation for him, but his first love. His primary job paid the bills and provided insurance and other benefits for our family.



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When dad returned from a buy, my siblings and I often gave a hand unloading the truck. One day, when I was no more than ten years old, he brought home a load of furniture and other household goods he had purchased from a couple who were retiring to Florida. To help lighten the burden of heavy bureaus, we would remove the drawers and hand them down to the person on the ground. On this day, we had unloaded the truck with the exception of a lone bureau. When I finally got around to pulling out the top drawer of the bureau, my eyes widened. Inside the drawer was a roll of bills that was so big, my ten-year-old hands couldn’t wrap around it! Additionally, there was a purse filled with silver coins! It was absolutely more money than I had ever seen in one place in my life.

I handed the found money to my dad and asked him with excitement, “What are you going to do with that?” And immediately, stopping our work of emptying the truck, my father informed me that he was going to return it and jumped into the cab of the truck. I dismounted the back of the vehicle and he drove out of the driveway with the treasure, intent on returning it to its rightful owners.

When he returned, he told the story of returning the cash and asking the couple if they had everything in order for their move. To their surprise, he gave them the roll of cash and the coin-filled purse. I remember him saying that they didn’t give him a reward, and not even a “thank you.” That was okay with him, though. “I didn’t work for that cash, so it wasn’t mine to keep,” he said. “I had every right to the money, since I purchased the contents, but returning it was the right thing to do.”

Throughout my career, I have carried this lesson my father taught me, that everyone should earn their way, and protect the assets of people who worked diligently to achieve financial well-being. He often retold this story with pride, knowing that he had given his son an impactful life lesson. The greatest influences are often acquired through the simplest and most profound of experiences!

Hard-earned dollars are the most difficult, but also the most gratifying, to acquire. And once earned, you are less likely to spend them frivolously. This is one lesson that inspires me to be a faithful custodian of our members’ financial interests and well-being.


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About Steve Lambert

Steve Lambert, our Burlington Branch Manager, has been banking for thirty (plus) years. He is well aware that the word “finances” makes people clam up. Having faced life in living color, Steve has hands-on experience and a cache of practical financial advice that can make a real difference in the day to day life of real people. The father of two adult sons, Steve lives in St. Albans with his wife and is a faithful follower of the Red Sox and UVM men’s basketball.
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