Being an immigrant has its own challenges and I was curious to know from other immigrants how they were dealing with their finances. I wanted to find out the unique challenges they were facing and how they dealt with them.
I am excited to present the 6th guest of the interview series, Rupa Pereira. She is a Tech Entrepreneur, interested in Corporate & Personal Finance, Strategy & Operations. She believes in Purposeful Living.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
1. Can you tell us about yourself? Please include any details you feel comfortable sharing about how long you’ve been in the US, what you do for a living and your income range.
A first-generation immigrant arrived in JFK 22 years ago with nothing but a work visa and borrowed $200, no family, no friends in the US. Early on, I was fully entrenched – realized the quintessential American dream, rose through the ranks, hit the six-figure income early on…endured dotcom bust, financial recession, and millennial onslaught and lifestyle changes. I’m now a lifestyle entrepreneur, actively invested in family and community, and passive investor. Living and treasuring life ‘one day at a time’. A self-made millionaire.
2. What was your relationship with money during the early days of your life? How did it influence your finances?
In my younger, carefree years, money was a means to leisure, pleasure. No staying power. Live from paycheck-to-paycheck. A very loose relationship. No strings attached.
3. Do you discuss money with your friends, family or colleagues? How do they react when you bring up the topic of money? Is this a taboo subject?
When I was a kid, growing up in India, money (or the lack of it) was rarely discussed. My upbringing in a lower-middle-class family in Mumbai didn’t leave much for indulgences – just the bare necessities and then some. Even friends wouldn’t care to talk much about money. It wasn’t interesting of a topic enough, although related subjects – jobs, raises were discussed. Discussing money or financial matters is just not done.
4. What are some of the money mistakes you have committed? What lessons did you learn from it?
They were fewer mistakes and more a learning process. Since money management isn’t taught as a subject, life-learning is crucial. I learned when lending to family/friends, treat it like a loan and expect a payback, with/without interest. Treat gifts differently from loans. And Credit is a good thing, in America, whereas in India, we would never spend what we didn’t have.
5. What is your view on debt? Do you carry any form of debt? Has it ever been a source of stress in your life?
As stated above, the notion of ‘debt’ being a good thing became part of my system only when I arrived in the US. Credit/borrowing/debt are only for the laggards – or so it was implied. Then I learn that credit-worthiness is assessed only when you carry credit, owe an entity an amount. The idea of compound interest, APR, APY was totally alien to me then. Now I’ve learned that you use credit cards as an alternative mode of payment, and pay it in full at the end of every cycle. Never been in debt, and no it’s not been a source of stress. I would credit my Indian-frugal-roots for this mentality.
6. How is your money invested? Does being an immigrant have any influence on your investment decisions?
My money is invested in Deferred Retirement, Roth as well as brokerage accounts. I have a real-estate portfolio and hold a good chunk in bonds/liquid assets. Being an immigrant, I don’t expect an inheritance windfall and am aware that it’s up to us to secure the future for my retirement and my kids.
7. Do you have any specific money situation as an immigrant (e.g. supporting an aging parent or family overseas) that influences your finances?
Yes, my husband and I support our family overseas and we’re much in the sandwiched generation, caring for our parents while caring and saving for our kids. That has influenced how we spend no fancy dinners, no 5-* hotels, no fancy cars..no McMansions either. “Stretch the $ without breaking our back”.
8. Are you aware of the FI or FIRE movement? If yes, where did you hear about it? Are you pursuing (or have you reached) financial independence?
Yes, fully aware of FIRE, through my monthly Money subscription. A FIRE in the making here. I don’t believe that retirement is only for seniors. One can retire from a monotonous, meaningless job routine and channel the energy and passion into something that’s more fulfilling and valuable to society. My family needs are minimal and we only splurge on travel and exploration, so in that sense, we’re nearing financial independence. Staying healthy/fit is key to financial independence.
9. What are some of the apps or tools you use to manage your finances?
Personal Capital, Excel Spreadsheet and online banking.
10. Are there any specific books, blogs or podcasts on personal finance that you’d recommend to others?
Not one blog, but a few that I visit occasionally that I discover on Twitter in the finance community. I focus on those bloggers similar to my profile – 40+, with children, semi-retired and similar interests.
11. What money advice do you have for new immigrants who arrive in the US?
Establish your base and build from there.
Evaluate pros-cons of buying old vs/ new – whether it’s a house or car or household goods. Immigrants tend to favor new vs used and experience has taught me that it’s a huge drain on the wallet with no real benefit.
Resist the urge to keep up with the ‘Joneses’. Enjoy simple pleasures of life. They’re free and Instagrammable.
12. How can people connect with you on social media?
Are you a first-generation immigrant in the US? If yes, would you like to be part of this interview series? This series will focus on personal finance for first-generation immigrants and the unique challenges they face.
You can check out my page Immigrant Finances – Interview Series for more details on how to participate in this series.