My immigrant parents never told me about money – SheKnows

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Like many immigrants, my parents came to this country with little more than clothes on their backs (my father from Cuba and my mother from Russia) and the little money they were able to save. At the time, I was only 8 years old and didn’t understand what was going on, but my parents assured me that this move was best for our family. And that was – they finally opened their own real estate business and I attended a top college in New York City. But despite the success of our family, there is one area in which I often feel like a failure: my relationship with money.

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As a child, I don’t remember my parents ever talking openly about money and I wasn’t sure whether we had it or not. What I do know is that they worked hard to provide a better life for me and my brother. My dad worked in construction, my mom worked in a food packaging factory and they both delivered pizzas in the evenings. Eventually my parents got into real estate and started a home buying, renting and remodeling business.

I didn’t know we were successful until we were in high school. That’s when we went from renting a decent-sized house to a attractive house, on a Florida canal with ocean access, and a pool with Jacuzzi.

At that point, we felt like we had finally “made it” and made the American dream come true. But I didn’t know how my parents could afford it because, well, we never talked about money.

“Some immigrant parents are not used to talking about money with their children” Mayra Alejandra Garcia, aka the “Debt Free Latina,” a Phoenix, Ariz.-based financial coach, told SheKnows. “Money is sometimes a taboo subject, but we have to make it comfortable.” Although many American children do not receive a good financial education, this is especially true in immigrant families because “immigrants often come from poor areas and have no experience in money and money. investment”.

There is one area where I often feel like a failure: My relationship with money.

When I left home for college, I had no idea how to handle the money. I had no idea that I had to apply for scholarships or student loans to help pay for my education, only that I had to fill out the government’s Free Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application form. It was at this time that I I opened my first credit card to create credit – which was the only financial advice my parents ever gave, since they did the same after they came to America. I splurged occasionally, but spent most of my time studying, thanks to a work ethic passed down from my parents.

After getting my first postgraduate job, I had to figure out how to manage my expenses and live with the basic necessities, while still living paycheck to paycheck. I never contributed to my 401K retirement account or kept a savings account, just like my parents, who put all of their money into their business.

“Language barriers often prevent immigrants from understanding the American financial system,” Garcia explains. “Immigrants are sometimes confused when it comes to learning about the different types of loans or interest rates in America. This was true for my parents, who did not receive much financial education from my grandparents, perhaps because they are from a communist country where the opportunities for advancement were not. readily available.

Another problem for my parents: As their business grew, so did their needs – a common phenomenon known as “lifestyle creep”. As they earned more, they bought more sophisticated items like televisions and jewelry and went on trips abroad. Yet they still lived from paycheck to paycheck to paycheck without emergency funds.

When I met my husband, we were both in debt, but we still had to buy a car and a house. I slowly started to put our financial life in order, with mixed results. We traveled during the early years of our relationship, but we also refinanced his student loan for a lower interest rate and a better payment plan, and paid off our credit card debt (albeit racking up $ 15,000). $ additional after moving to another state).

It was as if we were moving forward a bit, to fall behind a bit. Currently we owe $ 131,985.17 between his undergraduate student loan, my car, our credit cards, and home renovations. And that doesn’t include our mortgage or the $ 19,000 annual cost of daycare for an 18 month old son. But we’re doing it one bill at a time.

Still, I worry about our money management skills and, more so, about the example we are setting for our son. That’s why I made a commitment to do the opposite of what my parents did by talking openly about money at home.

Here’s what Garcia recommends: Teach your children the principles of giving, saving, and spending wisely. “If they get a stipend or earn money, they can separate their money into these three categories,” she explains.

But what’s even more important than teaching is demonstrating your own financial habits. “What I’ve learned in my own home is that you catch more than you teach,” Garcia says. “My children are 16 and 20 years old and they see our example of regularly budgeting, avoiding impulse purchases, [taking] affordable vacations, and that debt is not an option in our home.

Even though my husband and I are still figuring it out, I will be modeling it at home. It won’t be easy, but broaching the subject – even imperfectly – is my only choice. While my parents have always provided for me, what I really needed was honest financial education; instead, I learn from what they does not have teach me for the sake of my son.


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