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Paths to Prosperity: How young Asian Americans are redefining wealth

Paths to Prosperity is a series of interviews, conversations, and stories sharing Lunar New Year traditions and defining prosperity and wealth. This project was created with the support of U.S. Bank.

More often than not, the topic of personal finance is considered taboo in many Asian American families. Immigrant parents usually do not discuss money, wealth, and prosperity because they may lack the financial literacy to share with their children. Without transparency and open dialogue between parents and children about money can lead to unresolved expectations and limited knowledge about managing personal finances. 

Meet two Asian Americans who share reflections of how their cultures have influenced their relationship with money. Each of them is redefining wealth on their own terms on their paths to prosperity. 

Understanding cultural influences on our relationship with money

Name: Robin Nguyen (@robinhamchoi)
City: San Jose, California
Profession: Elementary school teacher
Annual household income: $50,000-$74,999

I manage wealth quite similarly to how my parents raised me, paycheque to paycheque. I don’t mind spending money on materialistic items or for an experience I know will bring me joy. This principle also applies to paying for others I care about. 

My experience with personal finance may differ from other immigrant families because of how my mother treated money. She greatly influenced how I manage my cash and my perception of weal  

My family came to America in the 1990s. When my parent’s relationship ended, my mom returned to Vietnam to live with my grandparents, who had recently returned from being  prisoners of war. My mom and her family grew up with unresolved trauma from war. 

Yet, with that, my mom and her siblings resisted hoarding and the scarcity mindset. Instead, they became very charitable or materialistic. For example, my mom liked to spend her money on things that would bring her joy, whereas my uncle spent his money on those he cared about. 

As for me, my personal finance and relationship with money borders the lines of saving and spending as I live daily. On the one hand, as a teacher with a master’s degree, my student loans were hefty, so any money I save goes towards paying off debt. But, on the other hand, like my mom and uncle, I enjoy spending money on things and people that bring me happiness. Living paycheck to paycheck works for me. 

Saving for the distant future and learning new saving strategies

Name: Jacquline Sia 
City: New York, New York
Profession: Product Manager
Annual household income: $150,000-199,000

Asian American woman looking at her laptop and paying with credit cards
Photo credit: @shkrabaanthony

I have always been a “saver” – my mom always told me to save money for future big-ticket items or for college tuition. With that advice, I deposited my money in a savings account from a young age and thought it would be good as long as it was there. 

But as I got older, people told me my savings could grow if I invested in them. So once I learned about the benefits of investing, my aunt helped me build a stock portfolio, selecting different companies for me, using the money I had in my savings account, and began investing.

I know investing works, and it helps long term to have money in stocks – both long and short term. Yet, I still struggle to remember that I need to invest in stocks rather than simply putting it in a savings account. Although my husband and family remind me to invest and be financially savvy, I struggle with the desire to take an interest and invest in stocks. I still tend to keep my money in a savings account, never move it, and never spend it beyond necessities (which means I rarely buy material items for myself or anyone). 

Maybe it’s because investing was a foreign concept to me growing up. Perhaps it’s because I grew up seeing adults around me invest in real estate rather than stocks. Nonetheless, I am trying to become more comfortable with not focusing on meeting a “number goal” in my savings account. Instead, I’m slowly changing my mindset to accept that diversifying and investing will be better in the long run. 

Paving new paths to prosperity

The definition of wealth for young Asian Americans is evolving. Understanding and accepting the challenges previous generations endured is important; But to break the cycle, the next generation of Asian Americans must redefine what wealth and prosperity means to us. 

Kelly Mi Li shares her definition of wealth as an Asian American entrepreneur and investor.

Bling Empire’s Kelly Mi Li defines wealth as a combination of happiness, friendship and love. 

Actor and content creator Ryan Alexander Holmes wants to pursue his passions while also receiving an equivalent exchange of monetary value for the talent value” that he is providing with his work. 

Philip Wang and Helen Wu want their young son to know that “we’ve got his back” without worry, because every generation deserves an opportunity to achieve their dreams. 

U.S. Bank can help you achieve your financial goals with personalized guidance, tools and online resources to get you started and keep you on track. Learn more about how U.S. Bank is helping Asian Americans create a legacy of success for future generations. 

Partnered with U.S. Bank, Paths to Prosperity is a campaign that celebrates Lunar New Year, prosperity, and wealth, because “every generation deserves an opportunity to achieve their dreams.” U.S. Bank was named Fortune’s most admired super regional bank and one of the 2022 World’s Most Ethical Companies.


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