By Andrea Hopkins
TORONTO (Reuters) - Retired hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky says his father, Walter, not only taught him how to play the game but also to be financially conservative, avoid debt and put his money where it is safest: in the bank.
"My dad always told me: 'It could end tomorrow'," Gretzky told reporters in Toronto on Monday as he touted retirement planning for the wealth management arm of Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada's second-largest bank.
"I just like to keep my money in the bank."
Gretzky, 51, recalled his first big payday in 1978, when he received a $250,000 signing bonus for turning professional. As he and his father parted ways after signing the deal, the 17-year-old future National Hockey League star told his dad he wanted to buy a car.
"He wrote me a check for $5,000 and said: 'Go get whatever you want.' I bought a used Trans Am for $3,800. So I guess the story is that he taught me from a young age to be really conservative and that's the way I've lived my whole life."
Gretzky, who played 20 years in the NHL for four teams before retiring in 1999, has been a partner in a Toronto restaurant named Wayne Gretzky's since 1993 and has more recently entered the wine business.
But he said one of his basic rules is not to invest in things he doesn't understand - including the stock market - and to limit any one investment to 10 percent of the family's net worth. He said his best ever investment was probably buying income averaging annuities when he turned pro in 1978.
"I've never borrowed or leveraged to try to turn $1 into $10. I've never been a leverage person," Gretzky said.
While he said he's never been flamboyant, requiring fancy cars or other baubles to be happy, Gretzky admitted to one extravagance: the 1961 Cadillac his wife gave him for his 50th birthday, which his kids first said they wouldn't get in, but now drive more than he does.
Asked if he could do one thing differently to prepare for retirement, Gretzky didn't hesitate:
"I would have tried to make more money," he said with a laugh. "It's been a wonderful life ... but it goes quicker than you think."
(Reporting By Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Peter Galloway)