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 8th guest of the interview series, Julien from Rich & Regular. It’s a blog, a mindset, a voice and a wake-up call to name a few. You might even say it’s our love story but if we’re really lucky—it’ll be a movement. One that reverses trends, empowers families and changes lives for the better.
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.
I’m Julien aka Mr. r&R at richandregular.com. I’m a first generation Jamaican-American, I live in the metro Atlanta area. I am a real estate investor and business owner of rich & REGULAR. Our combined income exceeds is $100K +
2. What was your relationship with money during the early days of your life? How did it influence your finances?
I grew up poor, so there was always a feeling of needing money for everything. That’s why I am still a very frugal person. We save or invest most of our money. When I got married I wanted to start our marriage with healthy money habits. I simply didn’t want money to be a problem in my marriage like I had seen in other marriages.
My relationship with money was like holding onto a fish you just caught. It felt like we were always trying to hold onto more of it and hoping more of it would just fall into our laps someday. It shaped my thinking as an adult because I was able to realize saving and cutting back can only get you so far. It also helped me realize cutting back to the point of making yourself miserable is unsustainable.
Also, Jamaicans are well known for having a strong work ethic but NOT for being entrepreneurial. Getting the “big job” at a good company that will take care of you was always the advice I was given.
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?
Even now, as a blogger that is building his life around personal finance, I don’t talk about it with friends or family unless they want to. They know we have pretty strong opinions about money so in public, they shy away from the topic. However, we get pulled aside for private conversations pretty regularly as people are either looking to validate their approach or “poke holes” in ours.
4. What are some of the money mistakes you have committed? What lessons did you learn from it?
My biggest money mistake is not believing I was “smart” enough to manage my own investments. For years, I respected a personal relationship I had with my financial advisor so much that I neglected to take action in the face of clear signs.
My family knew him and trusted him so I felt the pressure to do the same despite not agreeing with his investment philosophy.
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?
I believe personal/consumer debt is bad but business debt can be good. In either situation, it is a source of stress for us but we’ve learned to manage it over time. Now, even if we know there are perks associated with the debt, we rarely make adjustments because living debt free and using cash gives us the most flexibility in our lives.
6. How is your money invested? Does being an immigrant have any influence on your investment decisions?
Our money is invested in residential real estate, index funds and in our business. My investment strategy was not informed by my cultural identity but my work ethic and tendency to save were certainly shaped by my Jamaican/Caribbean values.
I was always taught to save a little bit of what I earn but there wasn’t much advice given beyond that. So long as I tithed and saved, I was led to believe it would all work out.
7. Do you have any specific money situation as an immigrant (e.g. supporting an aging parent or family overseas) that influences your finances?
We give a lot to my family in Mexico. I have younger siblings living in Mexico and so I help support them. We always make sure to put that in our budget every month.
Absolutely. Today, we accept our roles as the people in the family who can “make things happen”. Whether it’s handling travel arrangements, covering the cost for certain events or caring for a financially insecure parent, we know it’s our job to be the ones our family can rely on.
Most older Jamaicans we know have been heavily influenced by British culture since the island was once a colony of the UK. As a result, there are all sorts of corky things they place a high value on like china sets, tea sets, crystal and fancy china cabinets even though they never use them. There’s also a tendency to always have more food in the pantry than you can reasonably consume. Whenever I see this, my ‘business’ mind is hard at work crunching numbers on all the money spent on symbols of wealth and opulence that could’ve gone towards saving and investing.
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, and we are preparing to achieve FI in the next few years, hopefully, sooner. I heard about through reading blogs back in the early 2010s.
9. What are some of the apps or tools you use to manage your finances?
We use Personal Capital regularly and our own budget spreadsheets.
10. Are there any specific books, blogs or podcasts on personal finance that you’d recommend to others?
Yes, we always recommend A Wealth Choice by Dr. Dennis Kimbro. As Black Americans we recognize how important it is to have stories you can relate to and Dr. Kimbro provides several in his book. We’re also big fans of the Journey to Launch podcast led by another fellow Jamaican Jamila Souffrant.
11. What money advice do you have for new immigrants who arrive in the US?
Hold onto the “good parts” of your cultural identity and recognize that you may have to shed a few components of your culture that don’t serve you. This could be diet, culturally driven habits or your belief system. Don’t be afraid to break tradition or a cultural norm it doesn’t align with your goals. Also, recognize that frugality alone may not be enough to get you where you want to go.
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.