3 ways first-generation Americans can build wealth and support family – Business Insider – Business Insider

Posted: October 30, 2020 at 10:56 pm


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The first-generation American experience is incredibly unique. As the American-born child of immigrants, you have intimate access to multiple cultures, and the ability to navigate between them and deeply relate to distinct types of people. I for one feel profoundly blessed to be counted among this group and incredibly proud of my parents' sacrifices to help me realize the American dream.

However, I am also acutely aware of many of its challenges. There are significant pressures to be successful; to make your parents' sacrifices "worth it," and to provide various types of assistance to immediate and extended family members. One of the biggest untold burdens of being a "first" is being a lifelong member of the "original sandwich generation" and I don't mean the "sandwich" experience of Gen Xers who find themselves caring for their kids and aging parents at the same time.

For Gen Xers, the "sandwich" experience is usually limited in duration, and not an expectation they've lived with their entire lives (unlike many of their first-generation peers). Ask any first-generation American, regardless of age, and they will likely tell you they directly support not only themselves, but also extended family in the US and/or in their parents' country of origin.

This can be a serious challenge for even the most diligent savers. The unfortunate reality is that BIPOC employees in most professions are statistically underpaid compared to their white peers. Therefore, not only are we earning less, we are also inheriting less and must make our comparatively lower incomes stretch to support multiple generations and/or households. This challenge trifecta means finding a delicate balance between self-preservation, wealth building, and honoring our parents' sacrifices to form a new life in America for our benefit.

With my clients, I see that it is mentally taxing to dream of creating wealth for your nuclear family and future generations while balancing the significant practical or emotional burdens of supporting your family of origin.

If this resonates with you as a situation you are currently facing, I have some basic recommendations to help you build wealth and honor your responsibilities to your family at the same time.

Your dependent family members will not be well served by you giving away all your money only to incur debt or live with extreme financial anxiety. By continuing to build wealth through saving, investing, and paying down debt, you are also building financial stability for your entire family. Therefore, you should endeavor as best you can to release any feelings of guilt associated with aiming higher financially.

If you are currently financially supporting anyone outside your immediate family, I recommend you come up with your exact "family contribution quotient." That is, exactly how much, for whom, and/or to what causes you are willing to support. These clear boundaries allow you to balance your personal financial well-being and goals with the need to support your family.

Some examples:

Perhaps you are not currently supporting family but expect that you will have to do so at some point in the future. This can feel like an ominous cloud lingering on the horizon and feel limiting in terms of your overall financial health.

To temper that anxiety, it is important to fully understand your loved ones' financial picture. That will require a slightly awkward conversation, but knowing exactly how bad (or not) things are is so important. Working with real numbers is one of the most important things you can do to alleviate any financial anxiety. From there, you can create a long-term plan for your future support.

If you have siblings, discuss with them what you can contribute or what the long-term plan is for managing your parents' care.

You can also consider setting up a "family emergency savings account." This involves allocating a certain amount of money monthly to a savings account or an accessible investment account for future family support needs. This will serve as a backstop should a need arise. If the money is never needed, then the funds are still in your name and can be used for any other financial goals you may have.

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3 ways first-generation Americans can build wealth and support family - Business Insider - Business Insider

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October 30th, 2020 at 10:56 pm