10 Life and Money Lessons Learned From Immigrant Parents

By Vincent Scordo on 21 September 2009 (Updated 28 June 2011) 45 comments
Photo: Scordo.com

My parents were both born in Southern Italy where unemployment is high and quality of life is superb. My mother, Annunziata, made it to the 7th grade and my father, Tommaso, has the equivalent of a technical high school diploma. Both of my parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 and are currently debt free, own their own two-family home, and have plenty of cash in savings. They are, in many ways, leading the American dream — by not adopting the principles of American consumerism.

My parents have taught me many lessons about saving money and leading a high quality life via being practical, but the following 10 lessons were most influential in shaping how I lead my life as a 30-something today. Some of the lessons are what would be described as old school and some may be overly simplistic, but the hard truth is that each lesson works! (See also: 7 Important Lessons Frugal Parents Teach Their Children)

Lesson 1: "Save like you have no job and 6 mouths to feed."

For my parents, saving was akin to a religion. They didn't save 10 or 20 percent of their paycheck; rather they saved close to half of their take home pay. I suspect the urge to save is an instinctual feeling for many recent immigrants who arrive in a new country with no job and no home. The ability to save such a large percentage of what they made was dependent on controlling how much they spent each week. If you live well below your means you can save a large percentage of your weekly income.

Lesson 2: "Look for non-material ways to feel rich."

My parents have never owned a fancy car or purchased luxury clothes or items. My parents hardly dine out or buy pre-cooked or packaged food. Rather, Annunziata and Tommaso find true fulfillment in family, great food, wine, and visiting the country where they were born. My parents appreciate nice, material things, but they are not defined or fulfilled via acquiring the aforementioned things.

Lesson 3: "Use your network for help."

This means finding an uncle who does plumbing and a cousin who is a paralegal at a law firm. My parent's family network has helped me, personally, with home improvement, legal advice, emergency situations (taking care of babies or a ride to the hospital), etc. If I had to pay a stranger every time I needed something done in my life, I would not only be broke, but I would lack real friends and family. The real life lesson here is to nurture family relationships and not rush to pay someone to do something for you. (There are other ways to reward people without a large check.)

Lesson 4: "What's a credit card?"

If you look at my dad's wallet on a typical day it would resemble George Costanza's wallet from Seinfeld — full of notes and papers and a good amount of cash. My father pays for everything in cash, and if he doesn't have the cash, he will either not purchase the item or go to the bank and take out money. My parents have had very little credit card activity over the last 30 years, and I think it's a key component to their practical lifestyle — that is to say, you can't buy stuff if you don't have the cash!

Lesson 5: "You can't count on your job — always have other sources of income."

My parents bought a two-family home shortly after arriving in the U.S. The logic behind purchasing a two-family home centered on having a monthly reoccurring revenue stream outside of a normal job. Sure, they would have liked a single family home with a larger yard and without constant maintenance in their rental unit, but they like the cash more! Do you have cash coming in every month outside of your normal job? If not, you may not be as financially secure as you think you are!

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Lessons 6: "Do it yourself."

My parents are both incredibly crafty. My dad performs his own car repairs, produces homemade wine, renovates his own home (including plumbing and electrical), cuts his own grass, and more. My mother makes all of her own food, cans tomatoes and vegetables, sews, cleans, and grows and tends a garden, among many other things. My parents have often told me that if the world were to fall into disrepair they would have no problem living their life. They are independent and self sufficient.

Lesson 7: "Trust your family, be wary of everyone else."

This may sound like a line out of the Godfather, but the fact that American society is based on a capitalist operating principle will motivate everyone from the shop owner to the general contractor to make as much money as possible from you, and there are no safety nets when it comes to preserving the wealth you've worked hard to acquire. This life lesson is akin to former Intel CEO Andy Groove's line: "Only the Paranoid Survive."

Lesson 8: "You are not defined by your job or fame."

A job or career usually defines most adults in Anglo-Saxon cultures. Ask any typical American about their life, and the narrative usually centers on their work or job. If you ask the typical person from Southern Italy about their life, they'll tell you stories about their family, homeland, last name, daughters, sons, food they grow, or wine they make. (I swear this isn't connected to the high unemployment rate.) My parents are defined by who they are and not the job they do for someone else or the amount of money in their paycheck each week. This is a powerful principle to live by, and once you truly embrace it, the byproduct can be quite liberating.

Lesson 9: "Think big picture."

Do you ever become overwhelmed by a problem you can't, for the life of you, see past the immediate future? Maybe you're worried about your job or if little Timmy will get accepted to Harvard in a few years, for example? These are illustrations of "small picture" thinking, and it can handicap many individuals from getting through tough moments in their life. Like many immigrants, my parents had to somehow block out the immediacy of not having much when they arrived in the US, in order think long term about the type of life they would someday lead.

Lesson 10: "Ignore your neighbors."

I'm convinced that many individuals lead their life according to the goings-on of their neighbors. For example, if Doris next door leases a shiny new German sedan, you may be compelled to question the worth or legitimacy of your 10-year-old Ford sitting in the driveway. If, by the miracle of home refinancing, Doris adds another 800 square feet to her over-leveraged center hall colonial, you may all of sudden feel cramped in your tiny Cape-Cod-style home. What is my parents' opinion of neighborhood goings-on? Make friends, and be a good neighbor, but don't follow the neighbor into debt and materialism.

 This is a guest post from Vince Scordo. Check out these other great articles from Scordo.com:

 

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Guest's picture

I know many recent immigrants live by similar rules whether they come from India, Mexico, Korea, or Ireland, but I'm sure the application is different.

Did your immigrant parents or grandparents have other rules or living tips? Share them here!

Vince Scordo

Guest's picture

Love your article.

Its funny, your father and my immigrant father could be long lost brothers. With only a high school degree my father did many of the same things that your family did to give us a comfortable and happy upbringing.

He worked hard and saved relentlessly. Often 12-14 hours a day. I never knew what a credit card was growing up because we never bought anything on credit, and lay-away plans (do they still have these?) at the local department stores were the way our school clothes and Christmas presents were purchased.

We never went on fancy vacations to Disneyland or the ski slopes like many of my friends but frequently went on camping trips to the state parks and probably had just as much fun at a fraction of the price.

Just as importantly my parents never drank or smoked because they told me all that money wasted on these vices could go toward the down payment on our future house.

I think we all have a lot to learn from the frugal generations before us.

Guest's picture

My grandparents raised a family of 8, they have very similar rules to the ones you stated.

For repairs or whatever they didn't know how to do, they would often barter with other people, other skills or food for a service, but never cash.

Guest's picture
Guest

My Mom runs a home daycare and most of our car, lawyer and medical services are done on a an under the table barter system of free daycare in exchange for services as needed.

Guest's picture
Guest

My parents emigrated from India in the early 1970s and pretty much everything you mentioned is spot on with the values they instilled in me. While my dad was the sole earner and we did not have extra sources of income, rigorously following Lessons 1 and 10 allowed them to put me and my brother through college and even help us buy our first cars (I feel so spoiled when I think of this now). Actually what's spooky is how much I think like them now that I'm "all grown up".

Guest's picture
Andrew

I am sitting at work in Zürich, Switzerland. I am leaving in an hour to drive for 4 hours to Milan, sleeping in the airport car park, then taking a 07:00 flight from Milan to Naples.

I will spend a few hours with my Mum and then do the reverse tomorrow night, arriving home at around 03:00.

All because tomorrow is my mum's birthday and would have been my parents' wedding anniversary. Dad died in May.

So much of what you wrote hit home and even made me a little tearful thinking about Dad and the lessons I learnt from him.

So I would add something to your list.

If you have it within yourself in terms of time, money and physical ability, then if you want to do something then you must do it. Especially if it is to pay someone forward, or pay them back for something.

Sometimes you have to sleep in the car to catch a flight to see the woman who brought you into the world and raised you with the man she loved.

My trip was a spur of the moment thing but I could not stand the thought of Mum spending September 22ns alone for the first time in 45 years.

Sorry if I am rambling but I am a bit teary eyed.

Guest's picture

When you have to start from the beginning, you have to focus. It's like hitting the reset button and giving yourself a second chance. It's very interesting to see the phenomenon of immigrants doing better on test scores etc.

Over 50% of the students at UC Berkeley are Asian for example. Yet, Asian only account < 15% of the California population!

Guest's picture
Ellen

I appreciate this perspective. It is refreshing to hear such a success story that is not lined with 'how I made a million.' True success is in your happiness, not what you own, and I believe you outline this perfectly. Thanks!

Guest's picture
douglas

Vincent, I am like your parents, an immigrant born in another land, who came here looking for better opportunities. So naturally, a lot of my friends are immigrants from many places. I agree that coming from hardship and having taken action to improve your situation gives you a special focus, that sharpens your aim. Basically your goals tend to be more defined, and you work with all your energy towards it.
What I constantly see with sadness is how our consumerist environment blind a lot of my friends and they start to forget one of more of those 10 lessons you mention. Capitalism makes it way to tempting and easy to forget those lessons. It studies your weaknesses as a human being and it exploits them, it goes after your desires, your temptation to vice, weaknesses such as envy, or the need to belong, peer pressure, etc.
Keeping your rules fresh in our minds and that of our descendants is the best gift we can give ourselves. It keeps on giving.
Thanks a lot for sharing.

Guest's picture

Interesting to think what the kids and grandkids of immigrant families will do when it comes to Personal Finance philosophy? Many get sucked into living beyond their income and means, yet many retain same values. I wonder what causes differences?

Vince

Guest's picture
croatian1

I am the grandchild of immigrant grandparents (on both sides). My parents grew up during hard times here. They were taught by their parents to work hard, have strong family ties and to get an education. Because both sets of grandparents did not have a formal education they instilled education. My dad was a double major in math and electrical engineering ( this was in 1947), my mother an english teacher; who married and never used her degree. But while she never taught students, she taught us the value of the written word. Because of her we are family of avid readers. This has been passed onto their own grandchildren also.

My parents always had a network of family and friends who all pitched in when they remodeled their kitchen. I am proud to say my husband and I also have a strong network of family and friends that we are able to get things done that normally would cost a fortune. A cousin is a lawyer, we have a doctor and some nurses in the family. However I will add we do insist on paying some for their advice, or my hubby might repair something in their homes for them. Some people unfortunately, can and do take advantage of this, so my advice is if someone helps you out for free make sure to reciprocate.

I have always loved to cook and bake, so we eat at home the majority of the time. Altough, years ago Friday night became no-cook night, so we either order-in or go out. My grandson, at 22 months is already at my side as I bake and cook! All of this is called tradition------that is something that money cannot buy!

Guest's picture
Ashley

I love your first bit of advice "save like you have no job and 6 mouths to feed"! My urge to save is what causes me to be more frugal in every aspect of my budget. With that said, I also look for larger ways to cut my costs (no cable, no salon mani/pedis, no clothes when I don't need them) as opposed to cutting out all of the smaller indulgences I enjoy on occasion.

Guest's picture
Jessica W

Love it! In my network of friends are many African Immigrants. I swear, they work harder than anyone I know..multiple jobs, in a shop and taxi driving at night. Their kids study hard in school, and they take good care of what they own.

They are excellent role models and the kinds of people I want my
family to be around--they remind us not to take the opportunity we were born into for granted.

Guest's picture
Lee

I liked all of those, and the best thing is they are all fairly easy to work into your own life. I'm pleased that I'm doing a lot of them already, but will have to work harder on others.

The one I won't give up is the credit card. Due to cash back it actually makes me money to use it. Just remember to pay it off every month!

Lee

Guest's picture

In my case, my dad only had a junior high school education and my mom had no education whatsoever (education was not free back then in South Korea). When they came to the U.S. in 1971, they concentrated on working hard and saving money, but they trusted the local public school system to take care of us kids' futures.

I think that was not seeing the big picture. Maybe because they had so little education themselves, they didn't know any better. They pushed us to excel in school, go to college, and become doctors or lawyers. Meanwhile, my dad's welding business was so successful that our whole family became spendthrifts. Our parents didn't teach us frugality or any other financial literacy skills. I think this is the more common picture of the "successful" immigrant story than the excellent example your parents set.

I did become a lawyer and it took me 10 years to pay off my student loans. Many of my colleagues, also children of immigrants, remain trapped in professions they hate because of their loans and high-spending lifestyles. Nowadays, I'm happy 'cause I taught myself how to be frugal by reading blogs like this one. And, thanks for this great post! It reminds me of "10 Things I Wish My Dad Taught Me" at http://shanelyang.com/2007/11/16/10-things-i-wish-dad-taught-me/

Guest's picture
Jim

I think a lot of Americans who are born in America have this ridiculous sense of entitlement. They actually believe that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter. Some immigrants, on the other hand, are not used to concepts such as overtime, employer provided healthcare, unemployment benefits or food stamps . . not working your ass off in the countries they are from means not eating, watching your family suffer, or worse. I worked with a guy born on Staten Island once who thought some of the functions we handled were beneath him (fresh out of DeVry) and I've worked in a Dunkin Donuts 6 days/12 hour shifts with an immigrant who used his one day off to go to school so he could better himself. I honestly feel America is producing a bunch of overweight, poorly educated, lazy brats these days.

Guest's picture
DALE

to Jim re: The Fall of America
Hi Jim,
I trace my ancestors in this country (nearly all in the 8 lines of my grandparents) back to the 1600's. I am a direct descendent of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrims. I could, therefore, hardly be said to qualify as an immigrant, but I confess to be growing really tired of all the American bashing going on these days, your comments included. My father and mother were as hard working and instilled as may of these lessons in their children as any you've ever met. My father's favorite line was "all work is honorable when done for your family's benefit. " Trust me, some of the jobs he took to keep food on the table proved those words beyond any doubt. Maybe you don't hear about us too much, Jim, but there are a whole bunch us out here who have not had benefit of any inheritance save our family relationships but have managed to educate ourselves, get good jobs, raise good families and stuff cash away..Its not just an immigrant thing. I don't pretend to know your circumstances in life , but your attitude could use some adjustment. Like, yesterday. Sorry you're so disappointed with the attitudes of those around you... maybe you could try another country!

Guest's picture

This was a great post. Our generation should start looking at some of the older traditions. Traditions which the nation was built on: love, family, true friends, pride in work/job, gratitude, integrity, etc. The most popular shows and music today encourage everyone to spend "more money" to get "more happy" and we've become suckers for all the latest marketing tactics. The carrot keeps moving as the hole gets deeper.

No matter what, "things" alone don't lead to real peace of mind and happiness!

Guest's picture

Great post. I work in the financial sector of the business world and see a lot of immigrants that strive for the "American Dream" and fall in to the trap of being far in debt and overspending. This is a refreshing view that I really am in line with. My parents were frugal growing up and I take that with me in my adult life. Thanks again for the great perspective.

Guest's picture
Guest

My great-grandparents, grandparents and my parents all followed the above rules. I know them inside out. I have taught them to my children. My children can squeeze a dollar bill until it screams. They have completed their college education with NO debt. They shop at thrift stores, keep their cars for years. They are only a few who believe that being frugal is a good thing.

I am afraid that the next generation, who did not have the wonderful backgroud of thrift, will sell us down a river of debt.

Guest's picture

Great article! I admire your parents.

I think our generation nowadays is inclined or obsessed with owning material things. It is a culture of what we have in terms of money, properties, cars, etc.

Embracing lesson #8 will be helpful!

Guest's picture
Bucksome

Nearly all Americans have the immigrant experience in our family history. This article was a good reminder of the valuable lessons our forebearers gave us and many of us have "forgotten".

Guest's picture
Guest

I feel like I'm reliving my childhood reading your post. Thanks for the memories, my parents thought me all of those keys. What ever you do for yourself will benefit your pocket.

Guest's picture
Anil Suzer

25 m from Istanbul, Turkey.
Great article, great points that i am familiar with.
My parents also do the same way. Is it because they are
immigrants or mediterranean? I am not sure.

Guest's picture
hem

Wonderful article. Should be a required reading for all students. Do share with your friends and family.

Guest's picture
Guest

Your parents lead a very wise life, which sets a quite good example for you...
I admire that you can learn so many good things for your parents.

Guest's picture
Guest

mind blowing stuff

Guest's picture
Steve

Thanks for the great tips learned from your family. Our elders truly have a lot of wisdom to depart to us. As another way of talking about paranoia: I like the advice: trust but verify. I would rather not ascribe greedy motives to all, but I want to be realistic, too!

Guest's picture
Franklin Grimes

Apparently the US government is 14 trillion in debt, the highest level since 1946 {we had just finished paying for WWII}. I would say the bad old days are coming round again, and Americans should start living like immigrants to get by. Hard times are coming, I'm planning my house as a boarding house, a big vegetable garden, selling veggies at the farmers market, you name it. All you have to do is open the paper and you'll see the US economy is way off the rails and the people at the switch have no idea what they're doing. We're going to have to live like Dust Bowl survivors to get through the next ten or twenty years, mark my words.

Guest's picture

this is the attitude that made us wealthy. we need to learn how to work hard and use our financial resources wisely

Guest's picture
chigozzie

thanks for your post. visit this link and grab wealth made easy

Guest's picture

Very good article.  I think one of the absolute best ways to save money is to do things yourself.  If you are a handy person, you can really save yourself some money.

Even easy stuff, like oil changes, you can save yourself $10 to $15 easy each time.  It will add up after time.

Also, I think if you can come to terms with what I would call a simplier life, it would be good.  Downsize your house, drive later model cars, etc.  You can save money not only on payments (or lack of payments) but also on taxes.

Again, great article.

Guest's picture
Kristi

Great article. I am also Italian American and have found so much more pleasure in life living this way. Unfortunately it is often misunderstood or looked at askance that I don't join the rat race but take pleasure in the simple things in life .... I've wrote and self published a small book about how to bring that Italian lifestyle to your house in America. It's on Lulu and called La Bella Figura by Kristi Belle

 (http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/la-bella-figura/10660465)

It's about less is more and quality over quantity, something many people don't just get.

All my Italian American relatives have bought it, but I have inlaws who are American who won't even look at it ....

Guest's picture
Justmike

1. How?

2. Why the need to feel rich in the first place?

3. Family, see 7. "trust", but some people do not have family.

4. True!

5. Doing these things today, earns much less than it did even 5 years ago. There are more people "trying" these things, and more hands out digging into those peoples pockets. For example, taxes, insurance, available locations.

6. These are all great, but most Americans cannot do one of those things, they would need a class.

7. See 3.

8. Who needs definitions?

9. Not one of us is guranteed tomorrow.

10. True, see 8.

 

Guest's picture

Hi JustMike,

 

Just a few replies to your comment:

 

1. If an immigrant with a 7th education and very little English speaking skills can save a high percentage of their income, then the average American with a high school diploma can leave below their means, purchase items they actually have cash for, live modestly, etc.  Saving money is about rituals and mindset; if you need to ask "how to save" then you need to start from the beginning and examine how you live your, personal finance, life.

2. By "rich" I mean a fulfilling life; in my view, being "rich" is not about a large home, flashy cars, and expensive clothing, rather about family, eating well, financial security, etc.  I wouldn't take the word "rich" literally...

5.   Real estate today, historically speaking, is still a good value (especially multi family homes that the owner is living in).  If you live in a two family home and are able to put down a good down payment then the rent can help off set property taxes and mortgage - I still think the opportunity exists and isn't as "hard" these days as you suggest.  

6.  A class?  Maybe some time spent reading a book or trial and error, but it doesn't take a degree to learn how to cook, make a simple house repair, shine your shoes, plant a garden, change your own oil, etc.  

8.  Where you a philosophy major?  Not sure what you mean by "who needs definitions?"  My point here is to treat a job with respect and do it well, but to not let it define you or make up who you are?  Make sense?  

9.  You are correct, but you do you wake up everyday thinking you're going to die and live life like you only have one day to live?  It's silly not to think big picture and strategic about your life.

Guest's picture
Patti

I immigrated from Thailand to the U.S. when I was 4-years-old. Unfortunately my family adopted the American ways of materialism and credit cards. My mother had a lot of credit card debt but managed to pay it down for the most part (from $20,000 on 6 cards to about $2,000 on 2 cards in the past 7 years). I lived a spend thrift life through most of college. I'm in my early 20s and learning about personal finance and saving for the future. Good thing I'm able to get a financial awareness intervention now rather than 10 years down the road. Thanks for sharing your story with us Vince!

Guest's picture
Guest

excellent post!

Guest's picture
Dee

I'm first generation American, with both my parents immigrating in the mid-1970's. My parents have a similiar education to yours as neither went past the 8th grade.

As a teen I resented the lifestyle of which they abided by, always feeling deprived of what other children got (allowances, etc.). Now, I wish I had listened to my parents advice about saving. I'm soon to be debt free within the next 18 months and I plan on instilling in my future children what my parents were trying to instill in me.
Thanks, Vincent, for the reminder in keeping what's truly important ahead of material wealth.

Guest's picture
Guest

I can trace my New England roots back to the 1600s as well, actually descended from the same Mayflower passenger two times. Three of my husbands grandparents came over from Poland, and his other was the daughter of immigrants. Those that immigrated, and their children (who were children during the Depression) tended to be very thrifty. Subsequent, generations however seem to be far less thrifty than my New England relatives. It is quite foreign to me... a big party foe each and every life event, snowmobiles, Corvettes, cruise vacations. By comparison my New England relatives live far more conservatively. Weddings, holiday giving and spending in general seems more downscale. They tend to spend money on things that have permanent value, such as their homes, antiques, books and so on. My mother grew up with National Geographics and vacations to places like Gettysburg.

Nevertheless I do agree with the previous poster about the lack of work ethic among many Americans. And there is no better testimony of the work ethic of immigrants that the annual National Spelling Bee. Very impressive to see such a high percentage of Asian and Indian kids whose parents and grandparents might not have even been able to speak our language... or even use the same alphabet.

Guest's picture
Guest

I agree with the above lessons except #4 is a HUGE mistake. One needs to learn to use credit card exactly in the amount of budgeted cash and pay the balance in full the last day of the free payment cycle - automatic deduction from your checking account ensures that you never pay a penny in any fees and get plenty of perks (miles or cash rebate). This way you borrow money from card issuing bank while your own cash is earning interest in your bank. However the biggest advantage is in building your credit score!!! With the highest possible credit score you save thousand and thousand of dollars on your mortgage and other loans and qualify for the better possitions with higher wages. Paying with cash is the worst advice for people with limited income. They will end up paying higher than usual rent for their whole lives and working entry level jobs. Credit score is not based on the amount of money one has, but on the way one can utilize the credit. You just have to learn the proper way to use the credit card(s) and set up the automatic payment system. I live just above poverty level, however my credit score is around 780. So please don't teach Lesson #4 if you would like to have easier future, so you would not need to strugle for the whole life. Learn how the financial system work and use it to your advantage. Learn about the proper investment, as cash savings will never work for you due to the inflation.
Sugestion for new Lesson #4:
* Never carry cash - you will not buy any coffee, candy or other overpriced snacks on streets.
* Never carry cash - if your vallet gets stolen, nobody returns your cash (there is zero liability for stolen credit cards, new ones are issued right away and overnighted for free)
* Never carry cash - you will be an easy target for robbery. So many people loose thier lives for paper money. Pick pocketers watch shoppers during payments and follow the easy targets.
* Never carry cash - your vallet without cash is easy to carry in the inside pocket of your pants or skirt. Credit card holder (includes driver's licence) is not a bulky item and doesn't require hand bag for ladies - the easiest target for thiefs.
* Never carry cash if you can't afford or don't want to support beggars on the street, with no cash in your pocket you won't feel pressured about not sharing your hard earned money with alcoholics or other addicts.
*Never carry cash if you are unable to say "NO" to you friend, co-worker or a relative, who constantly asks you to borrow money, but never seems to remember to repay it back. No cash policy is an easy solution to get rid of leechers.
* Never carry cash for store purchases of any amount - cash payment doesn't come with the extra waranties as credit card payments do, potentially saving you large amounts in the disputes over bad services and products.
* Never use cash or checks for utility payments - set up automatic credit card payment for each month, that way you are never late so you avoid any late fees and deductions on your credit score, you don't spend a penny on postage and time for writing those checks and mailing them. One year of utility payments on time and in full can raise your credit score around 100 points. If you set up automatic payments using your credit card, there is no deposit fee required from utility companies and you can save this money in the interest bearing account.
*Never use cash for an airline ticket purchase. You could be subjected to an extra profiling and even placed on a "no fly list".
*Never use cash if you are on a strict budget. Credit card statement never lies. No matter how hard you try to tract your cash, you never remember all your small purchases and loose coins. You can tract your budget categories daily, weekly, monthly or in any categorie on your computer or over the phone. Credit card statement shows you details about every transaction.
*Never use cash for payments if you like to make tax accounting a breeze. Credit card company sends you end of the year summary of all your expenses, divided into appropriate categories and with comparisons to previous years and national averages. Such summary automatically transfers data into your tax preparation software. All your credit card purchases can be traced even if you don't have an original receipt so you have a proof in case of an audit of your tax return.
*With regular credit card use in any amount, the credit limit increases dramatically and so does the credit score.
*Always hide some cash in your car and in your home for an emergency. Keep it in a sealed envelope and in hard to get to it place.
*If you can't learn how to use credit card in the above described way, I'm sorry for you. In that case, work hard and be proud of showing your cash to every cashier and shoppers around you. Buy a gun to protect your life and cash. Enjoy the evenings spend with your checkbook, quality time standing in a line in the post office to purchase plenty of stamps and sharpening your mind with remembering each and every one bill deadline.

* How many airline tickets do you get for using cash? Note that the airline seat is the same regardless if you get yours for free or if you use your cash.
Do you get any cash rebate for using cash? Does your cash provide you with the free car rental or upgrade of size? Same goes for hotels and entertainment venues. Vacations are always fun, however they are even more fun if they are a present from your credit card issuing bank. And just in case your flight crashes, your relatives would inherit up to $1,000,000 - compliments of your credit card. In less serious cases such as delayed luggage, you will be reimbursed for all necessary purchases.

Guest's picture

"Only the Paranoid Survive". Thank you, now I feel much better. Although I think credit card may not be as bad if you only have one and put all the bills on it so you only have to make one payment a month. I agree with you about the network part. It's like a social insurance. If you fall down the pit of financial crisis, you can still get many things done without paying a lot of money.

Guest's picture

Fantastic article and very wise advice! Most immigrant families that I know are savers by nature who aren't afraid to work. They find pleasure in delicious home cooked meals shared with friends and family rather than time clocked at the mall.

Melissa Tosetti
www.TheSavvyLife.com

Guest's picture

Having spent 6 months in Europe post-college, I can hereby affirm that these methods are still well in effect across the pond. The one thing I'm curious about the parental attitudes...healthcare?

Guest's picture
Guest

First generation Irish American here. I've learned all these lessons. Some didn't stick at first but I live by all of them now.

My peers think I'm crazy for not having a credit card. An added bonus of cash is seeing it disappear as you hand it over. And if you don't have enough on you, you really start to doubt the need for that expensive item.

One thing I would add is to buy used and if you have to buy new, don't buy into fads.

Guest's picture

Cool article. A good reminder that we learn so many of our money habits from our parents and our early childhood. No matter how old we are, taking time to reflect on our our own (parent-infused) money behaviours can enable us to build a much more effective financial plan for our own financial future. Thanks for the article.