Teacher & Nurse in Arlington — Money Diary

Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
My siblings and I were definitely expected to go to college as first-generation children. Neither of our parents graduated from high school in Vietnam, but they both saw value in obtaining a higher education and financially supported me and my two siblings through our bachelor’s degrees, my sister through medical school, and myself through nursing school (federal student loans and grants helped, too). I was able to leave both of my bachelor’s degrees without any debt, for which I am eternally and constantly grateful.

Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent(s)/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
My family and I didn’t often talk about money. When I started my first job in high school, my dad took me to the bank to open my first checking account and put me as an authorized user on his credit card, which ended up helping my credit score a bunch (highly recommend!). Aside from that, everything I know about finances (which is low to moderate), I learned through my own reading and listening.

What was your first job and why did you get it?
I worked at Aeropostale and later American Eagle at the local mall when I was in 11th grade. My high school friends were spending their afternoons playing sports, so I needed something to do and my siblings had recently started working at a restaurant at the same mall. Of course, it was also nice to have some pocket money.

Did you worry about money growing up?
A little bit. My parents came to the US in the ’80s where the five of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. My mom would tell me stories of how she couldn’t afford to buy a piece of pie when she first arrived here, but eventually both of my parents got stable jobs as a cook and a barber and they moved out to the Maryland suburbs. I knew we weren’t rich, but things always felt comfortable. My parents didn’t spend much on themselves and I don’t understand the corners they had to cut in order for a family of five to feel like they were living comfortably. I remember when my sister’s college tuition ended up being a lot more expensive than my brother’s and mine, I worried that my parents were being stretched too thin.

Do you worry about money now?
A little bit. I check my credit card balances every day to make sure I haven’t gone out of control and it often feels like I’m cutting it close. I know I’m not saving enough for retirement or if I want to buy a condo or a house, but with the state of the world right now, I’m not that concerned about retirement or more permanently calling a place home. I also work part time as a nurse so I can worry about money less.

At what age did you become financially responsible for yourself and do you have a financial safety net?
I probably didn’t really become financially responsible for myself until I graduated from nursing school in 2019 (age 30). My parents helped me to pay a mortgage at that time. Since then, I’ve taken care of all of my finances except… They still pay my phone bill. My financial safety net is the money that I have in savings, which would cover about three months of expenses if I stopped working. I am also very lucky to know that my parents and siblings would help me if I needed to ask.

Do you or have you ever received passive or inherited income? If yes, please explain.
My parents gave me $36,000 as a down payment on a condo in 2014. I have since sold the condo and recouped all of the money. This year, I gave my dad about $20,000 of that so he could assist his family overseas. I don’t count it as my money and just hold onto it for when my parents will need it.

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