*10 Money Tips From An Asian Mom

How I got fed thru the years!

10. Make the effort to go grocery shopping and make home-cooked meals for the family.  My mom pretends to be OK with going out to eat on occasion, but with the first bite of an entree served at a restaurant she’ll often snort and say, “I could have made this for 50 cents!”  Incidentally, I also believe my brain firings worked well in math class because of the nutrition from such attention to tightly controlled food.  Staying healthy is also a lot cheaper than being chronically ill due to eating crap on a daily basis.

9. Always have a job.  My parents immigrated from the home country and had no qualms about going from laywer to seamstress or economist to shopping-mall-plant-display leaf duster.  Bigger and better things came along eventually, but for the time being, paying the bills helped stave off stress because there was some maintenance of an adequate standard of living.

8. Never shop retail.  If you have a need to shed your fashion-skin every season as many face-upkeeping Asians do, at least be smart about it and shop on sale, off season or off the beaten path.  Fashion matters to a certain extent, but let’s face it: trends can’t possibly revolutionize on the fact that humans still have just two arms, two legs and a torso to work with every season–so don’t be such a victim of trends and marketing.  NOT shopping saves even more money!  My mom actually helped me create many of my original high school outfits from scratch..let’s see if I can dig up any photos…:)

7. Invest in things that last.  Despite shopping for things that should be cheap, I remember my parents dropping a load on a quality stereo, car, microwave and TV that lasted us at least 15-20 years each.  Don’t know if this qualifies as “saving” any money, but I recently read a quote: “if something is 2x as expensive, but lasts 4x as long, then it’s half-priced!”

6. Be obsessed with paying off a loan.  My parents, if they could help it, never borrowed money.  But if they did, it was their obsession to pay it off–in the fastest and cheapest way.  They made sure their mortgage was re-negotiable from the start (i.e. not locked into a fixed rate of interest, in case it went down in the future) (=early 1990s situation y’all)*.  If you don’t focus on paying off a loan, interest payments build up and the discipline to live within your means easily erodes.  Basically, this is just staying disciplined when you are in debt.

5. Always be on time with credit card payments.  My mom still sends emails reminding me every month to pay off my credit card bill!  Somewhere, somehow, all your missed payments are recorded and it damages your credit rating.  As a result, you will always be given a harder time to get a loan for a future business or home because you represent a “higher risk” (=someone who can’t pay it back properly).  You will always be given a higher interest rate (=fee to borrow money) compared to someone with a “good” credit rating, and this means you’ll, on average, end up paying tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars more in interest over a lifetime!

4. Marry someone rich.  This sounds horrible (!!) and while this “rich” person in Asian match-making pools often meant questionable hygiene, grammar, sex-appeal and / or age-difference, I’ve decided to leave this otherwise golden nugget in.  Marriage is as much a financial decision as it is one for love.  Marrying someone who doesn’t understand how to / care about maximizing money for the betterment of your family’s health and progress makes it HARD to start a family with them.  Marrying someone with bad credit also has this issue.

3. Look wealthy / well-to-do.  Perhaps this seems shallow, but make no mistake: we live in a society of eye-balls and surface judgments and if you look poor or depressed, fewer people would be willing to give you a chance or even associate with you on a money-related level (=even hooking you up with an interview).  If you ever visited Asia, especially China, people wear pressed shirts and shined shoes despite being unemployed or even if they work at KFC.  Much of this is face-saving, but there is a psychological logic in it in terms of keeping up your level of confidence, which appearance has a lot to do with.  Louis Vuitton handbags are unnecessary for this purpose (=don’t be ridiculous).

2. Respect your parents.  This had to sneak in here somewhere, if it had to do with Asian Moms.  But, parents have lived it.  And while I’m sure a whole bunch of parents are horrible at taking care of their finances, if YOUR parents are doing well, keep the lines of communication open and ask them for advice.  Keeping the (mis)understanding of finances a secret doesn’t help.  Of course you don’t have to divulge actual numbers or PIN codes, but asking how much they had in order to retire comfortably or how much a down payment on a home should be given your salary prospects etc. could be helpful.

1. Be educated.  It’s such a cliche by now, but in terms of financial education, knowing more and knowing better just makes sense.  Also, in terms of being licensed and degreed in Western society, we have to face facts that our society still values these socially dictated flaming hoops that we must leap through for acceptance into higher-salaried positions.  That said, don’t be a sucker for over-priced brand-named colleges without first soul searching and actual searching for higher learning that matches what you’d like to do in life–the university loan / student debt crisis is an important swamp to understand before you start wading in there.

*Note from a friend Dennis Riches, who quite correctly notes that in the early 90s, interest rates were super high like 19% in Canada (they are now around 3%), so choosing to have a non-fixed rate made sense–because interest rates were likely to be going down.  However, if interest rates are super low, they could increase during the life of your mortgage and if you DON’T have a fixed rate, you can be screwed with the increased rate later on–making the fee to buy your house thousands of dollars more expensive.  Understanding if and why interest rates rise and fall is complicated, but start reading up!

One Response “*10 Money Tips From An Asian Mom” →

  1. Victoria

    July 4, 2015

    I enjoyed this, thank you for the insight


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