Land of Immigrants


America is a land of immigrants. Her history attests to this fact. America has a rich culture, and though its history is beset with a dark past (slavery and segregation), modern America has a multi-cultural flair with people from almost every part of this world migrating to this great nation. No other country in the world has this attraction. People from different parts of the world often hear the mantra, “Living the American Dream” and get seduced by this. New immigrants to the US are also not exempt from this seduction.

There are different aspects of the American life and immigrants are quick to adapt to the life and culture here to blend in. There is one aspect of American life which sometimes takes a long time to master, and that is finances (specifically, personal finance). If you migrated to this country from a third world or developing country, you might find some of the topics around personal finance quite complex, if not confusing. Most immigrants work very hard despite a lot of odds to succeed. However, they often fall short in managing their money and finances well. I know this because I’ve been guilty of this. I lived 4 years in this country and did not understand what a 401K or Roth IRA meant (it sounded more like Double Dutch to me). Heck, I couldn’t even understand what filing taxes and getting a tax refund meant. Back in my country, taxes were deducted from your paycheck and you never had to ‘file’ taxes at the end of the year. It was only those who owned their businesses who had to pay their taxes at the end of the tax year. Here in America, I learnt that regardless of whether you’ve paid your taxes for the year or not, every working resident is legally required to file taxes every year.

We work hard and we spend our money, often overspending. We get lured into credit cards and we start charging them, more often than not, making only the minimum payments. I was told back then, that everybody is in debt in America and that I had to have debt to ‘build’ my credit. It didn’t make sense to me but sucked into the ‘system’, I sure was. Gradually, we get deep into the ‘game’ and start living above our means, in order to keep up with the Joneses. We take exotic vacations (charged off on the credit card), buy big cars with fat car notes and often buy big homes to complete the American dream. But when you take a step back, you discover that you’re not really getting ahead. It’s all a facade. You’re just living for the day and not planning for the future. Enter the concept of retirement. Whoever knew that you had to basically save for your future retirement? Social security may still be there but it is not guaranteed. The onus is on you to prepare a good nest egg for your future. For immigrants, this is often worsened by the fact that we have competing demands for the money we make from friends, family and relatives back home.

With all this, it’s easy to just get by and live for the day without proper management and planning of our finances. Some will tell you, “You only live once” (YOLO) so you might as well enjoy yourself while alive. However this path only gets you further into financial ruins and misery. But there is a better way. And funny enough, it is not that difficult. However it requires you to take action and make conscious effort to manage your finances well.  I got my epiphany about 3 years ago. I was introduced by a friend to Dave Ramsey. However I did not take any action until 2 years ago. I did his Financial Peace University and read his book, “My Total Money Makeover”. This opened my eyes to the world of personal finance that I had previously neglected or shied away from. I have since read several dozens of personal finance books. I subscribe to several personal finance blogs and read and enlighten myself on this topic almost daily. I have been better off for it. I have clawed my way out of debt and now trying to invest for the future.

So I decided to take a leap of faith to start this blog to discuss issues of personal finance, especially targeted to the immigrant population in America, who more often than not, are not well versed in personal finance matters and how they should handle their money to become even more successful. Like CNN’s Christine Romans wrote in her book, “Smart is The New Rich”, politicians will argue for higher taxes, lower taxes, more regulation or less government intervention. Let them talk. You can only take care of yourself. You need to make smart decisions about how you earn, spend, save, grow and protect your money. I must admit that I was scared about starting this blog, afraid I might not be able to sustain it or even be successful. However my wife put the pressure on me and dared me to take the plunge. So this is a journey in which I both hope to enlighten as well as be enlightened. I am by no means a writer/professional blogger, neither am I an expert on personal finance. I’m just a regular guy who has developed great insight into this topic by my passion and education in it. I sincerely believe that any immigrant (and indeed anybody who lives in America) who has a job, works hard and invests his money wisely in this country can get ahead and become successful. If you earn the average household income of about $50,000 annually, and you manage your money successfully, you can become a millionaire by the time you retire. Oh, and if you’re starting in this financial journey late (say after age 35) like I am, you can still finish rich, though it may be a little more hard work. David Bach made a compelling argument for this in his book, “Start Late, Finish Rich”. There are so many stories of people doing this in America. It is possible. But you have to learn to manage your money well and put your financial house in order. Do you dare to be awesome and successful, when it comes to managing your finances?

If you want to achieve this, then join me in this personal journey and together we can all do this.

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