Money Talk with an Early Childhood Education Teacher Who Teaches Children with High Net Worth Parents
Who are you and how old are you?
I am a 27 year old woman living in the suburbs on the East Coast. I commute into the city every day to work as an early childhood education teacher.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up on the West Coast and stayed in the area to go to college. After college, I moved to the East Coast and got my masters degree in early childhood education. I am now working as a teacher teaching children ages 3-4 at a very high-end (and super expensive) children’s school on the East Coast. Many famous celebrities send their children here so it's quite normal for us to bump into them occasionally.
How do you define rich?
Being confident and having peace about your financial situation. There’s no fear in your life about money.
Did you grow up with money? How did your childhood conditions about money affect how you behave?
I did not grow up with money and would characterize my family as being more on the lower-class end. My dad is much older than my mom and didn't work when I was growing up while my mom worked jobs in a clothing factory or as a waitress. When I was growing up, all my mom wanted to do was save money. My mom was very concerned that we would never have enough money to survive or enjoy life, which I think is common of the 1st generation immigrant experience (they immigrated from China before I was born). It made me frugal but my parents never taught me financial literacy so I've had to learn that through other venues (high school class, Learnvest, etc). I would say that the frugal environment I grew up in is what makes me frugal today.
At this point in my life, I’m starting to send money to my parents every month because they don't have anything saved for retirement and are living off the social security my dad gets. I'm also paying my parents' phone bills, utility bills, etc.
Did your parents give you money when you were growing up? What about for school?
I have never felt deprived, but I think it's because I didn’t want a lot of things. Now that I think about it, I remember they would give me a quarter every week when I was 7-10. It's not really an allowance but it's something!
The college I went to paid for everything. It is an extremely well-known and wealthy school on the West Coast with generous financial aid packages. If your parents make less than $200,000 in total, the school will pay for everything - tuition, board, etc.
Do you still have school loans?
I owe $28,000 in loans to the graduate program I went to for early childhood education . Once I graduated, I signed up for a standard monthly payment plan, and that is how I will pay off my loans.
Where did you learn about investing?
I don't invest at the moment but would like to in the future.
What does your family situation look like?
My dad doesn't work and my mom works up the odd job. They get by from my dad's social security. My dad's health insurance is provided by Medicare, and the apt they live in is government subsidized. They don’t have retirement accounts and expect that I will provide for them, which is scary to think about.
How are you teaching your 3-5 year old students at the school you teach about money?
The students I teach have very wealthy parents and even at their age, understand that life is transactional, and that money can buy you a lot of things. We play money games at school where we give them money and they can buy things at a pretend grocery store.
Do you feel like you are living paycheck to paycheck? If so, do you feel that way due to your lifestyle?
I don't really feel like I'm living paycheck to paycheck but certain months are tighter. For example, during the holidays, I have more bills because I have to pay for flight tickets back home and presents for my friends. I'm unfortunately not saving money now because everything I earn is going toward rent, food, paying back my school loans, helping out my parents, etc.
What was your most regrettable purchase?
A $100 juicer I bought a few years ago. I've since realized that I only it use twice a year, so it was a terrible waste of money. I bought it at the time because I was getting a ton of free fruit from school, and thought that I would be making healthy juice drinks every day for myself.
What was your best purchase?
My Sorel snow boots! I bought them a few years ago and they're still in great condition. Having great snow boots is critical for East Coast winters.
Do you actively contribute to a retirement account of any sort?
The school that I work at has a 401(k) that I put money in. They will match what we put in.
Do you feel like your lifestyle reflects your income bracket?
To be honest, I could be more frugal. I spend a lot of money hanging out and getting dinner with my friends because I have a "I'm young and living/working in the city” mentality. To be fair, though, the city I live in is really expensive and is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It's hard to live here and not take advantage of everything that's offered to us.
Have you ever jumped income brackets (either going from low to high or vice versa) and how did your lifestyle change?
Yes, when I began working. I went from making no money for the longest time to making money! I was pretty excited.
Do you talk to your peers and family about money?
I talk to my mom about money. Whenever we visit China, my parents' friends will always ask me how much money I'm making and about my financial habits. They really have no shame in doing so.
Do you worry about money?
I don't worry about money for myself but I worry about my parents' financial situation.
Do you splurge on anything? If so, what was the last splurge and how much was it?
I bought a new Macbook Pro last November but this was because my previous Macbook had been stolen. I initially thought I could just make do with my school computer but eventually got frustrated and just bought a new computer for myself.
Do you have a plan to make more money?
No. I just hope my income increases.
What would it take for you to feel like you are completely rich?
There are world riches, such as buying a house or car. But these things are temporary because I will eventually die one day and hopefully go to Heaven. I trust that God will provide for me during my life here on Earth.
In terms of money, what was something you did in the past that you could do differently?
I wish I learned about finance earlier.
What is your strategy for moving forward now in regards to your big goals in life?
I would like to creating a budget, revisit my budget monthly, and stick to it!
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.