'Take Calculated Risks' – and Other Money Lessons From Our AAPI Elders

Published on: May 20, 2021fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Tex bubbles with advice from AAPI elders Design: ML Howell

The Story

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month. One way we're celebrating is by sharing some of the best money lessons from our AAPI elders.

Because AAPIs are really good with money?

Those kinds of blanket statements feed the "model minority" myth that pits AAPIs against other BIPOC Americans. The truth is: just like in any other segment of the population, you can find a wide range of financial know-how among AAPIs.

Then why would I look to AAPI elders for financial advice? 

Because their unique American experiences and cultural backgrounds can offer a different perspective – and one that's rarely shared outside of family conversations.

Got it. So what did they have to say?

When we asked Skimm'rs and Skimm HQ'rs to share the best advice from AAPI elders in their lives, many told us they've picked up classic money lessons. Like save, and don't spend what you don't have. Here are some others responses we loved: 

  • "My mom is Chinese, and she is the wisest woman I know. Growing up, she cut the hair of everyone in my family. We ate out close to zero times per year (unless we were traveling). She was always sewing old sweaters into scarves or shirts into fleece collars and all sorts of innovative, resourceful things like that… Basically, she emphasized that if you save on the small things, you can splurge on the big things...and you can be generous toward others without being worried about your own wallet." – Tao Tao H.

  • "My dad – who led our family to immigrate to the US with just $32,000 (his life savings at the time) – always told me and my brothers to always save your money for a rainy day because there will be rainy days ahead. I’m glad he gave me this advice as we live through the rainiest of years and more because of the pandemic." – Abigail F.

  • "To be frugal and save when you can so you won't be afraid to spend on valuable items or experiences. Because sometimes you need to bet on yourself!" – Sophia S.

  • "Re-use what you have – sometimes in highly creative ways – before you consider buying something new. My grandmother was the queen of this. A washed out yogurt container held dinner leftovers. A cookie tin became a sewing kit. She was living that 'no-waste' lifestyle decades before it was trendy." – Karell R.

  • "It's very important to save money, so you have a nest egg if anything goes wrong. But [money] should also be shared to create connections, spent in a way that leaves lasting positive memories, or used to support someone that needs help." – Briannna D.

  • "It’s not about how much money you have; it’s how you manage your money. If you don’t know how to manage your money, you will always be broke no matter the amount you have." – Jo Anna D.

  • "I remember an incident from my childhood when my dad handed me some money, and I just put it in my pocket. My dad immediately reprimanded me: 'why did you not count the money I gave you? Always count your money no matter who gives it to you and never trust anyone with your money.' You could say I now have issues entrusting others with money, in a good way...Since I was the only one from my family here [in the US], I had to learn everything about credit cards, investing, retirement accounts, buying a house, etc. on my own. I would read a lot and internet search was my best friend." – John D.

  • "Don't eat outside food. Basically, they're saying, why eat out when you can save your money and eat the food in your fridge?" – Kamini R.

  • "Take calculated risks. My parents left the lives they knew and moved halfway around the world in their early 20s with just $50 and each other. It was a big gamble, but they were smart managing what little they had to start. And they built a beautiful life here in the US for themselves, their kids, and their grandkids. A great return on investment, imho." - Stacy R.

theSkimm

To celebrate AAPI Heritage month, we asked Skimm'rs and Skimm HQ'rs to share money lessons they've learned from AAPI elders in their lives. Because with their unique American experiences and cultural backgrounds, many AAPIs have developed equally unique money styles. And learning from your elders is often a good idea.

Psst: Some answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Skimm'd by: Stacy Rapacon, Casey Bond, Ivana Pino, and Elyse Steinhaus