Dragon over Lake by LoggaWiggler - Public Domain

An Asian American’s View On Why Asians Save And Earn So Much

in Financial Planning by

I was sitting in our weekly marketing team meeting when one of my colleagues touched upon some interesting statistics about the Asian American demographic. She mentioned the Asian American segment has grown by 60% between 2000 and 2013 to a total population of 19 million. Chinese and Indians account for the bulk of the Asian population at 23% and 19%, respectively. The third largest segment is the Filipino population comprising of 17% of the total. As relatively new immigrants, you’d think Asian Americans would earn less and be worth less than the median US household, but you’d be wrong.

A 2010 Pew Research study pegged Asian households earning a median $66,000 a year vs. $49,800 for the average US household, a 32% difference. A 2013 Nielsen Research Report found that Asian American households have a median net worth of $89,300 compared to $68,800 for overall US households, a 30% difference. Meanwhile, roughly 49% of Asian Americans have Bachelor’s degrees vs. 28% of the general US population, a 75% difference.

With language and cultural headwinds, why is the average Asian American doing much better than the general US population? There’s no proof Asians are any smarter or harder working than other races. I quit math after junior year in high school because I hated math and didn’t see the practical use of taking Calculus in day-to-day life. I also like to lounge around as much as anyone.

I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but I can provide some perspective as a Chinese American who grew up in four different Asian countries for 14 years before coming to America for high school and college. I was born in the Philippines and lived in Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia. In college I studied abroad in China for six months. In the workplace, I took business trips to India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, and Indonesia for 13 years in a row from 1999 – 2012. I’ve lived in the States for the past 23 years.

EXPERIENCES THAT SHAPED THE SOUL

When I was in the 4th grade in Taiwan, a Caucasian kid tripped me on the pitch and proceeded to yell racial slurs after I fell to the ground. He kept on barking obscenities until I swept his legs and stomped on his solar plexus in retaliation. He began to cry and we were both sent to “face the wall” for the entire afternoon recess period.

While we were squishing ants climbing on the brick just inches away from our faces, my assailant surprisingly turned to me and apologized. I was touched and apologized right back. We never fought or played dirty on the pitch again.

The soccer game was between “Chinese” vs. “Americans” while I was attending Taipei American School in the early 80s. I was placed on the Chinese team due to my ethnicity, instead of my nationality. I was too young to understand that I had just experienced my first racial conflict.

When I was a sophomore attending The College Of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, I had another very memorable racial encounter. My girlfriend (who was half-Asian and half-Caucasian) and I were eating some midnight waffles at Denny’s, of all places when a group of massive offensive linemen came barging in. They sat in the booth next to us and told us to “get the f*ck out you ch*nks” or else they’d beat the crap out of us.

By this time, I was already used to racial conflict as a 20 year old Asian American living in Virginia for the past seven years for high school and college. I always spoke up when there was an injustice, but this time I was outnumbered four-to-one. Although I mentally strategized on how to debilitate my oppressors, my girlfriend and I decided to leave as we were just about finished with our food anyway.

I felt ashamed I couldn’t do anything to fight for my girlfriend’s honor. Even now as a 37 year old, it irks me that I do not know their names every time I recall the incident because I want to give them a call ask them if they still have the hate. But what I do remember the week following the incident was that I made myself a promise to be financially independent as soon as possible so I would never have to take abuse from anybody again.

WHY ASIAN AMERICANS SAVE AND EARN SO MUCH

Building wealth starts with savings. There is no such thing as investing, buying a home, purchasing an annuity, or building alternative income streams without savings. Let me share with you six reasons why I think Asian Americans save and earn more than the median. Again, this is just one person’s point of view.

1) Asians are allergic to debt. Taking on debt to purchase a car, a piece of property, or stocks is a relatively new concept for many Asians. We’ve been taught the tenet, “If you can’t pay for something in cash, you can’t afford it.” This tenet runs counter to the heavy consumerism culture in America. If you go to any property developer in China (market is looking a little bubbly), it is common for 80%+ of the units to be purchased with cash compared to less than 40% in America. Debt is slavery. Cash is freedom. The US personal savings rate is roughly 4.8% according to the US Bureau Of Economic Analysis compared to 30%+ in places like China and India.

2) Lots of historical uncertainty and upheaval. When you have political instability and war, people tend to save more for their uncertain futures. Over the past 100 years or so, there have been a lot of tragedies in developing Asia. The Cultural Revolution and the Nanjing Massacre are two such tragedies in China. The ongoing heavy hand of the government may be another. The Taiwanese are perpetually afraid the Chinese will invade their country. The Japanese have been aggressively saving since their bubble collapsed in the 1980s due to deflation. The 1997 Asian Investment Crisis destroyed the wealth of millions of Thais, Indonesians, Malaysians, and South Koreans. Meanwhile, America has enjoyed a much more stable path of growth thanks to our Democratic system. Having better expectations of the future gives you more confidence in spending more money.

3) Few Asians in leadership positions. When there are hardly any Asian American politicians or CEOs of large corporations, it’s more difficult to visualize yourself in such positions as a kid. When there’s no examples to aspire to, there’s a tendency not to even bother. There are also very few Asian Americans on TV or in the movies, except for in type-cast roles. People tend to hire and promote other people who look like them and share similar backgrounds. It starts with race, then sex, then socioeconomic background. There’s no wonder why everybody tends to look the same. Take a look around the office and see if you can find the pods of similarities. It’s not like people nowadays are intentionally racist or sexist. People just want to work with people who they trust most. It’s harder to fully trust and understand someone who has a different background. (Related: The Solution To The Gender Wage Gap)

4) Family finances. It’s common to see post-college Asian adults still live at home with their parents. Why pay rent when you can live with the parents and save money for a downpayment, is a common way of thinking. There’s also a traditional aspect of living at home until one gets married, unlike US culture, which encourages independence as soon as possible. If you save $30,000 a year in rent for 8 years until age 30, you will likely be better off financially than average. I’ve discovered living in San Francisco for the past 13 years that parental financial help for their adult children is quite common. I personally could never imagine living back home with my parents after college.

5) Sports is not a realistic way out. Only a tiny percentage of the population ever become professional athletes. But the odds are even starker for Asian Americans in athletics, an area where meritocracy reigns supreme. There are hardly any Asian American basketball, football, or baseball players for example. And these three sports are a part of Americana where the best athletes are revered as heroes. Even for non-contact sports like tennis, there’s only been a handful of Asian athletes who have risen to the top of the ranks. Without the hope of athletics, the only hope left is in the field of academics and the arts.

6) Academics is the main level playing field. If there is one level playing field among all races, it’s in academics. If you study harder, you will likely get better grades. If you get better grades, you’ll likely get into a better university. If you get into a better university, you’ll likely get a better job and make more money. It doesn’t matter if you’re only 5 feet 1 inches tall, you’ve got the same opportunity as someone 6 feet 10 inches tall in academics. Even if you are poor, so long as you have a stable household you can still study as long a someone who is rich. There is nothing more important to the Asian American population than academics. Parents will do absolutely anything to help give their kids a chance to excel in school. From after class tutors every day to Sunday school, I’ve had it all, and so have many of my Asian American friends.

THE REALIZATION

Given Asian Americans account for only ~6% of the US population, many Asian Americans realize that nobody is going to save them – not the government, not their colleagues, not the NBA, not the majority. Even if every single Asian American was brilliant and physically intimidating, we’d still get crushed by everybody else as a minority.

The only people Asian Americans can count on are our immediate family and education. This is why you see such a concentration of Asian minority groups in various urban settings e.g. Chinatown, Koreatown, Japantown. It’s a similar concept to why schools of fish swim together in the great unknown ocean. This is why UC Berkeley’s undergraduate Asian population is roughly 40%, 7X the national Asian American population. Getting a good education and looking after family cannot be overemphasized.

My father explained to me after my fight on the pitch that this sort of racial conflict would keep on happening as I grew older. He was absolutely right. He taught me that in order to stop getting picked on I would have to fight back with my mind because there’s always going to be someone physically bigger and more intimidating than me. And even if I was a hulk with a black-belt in martial arts, a pip-squeak with a gun could end everything in a hurry. With his advice in mind, I started taking school much more seriously.

When I graduated from college and got my first job in NYC I decided to save as much money as I could. After the first year, I maxed out my 401k and saved 20% of my after-tax income. Yes, it sucked sharing a studio with my high school buddy as a 23 year old, but these are the types of sacrifices I had to make in order to save. Getting in at 5:30am and lasting until 7:30pm in order to eat the free cafeteria food wasn’t so bad.

After my third year of work, I was regularly saving 50% of my after-tax income because all I could think about when it was dark coming into work and dark leaving work was how wonderful financial independence would be. There were definitely many times when I was tempted to spend a small fortune partaking in NYC’s amazing nightlife. Even back then in the late 90s, it was difficult to not spend at least $100 going out. But for the most part I kept things frugal.

Asian American Income And Education Rates

IN SEARCH FOR FINANCIAL FREEDOM

After saving 50%+ of my income for 13 years, I had accumulated enough to say goodbye to Corporate America. If I did nothing with my savings, mathematically speaking I would have at least 13 years of living expenses in the bank. But I actively diversified my savings into CDs, real estate, and dividend producing equities in order to produce passive income over the years. It’s important to eventually get money aggressively working for you so you can have more options.

Perhaps it’s easier saving money as a minority in America because there’s so much motivation to get ahead thanks to a tiny safety net. Going through racial conflict and seeing so much poverty in developing countries growing up really gave me a lot of perspective. If we are fortunate enough to live and work in America, most of us have it pretty good. But once we start seeing how the rest of the world lives, we’ll appreciate our situation even better.

In early 2012, I took it upon myself to get a handle on my own finances by signing up with Personal Capital’s Dashboard to track my net worth and manage my cash flow. Nobody is going to care more about my money than me, and I’m sure the same situation applies to you.

Any Asian Americans or minorities out there want to pitch in and share their thoughts on academics, savings, income, and personal finance? Why do you think Asian Americans have savings rates and income levels much higher than average? How do we amplify the importance of education?

Photo Credit: LoggaWiggler, Public Domain.

Regards,

Sam

 

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Financial Samurai

Sam is the former Managing Editor of the Daily Capital blog. He worked in finance from 1999-2012 before deciding to focus full-time on his online endeavors - FinancialSamurai.com and the Yakezie Network. Sam is an avid tennis fan who loves to travel. He received his BA from William & Mary and his MBA from UC Berkeley.

171 comments

  1. SavvyFinancialLatina

    As a first generation immigrant to this country, I had no safety net, which encouraged me to work extremely hard to get ahead. I do have a saving mentality. Personal finance blogs have really changed my mind about how I think about money. I know most people at work live day to day and then complain they will never be able to retire. But they make no sacrifices. I don’t understand that mentality.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing. The lack of safety net mentality really is a big thing, perhaps all first generation immigrants share. If your back is against the wall, the only thing you can do is go forward. I see this as a positive as there’s only progress to be had.

      Reply
      • tyler

        Work ethic is great in a culture it has always been the American cree until recently when pop culture and liberalism set it’s destructive claws in. The current Asian emphasis on work ethic is similar to the work ethic that settled the American west and can still be found in ranches and farms throughout the Midwest. Hopefully your kids the third generations wont become spoiled that is what happened to some Americans our excessive wealth and success has allowed many to slack off necessity will change that when the free money runs out and the cycle will repeat. Like you said many Asians come from a not so successful and generous country with opportunity so they don’t take it for granted. Asians like Americans strive for success and are competitive I think India and China might be able finally reach mars after numerous fails like USA has just out of competiveness.

        Reply
        • Ari

          I do not understand the initial comment on claws of liberalism and Pop culture having much bearing, or distinguishing the Midwest as particularly hardworking.

          I am Asian, hardworking, well educated, doing well by all metrics, and living in the Bay Area and quite certainly more egalitarian focused (the inferred use of liberal is meaningless to me) than conservative.

          There are a lot of us. In what way are
          We not due equal respect to the conservative Midwesterner?

          Reply
        • vlad

          yeah right American kids aren’t spoiled,asians come under minority programs and get easy mortgages and business loans it has nothing to do with aericans being lazy.they have to make it seem like their diversity program is working,see look at all the successful chinamen,we were right,when its all bullshitt,they copy everything off of white men.now they are stealing our birth right.

          Reply
          • Warchief

            The indiam expressed similar sendiment when the whitemen came to steal their land. Look where they at now?

    • Anonymous

      I agree with the comment above. People complain about being “poor”/not financially stable but they don’t sacrifice. These same people drink $5 a day Starbucks Coffee, go out every week to get a drink (s), they have cable, multiple cars, etc. Stop complaining and do something about it.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Thanks for calling me out. I needed this

        Reply
    • Caballero

      Will you marry me…?

      😛

      Reply
  2. Dividend Income

    I’m a first generation asian american immigrant of the Indian variety. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, my dad worked very hard and my mom was a housewife. My dad saved a lot but when all three kids were growing up, expenses started piling up so we were always living on the edge. He saved a money in fixed deposits in India with a rate of return of anywhere from 8% to 10% as most expatriates return back to their native countries. You are correct that we are very debt averse. We bought everything with cash. Even the condo my parents bought in India was bought with cash. Even my college expenses were paid off with cash. Loans were unheard off. It’s just a pretty recent phenominon. However my dad did borrow money unofficially through friends and his employer. Essentially this meant that he had to pay back the money with no interest…this was only because we needed money to visit India once in two years and this was an expensive affair. He hated doing this but he was compelled with the pressure of family and relatives.

    Growing up, it was hammered into our heads that the only way to move ahead in life was to get great grades (not good grades…but GREAT grades)., study either engineering or medicine and get a job. I was a border line case for academics so I always felt below par and under average since all the other kids stood out with their brains. I had a passion for programming since I was a kid though so I pursued software engineering in India after completing senior school in 1999.

    I graduated with a masters in 2004 and started working in december that year in Bangalore. My company transferred me to their US office in 2007. The US IT market has always had a demand for software development skills. I have a descent salary and my wife is going to graduate from residency next year and will work as a doctor so financially I would say we’re a lot more fortunate because of the education we recieved. WSJ income calculator puts us in the top 15%.

    I think the main things that shaped my outlook towards money were:

    1. Being aware of my middle class parent’s financial struggles supporting three kids – there was not a day I didn’t experience this in one way or another. I thought I was destined to always be living on the financial edge…however later lessons in life showed that that need not be the case.

    2. Informal education: I wasn’t smart on the academic side but I read a lot – newspapers, magazines, non-fiction, on world politics etc. The first personal finance book I read was “rich dad poor dad” when I was in my late teens. This ingrained the notion of making moeny work for you instead of the other way around. I also understood the long term effect of investing in equities. I also had talks with my older cousin who had completed her MBA and worked at a bank. She told me that to retire compfortably, you need a 30% savings rate in the least among other things.

    3. I had an inferiority complex: I always felt other kids were smarter than me growing up and felt this way even in my 20s so I always had work harder to prove myself. I accepted this part of me. Seriously, I felt like loser… I was great at sports, loved programming, knew the latest news events happening around the world but my grades just totally sunk my moral no matter how much I studied. As an asian american, you probably know what I’m talking about.

    4. I got a taste of passive income: I started writing about my passion on a blog – programming. Within 5 months, I started getting paid as I had so many readers… when I was initially working India, blog income was greater than my salary. This allowed me to invest excess cash in equities. I started seeing the compounding effect of dividend reinvesting and adopted the dividend growth model as my investment strategy.

    6. I realized that this rat race was BS: While the indian community is very society and status conscious, I realzied that if I’m happy and have everything I want, it doesn’t matter what others think for the sake of social status. This has saved me from vanity consumerism.

    7. 2008/09 economic crisis: Frankly it did not affect me in anyway. But I was so interested in learning everything about the recession and what happened that I read as much as I could, watched documentaries on the depression, history of stock market, wallstreet, 87 crash, dotcom crash, real estate bubble etc etc that I became more aware of how our financial system works. By this point I learned more about stocks and how to pick stocks. Later I decided to adopt the dividend growth model and buy individual stocks after learning how to do some fundamental analysis. I borrowed two accounting books from an accountant friend and I’m still reading it so I can use it to read financial statements and other disclosures.

    8. Learned the difference between being cheap and frugal. I’ve saved thousands of bucks through the latter.

    Most of us learned the importance of saving through the hard way… my first job paid me no salary. I think there needs to be classes at the school level to teach basics of finance and the monetary system…just like they teach chemistry and physics which most studients won’t pursue as a career anyway. America is a consumerist debt society so part of me thinks that such lessons won’t be taught because they want kids who spend spend spend… hence, the first thing you see at college are desks of credit card sales people!

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Fantastic perspective! I hear you on the “great grades” part. I remember coming home all proud with a 96% on a test I worked supremely hard for. And my father said, “What happened to the other 4%”? That pissed me off, and I rebelled for a while. But, I still wanted to be financially independent, so I continue to try hard any way.

      Many of my friends have discussed their aversion to debt. One friend is 40, probably makes over a million bucks and wants to still rent his one bedroom and drive his 8 year old Toyota Corolla because he is frugal and doesn’t want to take a mortgage. He’s lived in SF for 10 years now.

      Good luck with your journey!

      Reply
      • RetireHappy

        Haha! I thought that I was the only one who used the “What happened to the other __%” remark. My daughter was royally pissed like you. When she came back with a 100% on her next Math test, she dared me for a comeback. I calmly said, “So, did you not get the bonus question right?” She fumed that I can never be satisfied. She reminds me to this day.

        Reply
        • Tim

          Ahh this is GOLD… A very humbling experience for and growing kid to have parents like this!!! Push their limits and NEVER let them settle for that 96% or not going above and beyond….

          After all look how it worked out for the two of you. I would say it helped fuel your fire.

          Reply
    • Anonymous

      Awesome comment!

      Reply
  3. MarkenheimerMan

    The question is: Will the upcoming millenial Asian generation (both at home and in America) and subsequent generations keep this trend going, or reverse it? The only reason I ask is, I see many Asian young people who only care about pop culture trends, video games, and “bling.” They are spending their parents’ wealth (and yes, these are upper-middle class and sometimes rich parents) like there’s no tomorrow.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      There’s a Chinese saying “Fu bu guo san dai” which means “Wealth does not go beyond three generations.” In other words, the first generation busts its behinds to create wealth. The second generation still works, but lives very comfortably. And the third generation squanders it all and the cycle repeats.

      Given Chinese history is 3,000+ years old, I would say there is a lot of truth to this!

      Reply
      • renie

        I write this comment with total respect for the Oriental people in that when I was younger I read wonderful books by Pearl S. Buck , The Good Earth for one. I also watched the movie sometime this year on TCM channel. In that story it had a man who worked very hard along with his wife and children saved money to buy more and more land. He started out a very poor farmer.
        I also read somewhere that the cultures in the Asians peoples is to work to allow one or the oldest to go to school get a great paying job then reach down to next family member so on and so on. After some time the sacrifices of the parents or grandparents and other family members pays off as when the parents get older their children take care of their loved ones. I took that to heart and decided to go back to school as a thirty five year old mother of six. I earned three college degrees AS, BS , MBA. I was the first person woman in my family to ever attend college much less graduate. I did it to earn more money and get away from labor intensive jobs, On a greater level to strike out a trail to show the younger members of our large family to finish high school go to college. Also to beat my oldest son to under graduation. We both graduated at same time. Later the younger members of our family were finishing high school and several now have college degrees. I send cards and congratulations to each one in order for those successful family members to continue to reach down to lift our family out of such poverty, that keep our family from generation to generation on Government assistance in every form. Not that a safety net is wrong but it is not meant to be there from cradle to grave. Thank you for reading my post.

        Reply
        • Financial Samurai

          Thanks for sharing. BTW, some people are offended by the word “Oriental,” but I’m not exactly sure why.

          Reply
          • .5 Asian

            People get offended by the term Oriential because it’s use in original context meant something exotic and inferior thus not classifying. The general consensus in the late 1800’s were that there were three levels of people/society/cultures with whites being superior, Oriential people (which actually encompassed more than just Asians, including colonized Northern Africa,) and, blacks and savages.

            This is why you can still see the term used in rugs from India to food from any country.

            I am Asian-American, and personally I am not offended by it, because to me intent is the important part. Most people use it without nothing it’s linguistic history and mean no offense by it. I would rather have someone call me Oriential and not mean anything derogatory than someone who says Asian-American and means that in an inflammatory way.

          • Sam

            “Oriental” is used to describe inanimate objects, like rugs, food, decor, etc. “Asian”, is the term used for people or ethnicity – so calling someone “oriental” can be similar to calling them something less than human – that’s what I have been told folks of Asian ethnicity

  4. Arun Sundaresan

    Great post, Sam! As a first generation Indian-American, I completely agree with your points here. Education might be the only thing Asian-Americans are willing to “splurge” on – for good reason. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. What’s interesting about your point about the propensity for Asian-Americans to purchase homes with cash is that more and more Bay Area homes are being bought with all-cash offers, the majority of which come from foreign buyers from China. Really interesting read.

    Reply
  5. BARBARA FRIEDBERG

    Sam, Fascinating cultural insight. There are a lot of similarities between Asians and Jews; work ethic, racism, education etc. These type of pressures can either make you stronger of not. Personally, I think very little can replace “work ethic” when it comes to success.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    “But what I do remember the week following the incident was that I made myself a promise to be financially independent as soon as possible so I would never have to take abuse from anybody again.”

    It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are if you are Black, ‘other’ people still think that they can abuse you physically, mentally, emotionally, economically and socially.

    “But the odds are even starker for Asian Americans in athletics, an area where meritocracy reigns supreme.”

    Don’t really know what the author means by that statement. I do know that being the best at the sport is not enough, although required. Other traits are very important also. Can’t see why Asians would not make the mark.

    “If there is one level playing field among all races, it’s in academics. ”

    This is the great American fallacy. What you study and why you are studying it has everything to do with how you are going to use it, and to what end. If you are going to study something that will enhance your own culture, and your culture is not a European one, then you are going to have a hard time in America. Everything you study in any American university will be view as advancing American culture, which is based in European culture. Which is why you have a social construct evident in America where races are pigeonholed in certain professions defined by race. Hence, Black ‘s success in sports, Asian’s success in academics, the ‘Hispanic’ work ethic, whites in power, etc.. All are American created fallacies. The truth is, when nurtured rightly and left to pursue natural talents and interests, all races and nationalities are great at everything. Remove the barriers and stereotypes, and you will find the true nature of the ‘human race’ is to excel at anything it puts it mind to.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Loved this. Spot on.

      Reply
    • Joe

      @ Anonymous –

      Since you blame “America” for the low achievment by blacks, then please tell in which countries blacks are achieving great success. On which continent? How about the African nations, where blacks are in the majority and basketball is no big thing? Are those nations big successes?

      In which nations are blacks rising to the top? I do know of one majority caucasian nation that elected a black person as president. But, according to you that nation keeps blacks down, so that can’t be it.

      Well Anonymous, I guess that life just isn’t fair, what with whitey keepin’ ya’ down and all. We don’t hear about all those black national leaders worldwide, or nobel prize winners, or famous intellectuals, and business leaders because of the white biased media. Yeah, I get it. Right, sure thing. Aw shucks, that’s tough.

      It seems to me that there are enough anti-racism legal protections in place, that if prejudice was rampant in school admissions, job hiring, promotions, et. that there would be a HUGE number of law suits to that effect. Eric Holder lives for such moments. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be a tsunami of anti-racism law suits; so, could it be that your claims of rampant racism in the U.S. are misplaced fears at best, and outright lies at worst? That is my bet, since upon investigation none of your claims hold water.

      Reply
      • David

        Oh my! Another black race bashing, “blacks all need welfare” comment. Please let’s focus on the article. This is a well written article on the excellent endeavors of Asian Americans and this culture should be commended. Before the Asians were allowed to have unfettered access to education, whites ( and people like Joe) thought that they were inferior. We now know better.

        Reply
      • Sakonya

        I enjoyed reading the article written by the author and also the comments from those responding to the author’s invitation for readers to share their stories. Then, here comes Joe, with his Black bashing comments in response to anonymous’ comments on his/her experience as a Black person in America. Well, Joe you are not as smart as you apparently think that you are and you have a lot to learn, which I doubt you ever will. You need to read more and varied sources of information, since you seem to think that Blacks, nowhere in the diaspora, have done anything constructive. That is the blinding vitriolic hatred that the fallacy of “white supremacy” has produced in so many whites in this country. Anonymous made some good, solid and valid points that are truths that you and your ilk just cannot handle. The so called “playing field” has never been level when there has been so much colonialism, imperialism, slavery and a few other “isms” that I will not catalogue here. Also, if your Lilliputian brain could possible even begin to imagine what the effects of 400 years of slavery, Black codes and Jim Crow and the resulting structural, institutionalized and personal racism has had, you might have a modicum of understanding of what the realities really are. I loved the article and the manner in which the author described the Asian culture’s habits and how he opened it up for discussion. Then came you! Go post somewhere on Fox or anyone of the hundreds of hate filled sites, for that is where you belong!

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      True

      Reply
    • Sam

      It can be done. My husband is “black”, and has worked ridiculously hard to get an education and become a clinic director in a medical field. We live in a state lacking people of color (1%?), but people here show him respect he deserves, both because he’s a good person and because of his skills. Of course, there will always be people who overstep their bounds, as with anything in life, but you cant let it eat your soul, or that person has won and you have lost.

      Reply
      • vlad

        awwww how good of you ,another monkey breeder.

        Reply
  7. Ron

    Our family (despite being Caucasian) had similar values and are immigrants from working class heritage (no trust funds/inheritances for us). However, my siblings and I are all 1%ers – despite having no family/wealth nor connections in the US. Father arrived in the US with $10 in his pocket with no job, no family and only marginal HS education. But what he did have was drive and ambition in a land of opportunity. Couple that with a society that rewards hard work, and our parent’s insistence to be well educated, and it wasn’t all that difficult to outperform our white native peers.

    I think it’s the immigrant’s need to rely on themselves that is the main reason they outperform. No family support (with no emotional or financial help) makes it imperative that we strive harder.

    Reply
  8. Simamia

    Thank you to the author all who have posted comments here. I am not Asian and nor a Caucasian but one thing I share with those who have contributed and shared their knowledge is that I am an immigrant from Tanzania.

    Academically, I was not a top of the cream as it appears to most of those who shared their experience.

    I remember when I was in 4th grade, still living in Tanzania, I returned home crying because I had earned 80% on the exam. My father told me, in life it is not all about earning “great” grades but it is about getting enough good grades to be on the positive side of the passing mark.

    As a boy I never understood my father’s advice and actually his advice got me to believe that he used to be the last student in the class. But this thought could not be true since my father is a respectable chemist. My mother only has a bachelor’s degree in social work and she is blessed to own and run a respectable real estate business in Philadelphia. She manages her business activities after office hours/social work activities and on weekends.

    I wonder if working more than one job wherever and whenever possible is what my father meant when he said that don’t worry about earning “Great” grades, just bring home Good grades and concentrate at excelling at other commitments. He always says that the president of the company you work for of your country might have been an average students and is where s/he is because s/he excelled at communicating and bringing various parties together to close the deal. Additionally, he always says life is about having a variety of goods in a mixed bag because if you invest all your time in attaining one thing may get you at unpleasant side of the reality. It is about trying different things and never be discouraged by valleys and ditches you run through as posers will race and discourage you. Just keep you your heart at whatever you do because those who discouraged you will be your friends for your success.

    My parents always advise use to be financial independent and not to rely on professional careers as if “your father” were to lose his job, how would we put you through college? Such question from my parents cements the notion that immigrants, regardless of their races, gender, or nationality are concerned with the future and with maintain a sustainable financial position in their future.

    Once again, I thank you for the insightful advise/conversation you have shared with the world on this blog.

    Thank you

    Reply
  9. Roland Kelchner

    Average Asian Salary: $66,000/Year
    Average Gambling losses per Asian: $35,000/Year

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Hilarious! Gotta admit, every time I go to Lucky Chances, a local card room in Colma, 20 minutes south of SF for some no-limit holder poker, it’s 95% Asian! But, is no-limit poker really gambling? I find it 70% to be skill. Why else do you always see the same players at the final tables over and over again?

      Reply
      • Joe

        LMAO! That is so true.

        I mean all cultures / races gamble… Although most Asians are frugal due to many of the factors you had mentioned above, I feel these are two things that also encourages asians to be more advent gamblers: superstition and valuing the achievement of wealth a little above average than other cultures.

        It seems like asian parents neglect to teach their kids not to gamble while over emphasizes the other points you have covered in your article.

        Personally, I am Chinese with a father that does not gamble. However, my sister was a heavy gamble who had losses in the 5 digits. Even though I was never much into gambling to begin with, once I saw what happened to my sister, it was definitely a great learning experience.

        On another note, gambling is another thing that when you win you brag to everyone but you never tell anyone how many times or how much you have loss over the years. Therefore, I find that it is one of the many things that Asian brag about (gambling winnings, investments gains, good grades, etc.). I guess for asian those are our achievements vs. winning football games or whatever else.

        Thats my two cents.

        Reply
      • renie

        I just have to comment on this post . When folks are posting here it is either a personal story or a viewpoint from their community. Now as far as a broad sweeping statement that all Asians are frugal ect is not being said here so your post that Asians are gamblers is a overreach statement and I will take this as your personal viewpoint albeit you did not cite where you got your data nor did you show any comparison to other races.

        Reply
        • Financial Samurai

          Personal views + data are all we have. I welcome as many personal viewpoints as possible. To learn different perspectives is fantastic!

          Reply
    • Anonymous

      I’m an Asian American you are absolutely right.

      Reply
  10. Anonymous

    I’m South Korean. One thing I’ve noticed is that Asians also hold a different kind of work ethic. This is not true to just only Asians of course, but being in freelance and working with so many different types of people, I’ve noticed that most Asians tend to have a stricter work ethic. All the points you’ve (author) stated are reasons to this.

    The one thing my dad couldn’t understand was that I needed sleep growing up. He strongly believed that at that age (high school age), we only needed 4 or so hours to sleep – because thats how he did it. To study by candle light until his nose bled. I don’t know about other Asian cultures, but Koreans really loved to show “hard working people” by having their noses bleed.

    My dad has a crazy temper – I always thought this would hold him back from working anywhere near an American company. My dad came from a family that had nothing. His mom sold flowers and rice cakes on the street to support him. He studied so hard that he ended up going to Korea’s #1 university, the #1 army (black berrets), went to grad school at U Mich, got a job with AT&T, Hyundai, and became VP at Cisco Systems. He’s always been known for his temper but because he worked so damn hard, he was valuable enough to keep around (also he worked in Korea so he was in a culture where it was a bit more accepted and you couldn’t really “send” anyone to therapy)

    I noticed while people are quick to say “you know maybe we should sleep on it” or “we got time lets do it tomorrow,” or “take your time” most asians I know are the ones who stay late and finish the job. And they do it thoroughly. Again, I’m not saying that only Asians do this but there have been a number of times when I’ve seen something like this happen and not much vice versa. When I see this in other people, I tend to gravitate towards them because I admire that work ethic and I want to be surrounded by hardworking people. My dad would ask me questions and find out that I wasn’t the one who volunteered to stay late and I’d get a good whooping for it.

    Another thing I’d like to add is there is a word in Korean called “noonchi.” It means being social aware and acting on it without anyone saying anything. This is HUGE in asian cultures. (I think – i know this is true for Japan and Korea at least) The whole saving face thing. In the US, people are encouraged to be direct with each other and not assume that people can read minds. In Asia, you are expected to pick up on social cues and act accordingly without anyone asking you to do something. If you don’t do it, you’re considered bad at your job. I’ve noticed in America, they’ll call this either sucking up or going above and beyond. This is a normal and expected thing in, at least, my culture.

    Also, in Asia and a lot of other cultures have it to be a normal thing to smack their kids when disciplining them. In the US, kids can call social services and the parents can actually get in trouble. My parents laugh at the concept of this. Although there are studies that prove that spanking your children doesn’t do anything, it was a huge part of my childhood and its instilled enough anxiety in me that I think twice before i do anything really. It’s not a great way to to achieve that quality but I’m glad I have it nonetheless.

    There are pros and cons to every culture. I’m proud of who I am but I will not lie when I say there aspects of my culture that I hate…but its not to say there are parts that I love too. A lot of Asia has come from extremely poor conditions that saving money became a tradition and a normal thing and almost everything we do came from frugal methods used during a time when things were way more bleak.

    For example, we can afford to buy dish sponges – we do fairly well. But my mom insists on soaking her used sponges in clorox and using them for years. They literally have to fall apart for her to get a new one. She always told me that most successful people have successful habits and that starts with not wasting things that don’t need to be wasted.

    Sorry for the long post but this was definitely an interested read and I couldn’t agree more..I’m just glad someone posted about it and wrote it very eloquently. Hardworking people is not limited to one race – that’s the beauty of it…but the environmental/ cultural factors seem to be the bigger role in this.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing your insights as a Korean American! Wow, your dad had some mega work ethic there with only 4 hours of sleep a night. That’s the thing though, if you can work 3-5 hours longer than the average person, over time you will get extremely far ahead. It doesn’t take smarts, it just takes work ethic.

      I hated the mornings growing up, but my mom would always wake up at 5am to listen to various cassette tapes and do some meditation. I couldn’t understand it until I graduated from college and was forced to get in by 5:30am every morning. Now I try and sleep no more than 6-6.5 hours a day. Having that extra hour or two by waking up at 6am-6:30am allowed me to pursue my hobbies, write, and eventually help become untethered from old corporate America.

      If you would ever like to write a guest post on your perspective, I’d love to work with you!

      Best,

      Sam

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Sam,

        I feel like you and I are very much alike. I used to wake up in the afternoons but now I’m up by 7 almost everyday and as much as I used to hate it, I love it now.

        I would love to! Not sure where to find your contact info but I’ve added my email to this comment. Let me know if you’re able to find it – looking forward to hearing from you!

        Reply
    • just me

      Reading your statement about asians (koreans) and how you were treated by your father, ie., the correct way in life; showed through his lead, is becoming a thing of the past. Now in korea it has changed and looks more like the US way, instead of the OLD Asian Style.The young in many of the cities fall into the area of not saving for the future. Personal debt has raisen far above the average based on finances and wages. The young adults now depends mainly on their education to take them through to retirement in life and as its’ known, this action with most will not occur. They are considered the third generation of income. The ones that forgot their culture and habits.

      Reply
  11. Randy Dees

    This is a great article.If more people had the same mindset,there’d be less people in debt and taking risks or praying to win the lottery.I’m not considered a minority in any survey because I am a white guy.But trust me when I say,opportunities for any people where I came from are rare.It doesn’t matter what color your skin,language or nationality.I grew up very poor in a rural area of the American South.We didn’t have a safety net either.Upon graduating high school our choices were A-enlist in the military or B-go to work in a cotton mill.That was it.I’m taking nothing away from anyone else’s circumstance by any stretch but just an FYI-the vast majority of “white people” have no safety net either.It boils down to each individual and what they are willing to do to make it in this world.The facts are the world doesn’t owe anyone a living,the individuals owe it to themselves.My company has a philosophy of “make,manage and save money.We are always willing to help anyone that comes to us.If you guys don’t mind here’s my cheap plug if you’re interested.http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thewakeupmission

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Good article overall. As you said Asians work very hard, but why is most of Asia, apart from Japan, and former British colonies such as Singapore and Hong Kong, still way behind Europe and U.S.? I think American culture of focusing on individual characteristics, being direct, risk taking, less corruption, etc contributes greatly to overall societal progress. Even in professions such as high tech, Asians are well represented, but haven’t achieved outlandish success as their white male counterparts yet.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      It’s a good point. I think we give China 10 years and they will surprise us all.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      Reason is most of Asia has been colonized by foreign nations… Most countries in Asia are relatively young. Philippines for example has only become a republic in 1948. South Korea only in the 50s and most of Southeast Asia has similar history..

      Reply
      • Whonose

        Philippines was essentially a Republic during the Commonwealth years, with full independence in 1946. Not a good idea to lump Filipinos with other Asian cultures, as it can be argued that their culture is not Asian, but a peculiar blend of Asian, Western and Pacific Islander. Other than the
        focus on education, the other factors mentioned are not typical of Filipinos; they’ll go into debt as quickly and blindly as Americans and save at a rate similar to the West.

        Reply
        • Joe

          Lol whatever except Filipinos are number 3 on the list of richest ethnicities in the United States. WAAAAY above the Chinese and the Koreans and directly below the Indians. So your argument about debt is invalid.

          Though yes the Philippines is a bit behind Korea, Thailand and Singapore. The reason being is because they are not a fighting people. They do not know how to effectively murder and show examples through the hanging of corrupt government officials. Other than that they are also very hardworking and intelligent in a way that is very strange and quite annoying to people who grew up in the west. In my observation they are very similar to us Italians except they don’t really fight for anything.

          -6 years in the Philippines

          Reply
    • KoAm

      Way behind? The most recent ranking of standard of living by the UN had South Korea higher than most European countries. So how are they way behind? South Korea is also now more technologically advanced than most European countries as well. Taiwan would rank high also, but the UN does not consider Taiwan a separate country, as to not offend China. So no, East Asia is not far behind Europe, in fact most of East Asia, aside from China, is now ahead of most of Europe technologically and as well as standard of living (East Asia does not count Southeast Asia).

      Also, Asians have not been able to fully break through the glass ceiling in upper management, but that is changing, slowly, but surely. They chains that have binded them and held them back are slowly coming undone.

      Reply
  13. Cameron

    Were the linemen Asian-American?

    Reply
  14. Peter

    Not sure what your childhood stories have to do with Asians saving money…

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      No prob. Sometimes it’s hard to understand long articles, so I’ll explain it here. Because of the racial conflict I experienced in international schools and schools in America, I was motivated to save and earn as much as possible so I no longer had to deal with ignorant people. Money buys options and freedom. I wanted the freedom to do 100% what I most enjoyed.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I think childhood stories are one of the main reasons why people do save money. And since she is Asian, she shares her stories. The title does read “An Asian American’s View On Why Asians Save And Earn So Much” Depending on how little money you had growing up and the impact it had on you, that will determine how eager you are to make that money. Her childhood stories are the reason why she decided to save money and successfully has. I think successful people need to share their stories to help those in need succeed too. Any tips and advice should be shared in my opinion.

        Growing up, I didn’t have much and that was enough reason for me to work hard so I could secure a well-paying job so that I don’t have to experience the same kind of discomfort. My friends who grew up with money and have been cut off by their wealthy parents still do not understand the concept that hard work actually pays off.

        I don’t dream of a life where I’m filled with riches and cash surrounding me. I dream of a life where I do not have to worry about paying for basic needs like food, shelter, and education. I want to be able to care for myself, my family and occasionally treat myself or my family to something nice every now and then.

        I witnessed how the lack of money ruined my parents relationship. They can’t stand the sight of each other and most of it stemmed from frustrations and resentments of being poor. My mother drilled it into me that I should look for a man who has money (or at least the potential to make money) – not for gold-digging purposes but for the sake of feeling secure and comfortable. She made me understand the differences between chasing a man with a lot of wealth vs chasing a man who is capable of caring for me and our family.

        Childhood experiences are what makes adults who they are, don’t you think?

        Reply
        • Someone

          Troll alert.

          All great articles must have a few following trolls.

          Reply
        • Joe

          Yeah, this is good feedback. I am an asian male and I might be bias (most likely bias). It seems like a lot of asian girls/ women are gold diggers. I definitely understand that a woman needs to look for someone that is financially stable and can single handedly support a family if they needed to. However, the teaching from asian parents does seem to emphasize the money part (even though they probably do mean the whole package someone well to do and care for their daughter). But I feel I just feel its gets loss in translation with many…

          Financial Samurai – You should consider writing a piece that teaches Asian parents not to teach their daughter to be gold diggers. lol

          Reply
  15. Justin @ Root of Good

    My wife is Asian and I can certainly see the work ethic in her and the “tiger mom” focus on academics for our kids. I mean, academics are important to me, too (that’s how I got ahead in life) but I’m more laid back about grades and test scores. Not so with my wife!

    Reply
  16. Old Asian Man

    Great essay. I wish someone wrote this 35 years ago so I can read and gain the perspective without paying the price. It does take me 20 years in the school of hard knocks to understand what Sam wrote. The advices are simple but hard to accept and even harder to act on.

    Thank you Sam. I am forwarding this article link to my children. Being young means one rather learns by experience and through one’s failures than from someone else, and so they will not take the time to read it. Again, thank you for an enlightening and useful financial essay, one of the best I read.

    Reply
  17. Jook Sing Di

    Most of the previous post comments attribute the hard work ethic, academic achievement, aversion to debt and proclivity for saving of Asian Americans is attributed to having been raised by immigrant parents in accordance with traditional Asian cultures and values. There are Asian Americans, some of whom were orphans and not raised in a traditional Asian family, but who alone overcame challenges of general and legal racial prejudice, who worked hard, graduated from prestigious American universities, were averse to debt and regularly saved . I was such a first generation Chinese American orphan with bachelor and master degrees in mathematics from two American universities. My hard work, aversion to debt and obsession for saving have resulted in a retirement nest egg that will outlive me and my wife. I grew up with many other first generation Chinese Americans who , like me, are among those Asian Americans included in your statistics. Traditional Asian family values partly explain your statistics of Asian American success. The other explanation, for those of us who were orphans or didn’t have living families, is the pride of ethic origin and the received knowledge of the best of Asian values combined with the best of American values……..and above all, growing up in America where opportunities, higher education, hope and kindness, even from strangers, makes your statistics possible..

    Reply
    • ASIVAK

      The whole of Asian-American society is based on “face”,grades and pure hard work. As an Indian-American I find this article a perfect representation of Asian values and the role of Asian-Americans in the 21st century. Very nicely done.

      Reply
  18. Nancy

    Excellent advice to follow for any ethnicity. I especially enjoyed the cultural information, traditions, insight, and ethics of the Asian populace here in the US, as described here. Great article!

    Reply
  19. alanmonrovia

    “A 2013 Nielsen Research Report found that Asian American households have a median net worth of $89,300 compared to $68,800 for overall US households, a 30% difference.”

    To quote a People’s Bank of China report (2008): “Since the mid-1990s, an estimated 16,000-18,000 party officials, businessmen and other individuals have “disappeared” from China, according to a People’s Bank of China report prepared in 2008 – taking with them an estimated 800 billion yuan.”

    The flood of money is now a tsunami. We are seeing a new real estate bubble, fueled by a flood of cash-carrying buyers from China and Taiwan. Is that all money that they saved through frugal living? Doubtful.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Hope you’ve positioned yourself to catch some of the flood by buying real estate?

      Reply
  20. Sheryl

    Living with parents and extended family members is a HUGE bonus. My asian friends lived with parents, aunts, cousins…whatever until they were married. Huge cost savings. Ive noticed that caucasian parents want to kick the kids out of the nest at age 18 or they feel embarrassed if their working adult children are living at home even if they are working and saving. This is the middle class. Meanwhile the rich class give their kids all kinds of help..even buying their kids a house. This sets them up to be in the upper class…more financially set. So the middle class is really preventing their kids from moving up in class generationally by not building wealth by generation. Another thing is the caucasian population often encourages their kds to do as a career something they love or will make a difference…rather than going for the highest paid job. You cant get rich in the military or as a firefighter or pastor. These arent bad things…just a piece of the puzzle.

    Reply
    • alanmonrovia

      @ sheryl There are certainly benefits to children living at home, up to a point. It may not be that Caucasian parents ‘want to kick the kids out,’ so much as that they are eager for them to learn to become independent, to be able to support themselves and grow as individuals. I know Asian parents who now regret “over-parenting” their adult children. Their now-adult kids may have degrees from top-ranked universities, but they are sitting at home now because their actual skills are such that no one wants to hire them. It’s a balancing act, raising children, providing necessary support and allowing them to grow strong and independent. As for choosing a rewarding career, and not just rewarding in the financial sense, that’s probably a more likely route to a truly fulfilling life.

      Reply
  21. Rajesh

    When I came to the US to do Masters in 1997, we rented a house on campus for 4 people to stay – all of Indian origin. It was around 500sq.feet – 1 bed room,1 bath and toilet ( yes 2 of us used to sleep int he living room and that is how it is even today if you go to the average Indian students living on/off campus). The rent was $300 (75/person). As students, we never ate outside ( do not remember even having a bottle of coke or a bag of chips, no car either) – cooked EVERY day, even during exams by taking turns and our monthly expenses for food, phone, clothing and rent for each person would be around $150. We used to get $600 per month as stipend for being a graduate assistant and fees being paid for by the University. So when we all graduated after 2 years, each of us had savings of close to $10,000. We did not go to India even once when we were students. Once we graduated, all 4 of us found jobs in the same area and we rented a 2 bed room apartment for $ 800 rent in the suburbs in Michigan and lived there for 5 years before each of us moved out after getting married. Of course we each had a car for commuting to work, but we kept up with our routine of cooking at home and till today, we are somehow not into coke and chips.

    Indians and Chinese are programed to save, not spend. The hardship faced by the even middle class Indian back home is what makes him ignore comforts. Savings first is the approach.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Good stuff Rajesh. That is some pretty frugal living! If we can continue to live like students long after we start making money, surely our finances will get a supercharge.

      Although rooming with someone now as a 37 year old feels weird. It’s not so bad for the first several years out of college, as that’s what many of did anyway.

      Reply
  22. Caucasian

    I am a Caucasian who grew up in a semi-rural community in New England.
    My dad was an aircraft industry executive on the West coast.
    I saw him when he could fit me into his vacation schedule,
    which considering his workload and responsibilities, wasn’t often.
    A cousin described me as a village waif – which was a pretty fair description.
    My mother received a generous settlement at the time of their divorce,
    but had little understanding of inflation. She also struggled with childhood issues of her own, turned to prayer, and sought to be alone .
    A grandmother provided me with shelter in her small home.
    We never had television, rarely listened to radio.
    I read a lot — which is what people who lack the presence of a father do.

    To this day, I can not remember a single meal my mother ever made for me.
    Perhaps there is one there, but I can’t remember it.

    The point of all this is to emphasize the three most important things in life are:
    Family, Family, and Family. [Not ancestors, but family]
    They alone provide the invaluable experiences that develop and shape character.
    We don’t learn from symbols in books, but rather from the experiences that they symbolically represent. But words are merely sound-symbols for experience; they are not the experiences they represent.
    This distinction becomes increasingly important as we get older.

    The experience and the ritual of seeing food prepared and eating together as a family is a major part of a very important education. The necessity for family sharing, initiative, and cooperation in a supportive and accepting environment shape our attitudes about work and its purpose.

    American public corporations tend to stigmatize labor and reward manipulation.
    Personal relationships tend to get exploited.
    Public corporations encourage workers to believe they are all part of one big happy family,
    but the benefits only go one way — because the shareholder demands his short-term profit.

    People who invest their energy in family owned businesses tend to do better.
    A distinctive difference between Western and Asian culture is the influence of Confucius.
    Confucian influence emphasizes harmony, etiquette and education — beginning with the family.
    Family nurtures, supports/encourages, and protects.
    We are nurtured by family, supported by family, and return to family.
    Family, and its values, is the foundation of success.
    How we see ourselves, and others

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      I agree with you that family and nurture are very important. It’s always an interesting scenario when a family has a lot of kids, but one or both parents are not around. What becomes of these children?

      Reply
  23. Sam Shok

    Thank you for such a great article. Family and traditions play a very important part in our lives and most importantly, be your own individual. My father had a business in the US and rarely returns to China. At age 6, we moved to Hong Kong Transition from China to Hong Kong was a bit of a struggle. There were fights in and out of school. Sometimes you win and other times not but I made it through 4th grade just before immigration to the US was approved.
    In the US, I was placed in the final months of 4th grade. A challenging transition since I can’t speak a word of English. All these pretty girls and I can’t get a word out of my mouth. My teacher was confused that I had such high math skills but can’t speak. She caught on quickly and put me through a stack of workbook and lessons. Wouldn’t you know it, after 5 weeks or so, I was able to communicate with my classmates but still have a lot of catching up on English.

    Before you know it, High School started and I choose German as a second language. Reason was the Viet Nam war and sooner or later, you’re going to get drafted. Imagine me going to Viet Nam, you could get kill from both sides. The last year of high school,
    Worked part time to earn some money, got my license and bought a Ford Falcon with a stick. Learning how to drive a stick was fun. With only 90 HP, I wanted more power. In the process, I learned how to fix cars.

    After high school, I got a job as a messenger between workflow and computer operations for an insurance company. I was very interested in the computer department. These machines use a program called PCU.and the operator had to hand wire what looked like a pegboard with lots of holes. They use written language called RPG and large machines with a bunch of hopper to hold 80 column cards for sorting.

    The dream ended when I got my drafted notice. Basic was a breeze and for AIT, I was sent to OK for Artillery. Lucky, there was a need to boost the Nuke units in Germany and I took an aptitude test that included electrical and mechanical knowledge. 2 of us got selected from our company and sent to the Nuke unit with other applicants from other companies for training. The 8 weeks passed quickly and we all got our assignments and I was sent to Germany.

    Being able to speak German was a plus when you’re stationed in a German air force base.
    Promoted to SP4, my pay increased to $380 in dollars or marks. The army was giving us 4 marks to the dollar. At the time, it was 3.5 marks to the dollar at American Express. So take that pay in marks and go to the American Express in town and convert that to dollars and you got a little extra beer money. Getting around the air base was no problem and I was able to get glider lessons for 2 carton of cigarette.

    It seems as soon as you’ve settled down, my service ended and sent home. My last pay was enough to buy a plane ticket home and left with $3 at La Guardia. Cabs wanted $20 and lucky there was a car service from my town and gave me a riled for $3. I ask him to wait so I can go upstairs and get him a tip from my father. He refused and drove away.

    Adjusting back to civilian life will not be easy but getting my job back was easy and they even ask me what type of job I wanted. I said I want to be a computer operator and I was given a job as a Computer Tape Librarian with a good salary. After 2 months, I wanted to be programmer and I bought all kinds of books on programming. I learned quickly how to program and before you know it there were openings for modifying existing programs to a new computer system and I took advantage of it. Short time later, I got certified as a programmer and worked in the field for 40+ years.

    At the same time, 401K was introduced but only 2 options were available. You have a choice of fix income or equity. With interest rates jumping as high as 25%, It was best to be in fixed income. As interest start to drop, equity was gaining popularity. The company had a phone system and you can call every day and get your balance. I had a small amount in equity and notice it fluctuates in a pattern. I fed the amount into a spread sheet every day and soon notice that it moves in accordance with the Japanese Yen and will always be 1 day ahead of the US. In the mid 70’s, the market dropped 700+ points and I transfer all of my fixed funds into equity. It was a huge gain and I was hooked.

    Through the years, the account grew to 1+ million and with the 2008 crash, I miscalculated and though the market would recover quickly and I kept moving more money into equity. Needless to say that was a 500k mistake. Top it off, In a conference call in 2009, I was lay off at age 61 but I thank my boss and said I needed a change in career.

    I loaded a brokerage account with my severance pay and started day trading. With the skills I picked up in day trading, I have recovered all of my 401k plus another 500k and now happily retired with pension and social security.

    I’ve always told my kids to put there best foot forward and work hard. Wealth comes in all forms and you just have to find it.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thank you for sharing your story Sam! I’m glad you are enjoying your retirement. Be careful with day trading though. It tends to normalize out in the end.

      Reply
  24. James

    Do many asian people living in the different Asian countries save that much too? When I visited Hong Kong and Tokyo, I saw lots of people with luxury brands flaunting their wealth. Also, why do so many middle to wealthy people from Asia come to live in U.S and Canada? Finally, do Indians and Chinese people both consider themselves to be asian and same race? Seems silly to me. Just like calling someone from Egypt and Kenya African people.

    Reply
    • Safar

      I have often noticed some Americans struggle with the idea that Asia is a continent which stretches from Turkey to the Bering Straight and includes disparate societies such as Arabs, Israelis, Indians, Chinese, Siberians and Indonesians. Most people who grew up in Asia are quite comfortable with the vastness and diversity their continent encompasses. After all, an Eskimo is as much North American as a Jamaican. No where else in the world, outside the US, do you find such confusion (ignorance?) about the definition of an Asian. And if you have ever heard of the Non-Aligned movement or the OAU you would not find the notion of Egyptians and Kenyans both being African silly at all.

      Reply
  25. Anonymous

    @James: It depends on the skill of money saving of that specific person. I am Korean and for my culture, its very common for people to move out of the country and usually it is to find better opportunities because they aren’t doing too well in their own country. My own family members have moved away for that reason.

    Also, just having an American education does expand the variety of opportunities especially in their native countries. (In Korea, it’s considered a bonus if you have this background) Places like Canada are popular because of the health care and it is apparently “cheaper” to live there than the US.

    You should check out the doc on Vice about how getting married in China is so difficult. Its pretty interesting – most of it seems to be based on your financial situation than how much you’re in love with the other person. At least when your parents are looking for spouses for their children. (They actually have a flea-market type gathering where they review men’s resumes for their daughters)

    Yes, a lot of Asians love to flaunt their wealth – same as Koreans. I don’t think this is only Asia tho…There are some people who do flaunt and there are those who don’t. This is the same for most cultures I believe. When wealthy people move here, honestly I think its just because they can – maybe they just want a different lifestyle and they can afford to just move around like that.

    Indians and Chinese are both Asian but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of people who don’t realize this haha

    Reply
    • James

      Thanks anonymous for your explanation. It seems to me many Asians seem to adopt a scarcity mentality and thus save and hoard their money for a possible rainy day whereas western people tend to be far more optimistic. My earlier question was why upper middle class and wealthy people from asian countries, particularly China, immigrate to U.S to live here permanently. Isn’t Korea a rich country now? Why the urge to leave? I haven’t heard of many Japanese or Western Europeans coming to live in U.S. permanently.

      Reply
      • Financial Samurai

        Because the grass is always greener on the other side. Also, for diversification purposes. Wealthy people want to spread their assets all over the world, and America is still consider the most safe, most sovereign country in the world.

        Reply
      • AskYourDaddy

        James! Looks like you did not receive proper parenting. Instead of being sarcastic with your questions please ask your dad/mom as to why they migrated to USA, you might get a better perspective!

        Reply
  26. Lam Thanh Duc

    Dear Sam:
    Thank you for the well written words. My question concerns the American government and how the Federal Reserve does “quantitative easement” on a regular basis eating the value of your savings. Also, no one knows if there is much gold in Fort Knox. Social Security has been robbed by our government and no one knows if th Feds will borrow on personal IRA’s and never pay it back. Our debt to China may be paid off by the U.S. government selling America’s underground natural resources to them. There is much more I could write here, but my question is how are you going to live well in the U.S. after a huge economic collapse of the U.S. dollar. Silver coin might be an option, but that is awkward. Cashing out gold ingots is not easy when buying vegetables. I do not see security in any of the investments out there since the U.S. economic foundation has so many cracks in it. Corruption is rampant and the banks have committed great fraud in connection with the housing industry. The Frank Dodd/Act inhibits the movement of money and limits how we can use our own money. What do you see as protection for all the money you saved for so many years? Thank you,
    Duc

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Hi Lam, what I’ve done is aggressively buy assets that benefit from inflation. In other words, I’ve been buying real estate for the past 15 years, and I have ETFs in emerging marked and the EUROSTOXX 50.

      Holding cash is not a good idea over the long run. For liquidity and security purposes, it’s great, but that’s about it.

      Here’s a post you might like: Recommend Net Worth Allocation By Age And Work Experience

      Reply
  27. dave

    Very good article. It raised a few questions for me. There are plenty of successful people in more or less homogenous societies e.g. mainland China- so there must be other powerful motivations to be successful – would you have been as successful if you had not experienced bigotry?

    Also, you avoided comparing Asian immigrants to other races in your discussion – why?

    And finally the Chinese saying you mentioned is backed by current research that says educational and other gains by immigrant groups revert more or less to the average after 3 generations.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Dave,

      1) Hard to say. I don’t think I would have been motivated to reach financial independence this aggressively. But, I’ve always wanted to be wealthy after seeing so much wealth overseas. Who doesn’t right?

      2) Hard to compare against other races given I can’t speak for other races. I do have a chart in the post though. What race are you? Maybe you can share your perspective as well?

      Reply
  28. same as everybody

    This bull about “minority” special case entitlement is ignorant-as if all white people are looking out for each other because of how they appear. It could be that way for the monied and those in authority, a mere 1% by current estimates. The rest have to do exactly what you claim to do-scrape their way to success. The sooner you, Mister “I’m not quite American yet”, get this the closer you are to being part of the dream.

    Reply
  29. andrew white

    Very good article. I am a white Caucasian immigrant whose parent’s immigrated from Europe. I felt the same discrimination because of my name by other whites in school. Anyway I think its common even to non Asians to feel discriminated, because people that are insecure need to put others down. I remember my best friends where of Chinese descent or Jewish. Their families had the same work ethics as my hard working parents.

    Anyway I excelled in school and went on to become an Engineer and am financially well off. Now as a grand father, I think in life’s lesson’s being kind to others, volunteering, helping others not related to you that are less fortunate brings happiness that can not be achieved just through material awards. Growing spiritually is also important aspect of your personal development. Your kindness will come back to double your rewards.

    America is a great country because of its freedoms and immigrants and their is no other country in the world that has that.

    Reply
  30. GenerationsPast

    Very interesting insight ! Enjoyed your article ! Thanks for contributing !
    I think this also applies to many first and second generation immigrants to the US. My great-grandparents had emigrated from Italy to Brazil and did very well. My grandparents immigrated to the US from Brazil and never had any debt. Everything cash or wait. This habit extended to my parents. They had a mortgage on our home — the only way they could buy a home — but they paid it off as soon as possible. They never financed cars . Just drove until they fell apart. Very frugal but I never felt deprived in any way. I’ve adopted their habits to my self-employed success. I only financed my 2007 car because they offered 0% financing, several perks, and the cash price wasn’t low enough for me to consider using my own money. That money has been in a mutual fund and doubled. The car is still great. My friends who live the “payments per month” life are still struggling. They still ‘need’ the latest ‘toys’. They all eat out far more often than we do. That’s a hidden expense. They still buy or lease a new car every 2 – 4 years regardless of mileage. Some lost their homes and have to rent.
    It seems that later generation Americans acquire the “payments per month” and “new toys” mentality encouraged by retailers and realtors. It’s been tried on me. Our realtor, for example, wanted us to buy a home because “we could afford the monthly payments” in 2005. I fought it and pushed for a nice home at a lesser price. Ironic. The housing crash would have wiped us out in the higher priced home. We’re still living comfortably in this house. The subdivision is still very nice. The market price has been catching up with our purchase price. The higher-priced area deteriorated much faster because those homeowners bought on the “monthly payment” plan. More foreclosures brought more rentals and less maintenance. They’ve actually had break-ins and shootings.
    The one with the most toys does not always win LoL.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing! “I want it, and I want it now” is a bad mentality to have for one’s finances.

      Reply
  31. BoiseBruin

    Interesting read. I am a first generation Korean American. I have lived exclusively in the U.S. since I was 8 years old. I consider myself more American than Korean as a result. I can relate to most of the author’s views but have a few others to add. First, I’m not sure about Asians being frugal and savers. I see most Asians being very image conscious. I grew up in LA and most Asians I know there live beyond their means. I think for many of the reasons you stated, image and appearance are very important to AA and a surrogate marker for their success. Unfortunately, I have seen many fall into this trap and ruin them financially. It is not uncommon for AA to drive new Mercedes, wear Prada and Luis Vuitton while they have a middle income. Granted some of these people are also very frugal and will never vacation or eat out so they can carry on the image. Also, it will be interesting to see what happens to the AA community as this generation ages. Many first generation AA, especially the ones who immigrated at a later age, have no retirement and no knowledge of financial planning. I call this retirement plan the ORA (oriental retirement account). They put their full effort in to raising their children in hopes of them becoming successful. It is then up to the children to care for their aging parents. This worked fine in the old country and the past but now with two income families and different social and cultural expectations and stress, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. This is also part of the reason why I have aimed to become financially independent as soon as possible. I do not want to burden my own children with this weight and never want to be dependent on anyone, especially my own kids for financial assistance in retirement.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing. I’m wondering if image is a big LA thing? Because in San Francisco, we almost try to not be very flashy e.g. hoodies worn by tech titans, drive hatchbacks, or hybrids, etc. You might like this post, “The Rise Of Stealth Wealth: A Way To Stay Invisible From Society’s Wrath“.

      Not wanting to burden your children is a very honorable act. Great angle that we should discuss more about.

      Reply
  32. Kati

    As a Chinese female, I can relate to some of the elements of this article.. if I were to place myself in an Asian male’s shoes.

    Chinese families with parents born prior to 1930, tend to emphasize education and success on male children. The girls were raised to marry well. (This is directed at the reader who wanted Asian girls to stop being gold diggers. Blame the chicken, not the egg!) I experienced this as the first born female who worked her way through undergraduate and law schools. It wasn’t because I didn’t get scholarships, nor that my parents were poor. That was my reality after being pushed to excel through my formative years and then told, a month before high school graduation, that finding a job as a bank teller might not be a bad idea. My younger brother, on the other hand, who had to go to summer school to get his high school diploma, had three brand new cars by the time he turned 27 and any money he needed to not finish college.

    I stated this not to gather pity, but to point out that pride is jet fuel for one’s ambition. It may account for the drive to be more successful than the bully you encountered on the playground. It may have been the catalyst to relentlessly seeking financial independence in a world where the vestiges of your ethnicity (sometimes combined with your gender) automatically assigns you to the bottom of the pecking order.

    Asians tend to be ethnocentric. Not that there is anything wrong with being proud of what you are. When you combine that with willingness to sacrifice today for tomorrow, success is inevitable, absent a cranium full of tofu.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Great story Kati. Did your brother not feel pride to try and make it on his own? I would feel ashamed to rely so much on the Bank of Mom & Dad. How do I explain my nice cars to my dates? “My mom bought i for me?” He clearly hasn’t read, “The 1/10th Rule For Car Buying Everybody Must Follow“! What does he do and where does he live now?

      Maybe you’d like to share your thoughts in a guest post one day. I can tell you write very well! Best, Sam

      Reply
      • Kati

        My brother, being the only male child, was born into a world of limitless entitlements. The concept of self reliance got lost on the way to his universe. When the well ran dry and he looked around and saw everyone else’s accomplishments, his recount of his wasted childhood became as colorful and imaginative as Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. After a train wreck of a mini career in business and finance, he now barks out orders on the sidelines of High School athletic fields.

        I mentioned my brother’s past because a study of generational wealth in Asian families would be fascinating. It would be interesting to find out if the traditional Asian propensity to strive for excellence and accumulate wealth will be passed on with the bulging coffers or will they become extinct as each successive generation takes more for granted.

        I think Asian success is generational. One poor generation throws down the gauntlet and runs from poverty. The next generation feels grateful to its predecessor and tries to leap frog to the top of the ladder. The last generation has no idea what the first or second generations were complaining about given life has been a gravy train on which it intends to travel in first class, once the predecessors are gone. AND then the cycle repeats itself… when the denigration and deprivation associated with poverty kicks starts the culturally inbred need to be the only one looking down from the top of the food chain.

        I agree with Jackie Chen’s reasons for not leaving his son an inheritance. As far as Jackie is concerned, if his kid is good enough he will make his own money and if not, he’ll just waste Jackie’s. Jackie’s reasoning reflects the shrewdness of a man who worked for his money and will not let blood get in the way of common sense; it is human to take risks, especially when you are playing with someone else’s money. I think Asians are just like all other cultural groups in that respect. Their need for success is relative to their level of need. Though ultimately, it is culturally driven pride and inbred determination that propels them pass the finish line.

        Reply
        • Financial Samurai

          Ah, HS athletics! The place where a lot of men like to go back to relive the glory. I remember as the captain of the HS varsity tennis team……. never mind. 🙂

          Wealth Does Not Go Beyond Three Generations (Fu Bu Guo San Dai) is very true.

          Reply
  33. B Levitt

    Good article! I would say that Asian Americans do slightly above average in the US. Not bad if you want to enjoy a good life.

    I’m an Ashkenazi Jew, born here and I think that most people who be better off emulating us. Hard work, education, risk taking, and a ton of chutzpah! Now that will take you to the pinnacle.

    Reply
  34. Max

    Why did you choose to max out your 401k if you were planning early retirement? Isn’t that money now inaccessible to you until age 60+? I ask because I have thought about doing something similar and I am wondering if it makes sense to me to put less money in retirement accounts and more in taxable accounts that I can use when I am younger.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Good question. First, I wanted to pay as least amount of taxes possible. Second, I wanted the company match. Third, I wanted to challenge myself to max out my 401k and then save 20% or more of my after 401k maximization savings.

      After a year, things became automatic as I adjusted my lifestyle accordingly. I didn’t even miss the 401k money b/c it went into my account before I ever got to see it. When I left the work force in 2012 at 34, the 401k was at $350,000. Although I can’t touch it until 59.5 w/out a penalty, it does feel good to have that nut to draw from just in case.

      Reply
      • M. Johnson

        Not everybody knows this, but you CAN draw some from your 401K before age 59-1/2, without penalty. It is called a 72-T election, where you make an estimate of your life expectancy and withdraw “substantially equal amounts” each year, committing for a period of time. Remember it is still taxable income even without the 10% early withdrawal penalty.

        The overall concept is, this is retirement money and you are going through an early retirement. Under these circumstances your income will be low and your tax rate will be low. This is very analogous to the RMD (Required Minimum Distribution) rule which applies to age 70+, but the amounts are smaller because it is intended to last your lifetime.

        I believe there are a couple of special rules where you can make an early withdrawal due to first time home purchase, or certain emergencies.

        Reply
  35. Reid

    A wonderful story and viewpoint. Asians don’t tend to fall in, find comfort in, and live with the typical, -and wrong-, racial “minority” liberation discourse which has been plaguing other minorities in America, most motably, Blacks. That’s the key to the success and endurance of Asian Americans. They don’t demonize American society, they live with it, they work on it, and most importantly, they focus on their own selves, their families, their economic and personal betterment. They don’t blame history, they don’t blame everything on the other race and whites as evil, perpetual oppressors. They know their racial biases in America, they fight, but they don’t see everything through race. Most importantly, they value education, hard work, thriftiness, honesty, and collaboration. Whites as well as other “minorities” have a lot to learn from Asians.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      The funny thing about racial conflict in America is that seldom is the Asian race thrown in the debate. It’s never White vs. Asian, or Black vs. Asian etc.. it’s always White vs. Black. It’s either America finds the Asian race invisible, or perhaps there really is no conflict? I wonder why this is.

      I figure I might as well get the discussion going.

      Reply
  36. Liam

    There is plenty of racism in Asia. I don’t know why Asians are always so reticent to talk about it. Why hide the ugly reality? It gives the impression that only Westerners are racist. In Asia the Koreans hate the Japanese and the Chinese hate the Japanese because of war crimes committed in the past. Asians in general resent the wealth and power of the small Chinese minorities in Southeast Asia. There are neighborhoods in Thailand, veritable ghettos, where only Chinese could live because they were not allowed to live anywhere else. It would be nice if Asians were a little more honest about racism in Asia.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      But we’re talking about Asian Americans. No doubt there is tension between Asian races in Asia.

      Reply
  37. Notamused

    I wonder if the study took into account the many many multigenerational asian families living under the same roof and all working. This would certainly skew the conclusion. In my area , so cal, this is the norm rather than the exception

    Reply
  38. James Beck

    ” There’s no proof Asians are any smarter or harder working than other races.”

    You’re high, right? East Asians are smarter and harder working. Wherever they go in the US they push local people out of small businesses and white collar jobs. It was the reason for the original Chinese Exclusion Act.

    Indians and Filipinos are a mixed bag. Indians shouldn’t even be called Asians, but the Nixon Administration decided to begin classifying them as such so they could receive affirmative action. Arabs now want to be called MENAs so they too can be given hiring preferences over whites, too.

    Essentially, the East Asian income advantage is earned, but the Filipino and Indian income advantage is the result of nepotism, tax cheating, and affirmative action.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      I’d love to get some evidence as to East Asians being smarter and harder working. Show me the data, and I’ll gladly put it in.

      Reply
  39. anonymous

    Asians are overrepresented in universities, do well in schools, and score highest on IQ tests. That’s probably why the earlier commenter believes Asians are smarter when they just apply themselves more in reality. It’s not genetic, just more practice. Is there any evidence to suggest your argument that sports isn’t a realistic option for Asian people? Do many Asian people share this belief, similar to many blacks and latino youths believing they’re not as smart as Asians or whites?

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      My point is that it’s not about genetics. That we aren’t predetermined, and that we have the ability to change. It’s about a cultural upbringing that really emphasizes family and education.

      Reply
  40. John P.

    I married an Asian girl (Chinese/Filipino) from the Philippines about 27 years ago. That was the smartest thing I ever did in my entire life.

    Reply
  41. John P.

    Sorry I’ve got to reply once more. What Financial Samurai said above is exactly what I’ve experienced. Family loyalty, hard work and education; that is what any culture can excel with. If a culture fails in any one of them their culture fails.

    Reply
  42. PW

    I am an Asian male, medical doctor, a CEO of a large corporation, ex-military, and an EMS medical director of a large city. I think the motivation of fear and discrimination can temporarily propel a people forward. I think that in the larger picture, it is the desire to help all people, to understand and better our mental/social constructs for ourselves and others, and to reach for a passion and dream rather than just independence that is required to propel us forward to the next step as immigrants. Unfortunately many of us are still taking the first steps, but there is no reason not to change our goals now. Because most whites are at this level, they tend to take more risks, and thus a higher failure rate. However, their strength is that they always get up and don’t give compromise their dreams. I hope that one day we can fully integrate our strengths to form a better society and country.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Now that is quite an impressive resume! Maybe you’d like to share more of how you got there, and what drove you in a guest post or in a follow up comment? I’d love to learn more. thx

      Reply
  43. Bo Miller

    I enjoyed reading your article and points of view. I can’t help but notice the percentage of replies are bulging towards immigrant of 1st or second generations. This does offer a slanted viewpoint and maybe I am in the wrong blog. Your experiences are not unusual by any means.
    As I read your article the implications are natural born American’s have never suffered through financial hardships and would rather make loans for everything instead of paying cash. This blanket theory is just plain misleading and derogatory. You have, for one reason or another-intentionally or unintentionally left out some of the most important facts.
    You need only go the GAO for support of the fact that student loans anywhere from CC’s to first tier Universities are dominated by percentile from Asian cultures with Chinese students leading the pack.
    I will admit to being an early BabyBoomer generation where my parents saved from the day I was born (and my 6 other siblings) for my college education and a house of our own. The house was not purchased until I after I graduated form HS–I am No. 2 child. Both my parents worked fulltime and my Father would on occasion take a second job to make ends meet.
    The implication US students today do not save for the future is just plain baloney. Eight out of ten students in the US today have either had their parents save for their education along the purchase of a starter home AND worked summers to save for their own education. Race is and will always be an issue between mankind. it works both ways and no culture is without its demons. I see discrimination every single day on the streets between those who have a little more than others–or a lot. Between those educated–and not.

    The contents of any view here is strictly from those whose struggle for financial success run in the same crowd. There are some interesting stories of survival here…with great sacrifice to a better life through education. But this is not limited to immigrants as you and others replies seem to suggest. Like I stated earlier maybe this is the wrong blog for an opposing view- I can say I speak from experience and intimate knowledge of the subject matter…I currently reside in the PRC and have split my time between the US and PRC for close to ten years. My views and opinions are not what I just read from a fishing article—- I eat , sleep and play with individuals of 3 generations from both cultures.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      It’s interesting that you are offended by me sharing my personal views about what affected me. As a publisher for the past five years, I’ve found that one’s comments are a reflection of one’s own attitudes much more than attitudes of the author.

      Of course other Americans have suffered through financial hardships as well. I never wrote other Americans haven’t. I also never say that US students don’t save for their future. I offer some insights into why Asian Americans are saving much more than the median.

      I’d love to learn more from your hardships and the things that are bothering you. Please feel free to elaborate! Thx

      Reply
  44. Jim R

    Thank you for your article and for all the comments. It re-affirms my family’s experience that came from Greece. In 1922 they managed to escape Smyrna / Iszmir just one day before the the genocide of all the Christian civilians in the city by Ataturk’s army. America was their dream destination for freedom but it also required hard work, education and the love of family.

    Reply
  45. Henry J

    Actually, academia is not a level playing field. It is well-known that Asians are held to a much higher academic standard for admittance into any elite university due to:

    1). Not among the underprivileged minorities (i.e., Curse of our own success)
    2). Racial stereotype of Asians with high test scores are less competent in real life
    3). Racial stereotype of somehow Asians are not as interested in mingling with other races

    As a professor in the flagship campus of a large public university system, I can even recall similar issues during my interview process. For example, there was a statistically significant difference in the likelihood (yes, I tracked this) of a school offering me a conference interview between using my Chinese name and my English name on my curriculum vitae. Further, when I spoke perfectly fluent English sans any noticeable accent (with the exception of a slight southern twang) during conference interviews, my interviewers always had a surprised look on their faces. I imagine that their response would have been dramatically different if I managed to fake a heavy Chinese accent.

    In the end, our ability to save and become financially independent is also our greatest deterrent for fighting any political battle against such institutional racism. If we experience discrimination, we figure out ways to go around it or transcend beyond such an environment. Hollywood movies are the perfect example. After Jackie Chan and Jet Li failed to land any Hollywood role that does not involve martial arts, instead of crying out about racial stereotyping, they simply packed up and went back to Hong Kong movie scene because they don’t need Hollywood, just like how Asian Americans don’t need politicians. We always try to make the best of any situation, including institutional racism.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks for sharing your insights Henry. In another generation, I think things will get even better for everyone. In a hundred years, we might all look quite similar too!

      Reply
  46. josh

    Very interesting opinions. Most of the points highlighted by you and others also apply to the Latino immigrant populations, but they don’t seem to save as much or obsess about obtaining wealth as much. Most latinos I’ve known enjoy life and have much closer family bond than most Asian families.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Hard to say about “enjoying life more” and having closer family bonds.

      But given the Latino population is the largest in the US, there might be less of a sense to save and earn so much given there is already a huge support network.

      Reply
  47. josh

    You’re right. Know way to know, but many latino cultures even in US do appear to have a happy go lucky attitude compare to immigrants from other societies. I used to worry and stress a lot during my youths, but really admire people who take life easy as I get older.

    Reply
  48. John

    I am a Chinese born in the Philippines. I was brought by example of perseverance and hard work. My maternal grandfather came to the Philippines and worked as a stable boy working 16 hrs a day n sleeping in the stable. When he went back to China he owned 13 wine shops. Alas he gambled it away almost completely. My father had basic knowledge of English grade 3 , when my grandfather told him to come to the Philippines and studied Medicine. He had his subject grades translated to English and he entered college of science with grade 3 English. For every hour his classmate would study he would need to study 3 to 4 hrs.. His old books have Chinese translation every 2-3 words and also on the side is Chinese word phonetically for him to pronounce the word. One time he got so frustrated he tore up his book and throw it in to the toilet bowl. He succeeded n put 2 siblings, 1 cousin, 6 kids and multiple nieces and nephews thru college.
    When I was studying medicine with its long hours, my cousin gave me an encouraging phrase” the world would stand aside if u know where u r going. I have made a modification to the last part of the phrase to If u but try.
    It was thru education that out family status moved up . I had emphasized these to my children. I told them ur education is ur inheritance. I am spending yours.
    One time my GF had accused me of loving money. I replied I don’t loved money.But I do loved what money allows–financial security, retiring without worry . Spending without thinking if I can afford it or not. And I am willing to work hard for it.
    Frugal is the word in my upbringing. I remember throwing this to my mom’s face that so and so have this. Her answer was You can go and be their kids.
    We were also taught never waste food. The people in China are starving( true at that time). My aunt (American) asked me why does my grandmother keeped telling her kids to eat. I replied in the olden days food is almost synonymous to love . The kids with the extra fat are the one that survived the famines that come unpredictably.
    As for prejudice in this country we have a saying ” laughing all the way to the bank”

    Reply
  49. Amit

    Very inspiring article. We are Asian immigrants, our parents had been same in another time, another country. So grew up to perceive ourselves to be different with the “survival and move ahead” mindset, which helped us to do well in US as well. This problem – How to protect our kids from our money and success is of great concern for us, so we are constantly accumulating wisdom from our environment how to pass on our cultural assets (frugality, work ethics, success focus) and heritage to our children. After much thinking we found an antidote – we begun a family tradition of giving, selective philanthropy (with our time, as we arent millionaires) and culture of helping others. We speculate that if our children see us practicing this and observe how others are having difficulty, they will be thankful and be focused and not inherit the “fat” American attitude (what I mean is that dont end up having that you dont deserve). We felt that by giving less to our children we will end up giving more.

    Reply
  50. Froogal Stoodent

    That’s an interesting take–thanks for sharing it! I’m not so sure that I’d generalize that hard-working approach to Asians, as much as to having a family that emphasizes hard work and financial discipline. I call it the Millionaire Mindset here: http://froogalstoodent.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-millionaire-mindset.html, and I think it’s something that can be (and should be!) adopted by anyone! And, I have a sneaking suspicion that it comes from not having many luxuries when you’re growing up.

    I’m an umpteenth-generation, middle-class white American, but I have that same mindset of frugality and hard work because I was handed nothing growing up. We weren’t poor, and I had everything I needed, but everyone around me got a bunch of cool stuff like new iPods for Christmas or for their birthday, and I got practical stuff like a new backpack. It’s kept me ‘hungry,’ and that’s what I’m trying to communicate to others now!

    Keep up the good fight, Sam! 🙂

    Reply
  51. Anonymous

    Growing up in Los Angeles in a Japanese/Caucasian household I saw both. While my ‘white side’ focused more on enjoying life, creating long lasting relationships, taking chances and being creative and being embraced with lots of love and affection. The Japanese side focused more on educational acheivements and family loyalty. It was a true blessing having both. Although we all did venture out and make mistakes. We all stayed together and with an education we all run 2 very successful construction businesses in manhattan beach and we all live within 1 mile of each other. I am so proud of my Asian and Caucasian ethnicity and would t change it for the world.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      That’s great you got the best of both worlds!

      Reply
  52. Yermak Timofeyevich

    This is classic example of “correlation does not imply causation”. The reason for the Asian (or any other immigrants that came from a different continent, i.e. not just jumping the border but coming here with a legit visa) are making more money is because of the prior factor – they received a working visa in the US. You cannot receive a working visa to come here and flip burgers. You only receive one for high paying jobs. So yes people with high paying jobs earn more money. That is true for Asians, Africans and Europeans.

    Reply
  53. Anon

    We need more American Whites. Asians are not risk takers. They are culturally traditional and holds on to stuff. They never changed the world. They are good followers. I’d vote for a White American over an Indian or Chinese in a heart beat any day (unless he is Jack Ma). I’m an Indian.

    Reply
    • Joe

      There are plenty of Asians who are risk takers, but the lack of fellowship support guarantees failure with anything truly innovative.

      When it comes down to it, Caucasians will support each other over nationality differences. Their infighting was done when they decided to carve up Asia, your country included Indian.

      At 2.3 Billion Chinese in China alone, (think the estimate of Chinese in the entire world is 2.7 Billion), you would ONLY vote for Jack Ma?

      Reply
  54. anonymous

    I think it’s interesting that for all its “diversity”, the US has such a simplistic view of race, as seen by many of the comments. I’m, for example, considered “black” in the US, but I’m of Indian/African/Chinese descent and an immigrant. Personally, I have seen a LOT of friends from Zimbabwe and Nigeria become exceptionally wealthy through hard work in this country (for example, they graduated college and immediately got six figure jobs). They worked incredibly hard and they all had 4.0 GPAs and were scooped up upon graduation by large companies.
    A lot of that has to do with value systems also. For example, I save about 60 percent of my income (post tax). But everyone from my country saves around the same amount. We don’t buy mindless ‘stuff’, and we own properties, etc. In my 20s I already owned a house, for example. We have a culture of saving. And persons from my country tend to come to the US to pursue fields like medicine, engineering, IT, etc. In school we worked exceptionally hard, and the stress is so intense that there is an article about children who commit suicide every year because they did not perform as well academically as they wanted to. Going through that system in school was the most challenging thing I have had to do in my ENTIRE LIFE. We got up at 5, went to school (arrived by 7am), where we began studying (from 7 to 9am), then continued in school (9 to 4pm), then would head to lessons (5pm to 7pm), get home to finish homework from school (sometimes until all hours of the morning), etc.
    I’ve never experienced such a negative impression of “blacks” until I came to this country. It’s quite unfortunate, because our society was based on MERIT. And quite frankly, I do not want my children to grow up in a society where they are judged as inferior because of their perceived ethnicity rather than their potential to succeed. Get this; in my country, if you placed first in any subject at the end of school exam (when you are 18), the government pays for you to attend ANY SCHOOL in the WORLD you want to; 100 percent. You can be purple or Martian; they don’t care. You’re the best and you deserve a chance to succeed.
    I read a study recently where they said immigrants are four times as likely to become millionnaires. And another that said that immigrants from my country are doing a well as Korean immigrants. So I personally believe it has more to do with culture and values than it does with race. Have a nice day.

    Reply
  55. Cam

    I just googled to find out that Asians in the US smoke at 12 percent rate. Mush lower than whites here in the good ol USA–22%. Within the countries of China and India the smoking rates overall are about 25% (averaging both countries together and also males and females).

    So smoking rates are cut in half for Asians as they immigrante to the US. To me this is more evidence that kind of says that Asian-decended people in America are indeed very careful about thinking about the future consequences of their present actions, and modifying behavior towards economic and other successes.

    Reply
  56. Cam

    Much lower, not mush…smart phone typo.

    Reply
  57. Paul Nevai

    Thanks, Sam, for this nice article about Jews. Oops, I just realized this is about Asians…

    Reply
    • Phil

      Actually the percent of Jews with bachelor college degrees is also very high: 55%

      Reply
  58. Mac

    There are some good points, but I think these principles apply to “hungry” immigrants regardless of ethnic background.

    One important point to be careful of is “household” income as opposed to individual or personal income. I am surprised that no one brought this up yet. One reason Asian-American household incomes may be higher is, as you noted, bigger households (more wage earners per household). Normalizing for education, Asians individually may still earn more, but not by nearly as large a margin (try up to 10%, and mainly for those with graduate/professional degrees, as per Wikipedia).

    Also, as some comments suggest, while we can outlaw overt racial discrimination, it’s a lot harder to make racism go away. That story from Williamsburg was rather appalling. I wonder how often things like that happen these days in American small towns.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      These things happen all the time Mac, but life goes on, and we learn from it, especially those who have been affected.

      Reply
      • Jana Kaimal

        Hi, racism is alive and well even today in small and large communities. there is not progress in mind of white race. I am 70 years old. I do not expect the situation to change any time . It is human condition. Chinese hate Japanese, whites hate white and brown and Chinese. Chinese and Koreans hate blacks. Unfortunately we are programed to hate the other

        Reply
        • PaulN

          You write “Chinese hate Japanese”. Well, this is fully justified. Thanks G.d, I am not Chinese but if I were, I would hate them too.

          Reply
  59. CASDEE

    IT’S HARDER NOW TO GROW YOUR MONEY. THE GOVERNMENT IS STEALING TOO MUCH WITH CREATED INFLATION AND STEALING THE ‘TIME VALUE’ OF MONEY BY SETTING THE INTEREST RATE AT NEAR ZERO.

    Reply
  60. KT

    This blog may contain some real facts but I feel it is discriminating and polarizing. America what we see today has become a conglomerate society with so many immigrants. Why should I call myself an Indian or Chinese or African or XYZ American ? I am just an American. Period. Condy Rice put it nicely, The essence of USA is not ethnicity, nationality,race or religion. It is an idea, that you came here from humble circumstances and here you do great things. It does not matter where you come from but it matters where you are going.

    Reply
  61. Emor

    I am not Asain, but I grew up with very similar family traits (My family is Italian). You DO NOT buy something unless you can afford it IN FULL!! PERIOD. No if, and or but’s about it. Debt is for fools. If you don’t have debt, you don’t get in trouble when things get tight. I also lived in my parents home for a time after college. Now I did have to pay house bills, but that is still a lot less expensive then rent. I am currently unemployed, but I drive a Mercedes, I have a house and I have the expensive smart phone. And I can have those things because I bought them in full and I don’t feel the need to always have the “greatest and latest” stuff. Now I am not “RICH”, if that’s what you are thinking. I live frugally and saved money until I can afford my nice things. I don’t think asain americans have some super secret formula to save money…It’s very simple. Live within your means. It’s something that seems to have gotten lost in AMERICAN culture!

    Reply
  62. Bob

    Very interesting.. This is my 5th year in the states, I live a great life here, It is handwork I do every day.

    Reply
  63. Joe Blow

    The only thing I save is silver. I do not believe in debt or anything backed by debt. I am not rich by any means but I am happy. Why? Because I live by my own choices as do the people posting here. One difference. I do not measure success. I am against this global system of slavery to a dollar. Slavery to a person with a title, fancy hat and taxation. I refuse to be a part of this junk. I work, save a little. In silver. One day i will buy a small chuck of land and build my own home. I will work just enough to pay the mafiatax guy. Otherwise, I will just live off the land.

    I have absolutely no interest in what many call “success”. It is valueless junk to me. I rather value friends and family. Money is the root of all evil. And the love of money is evil.

    Call me whatever, I do not care. I will happily live a simple life of farming, fishing and hunting while the rest of you slave away for a “rainy” day.

    OH, I am a “Jew”, if that means anything.. LOL;

    Reply
  64. Ni

    It’s a good article overall, thinking provoking. I understand we are not talking about politics bus just wonder why there were nobody got confused at this sentence. “The Taiwanese are perpetually afraid the Chinese will invade their country.” Taiwan is not a country. So this thing in the article really makes me sad.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Taiwan is not a country? What is it then?

      Reply
  65. William McVay

    Average household income of race is completely correlated to the average IQ of races. If you go down the list…

    Jews – 113
    Asians – 105
    Whites – 100
    Hispanics – 93
    Blacks – 87

    completely correlated to the income earned. completely explainable. equality already exists, everyone has a fair chance at this life, but the people complaining about not having one don’t deserve one.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Source please. Thanks

      Reply
  66. Joel

    Hi,

    Can I make a comment, because if any American understands Aisian’s it is me. As a caucasian male I grew up in Westminster, CA in the late ’70s and ’80s. Westminster California has a section officially titled Little Saigon, which today has a huge, and I mean huge Vietnamese population and many other Aisia nationalities. I grew up in the heart of it’s groth, and have very many, very, very many Aisian friends. I grew up calling them so many racial slurs, as friends, they had blistering wit and did the same. I would laugh with these crazy friends about so many things. They threw racial slurs because that is just how we talked to eachother. You shouldn’t harbor so much pain from those jocks, it sounds like you are holding on to that emotion and have deep set anger issues of not being able to beat down those jocks. But nobody could have done anything about it. So don’t feel so bad, could have happened to anyone. But, I do not think it is racist, because those idiots did not target you because you were Asian so much as they were just trying to be macho and saw easy prey with a guy and his girl alone. You put to much Race and not even close to enough reasons why Asian people save more money in this article.

    Reply
  67. Anonymous

    ASIANS DO WHAT whites used to do and they value family and closeness . There is nothing easy in life and Asians know hardships . They are the ones who succeed while many people sit around whining about how hard life is. I respect their work but they should not be getting any kind of government handouts. They really know how to work the system.

    Reply
  68. RG

    I am Asian, mid 40s, and fit your stereotypes. One issue you didn’t mention is arranged marriage. I think “Americans” spend a lot of money and time picking a dating partner and swapping them out every few years. Asians are more likely to scan the field for someone of their caliber, devote some attention to landing them, then go back to work. This shows up as better grades in high school and college, and it shows up as less money spent on nightlife in 20s and 30s, prime saving years. Come on, we all know the bar scene in NYC is all about landing a hottie, and the $200 bar tabs are because drinks are de rigeur and expensive. Asians marry younger, which allows pooling of resources, money to save. Even 5 years of having two incomes before kids, can mean a huge difference in when your home is paid off. Finally, they have a lot of pressure not to divorce at the first sign of imperfection. Nobody expects marriage to be this be all, end all thing. Some days will be boring, some days all be disconnected, but the world will spin and your closeness will return. I don’t have data to support my anecdotal sense, but I bet its out there.

    On a related note, I bet more/most Asians are dual income households. its not that women don’t want to focus on child raising, I’ve known quite a few who lobbied for that chance. But it tends to be more short term at best. Kids are expected to behave much younger, which reduces the burden of childcare and home parenting. I bet educational costs for kids are sky high in asians, between music lessons, private schools, summer tutoring programs. But its a better use of resources than videogames, fancy cars, lavish parties, and football team.

    Reply
  69. Bart

    There was a comment about “long as there is a stable household anyone can study and advance”.
    If there was one thing that made it all possible for Sam I would say that is it.
    Respect for the other person is life giving most people do not realize how important it is.
    One should never expect respect because of the world we live in but be thankful when it is shown.

    Reply
  70. JS

    Very nice article. Great contribution from people of different races. Very good to have a diverse world. I’m originally African. What I value the most about Indians at work is not the money savings but the gentle spirit and positive attitude in addition to hard work. When I see that it motivates me to be a better person because I see a group of people who don’t seem to complain or attempt to retaliate when things go south.

    I’m glad I live in America. There’s always something to be proud of – Nobel prizes in science and economics, olympic gold medals, technology, medicine, etc. You can see the contribution of each culture and there’s always something to admire about each one.

    Reply
  71. Jack

    Sam,

    You have cited some stats that are just too general. I have not seen any study done on the income levels of various ethnic groups in a particular region. My understanding is that most Asian Americans live in the cities which tend to have higher income. For example, in the San Francisco area, the average household income is at least 30% higher than the national average.

    My feeling is that there will be statistical insignificance in income levels between Whites/Caucasians and Asian American in San Francisco Bay area. I don’t have any data to back it up. If you have seen them, I’d love to see them.

    Reply
  72. Sam

    Yeah how about the fact that all chinese parents buy their kids a house when the kids become adults? Doesn’t that help increase chinese americans worth/savings/earnings?

    Reply
  73. Anonymous

    This is a beautifully written essay. It has heart.
    Keep up the good work and allow me to apologize for the incidents of racism you have experienced.
    Good luck

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Thanks! No need to apologize. I appreciate all the good and the bad. It makes us who we are. Sam

      Reply
  74. anon

    I am a 1st gen taiwanese american in my 40s. i think american asians immigrants of the last 40 years work harder because in many cases they came from a place of destitution and were shaped by that. And to be destitute there is harsher than in the US. So there is a constant fear of reverting back to that state. The result of surviving this experience is a hyperactive work and savings ethic, and life skills that translate well to the modern american working world. Non wasteful, future thinking, action oriented personalities.

    I don’t believe this is the case anymore for Taiwanese- the recent years of prosperity have created an affluenza epidemic similar to what you find in wealthy American communities- and I think the 1970s-2000s outperformance of the Asian American emigrants may go down in history as being exceptional. The source countries are no longer as repellent, and the destination country (US) is no longer seen as being paved with gold (with a handful of exceptions such as the Silicon Valley tech industry).

    I’m very curious to see what the future plays out. Will our kids spend their days playing video games and getting high? Or will they retain some of the drive and skills of the previous generation, and become small business owners, orthopedic surgeons, and software engineers? Watching this closely…

    Reply
    • Joe

      A few ways to look at this. First define “success in life”. What good is one’s life if majority of life is spent working? Those truly privileged with ancestral inheritances (Rothschild, Mellons, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Waltons, Koch, Hilton Arnault, Kwok, etc) will never need to work a day in their entire life armed with the assurance there will be plenty of intelligent dilligent trained hairless monkeys willing to kill each other to protect their heritage. (This hasn’t changed for thousands of years, just do a quick search on banking empires of China).

      Continuing to focus on the micro over the macro succeeds only in promoting conflict within small spectrums which makes for easy governing. As far as smoking weed and video games, consider the coming age of ABUNDANCE. Goal is every human will have basic necessities of food, clean water, breathable air, shelter, clothing as a right. Anything additional depends on self motivation. Consider that, we are actually capable of realizing Beauty Pageant Queens’ wishes to end world hunger, right now, and yet our primary concern is to keep thing just the way it’s always been…

      How will value be justified for small business owners, orthopedic surgeons and software engineers when an intelligent machine can perform better than any human and only require a 9V battery?

      Enjoy your life brother.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/10/books/chapters/0610-1st-lind.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      http://bigthink.com/think-tank/are-we-ready-for-the-coming-age-of-abundance

      Reply
  75. Matthew

    I had a quick scan through but didn’t see anyone touch on the aspect of E-sports so apologies if I repeat something. Regarding your point on sports and due the massive surge of popularity of competitive video gaming I feel that “sport is not a way out” is going to be completely reversed. Already we are seeing South Korea being as dominant a force in several video games that surpasses American dominance in National Football League. The top video game players are also starting to earn similar amounts to the professionals in the regular sporting disciplines.

    I just wanted to share this observation because I feel the new generations concept of aspiring to be famous via sports is going to change.

    Reply
  76. L

    My first comment did not make it past moderation I guess. I apologize for coming off harsh, but I don’t understand why my comment did not get posted. I think it is ignorant to think that Asians are better off because they have some sort of superior culture/work ethic/intellectual capabilities. You are stereotyping a group of people, even though it is a positive stereotype, it is still not right. Again I wanted to bring up the fact that the same people that repeat these stereotypes about Asians never mention Cambodians, Hmong, Laotians and Vietnamese. Take a look at some of the data related to these groups. Asians don’t use government assistance? Yes, some don’t and some do. Some come from a higher socioeconomic status and some come from the other side. All I am really trying to say is that we are people, diverse and complex. When you stereotype a group of people you deny them their humanity. We have problems too.

    Reply
    • Financial Samurai

      Lorenzo, this is my personal point of view. How about sharing your point of view and why you think the data shows why Asian save and earn so much more than average?

      Reply
  77. Jameson

    Great article and discussion.
    I’m Caucasian with deep USA roots. I married a Chinese woman (into university years growing up in China, rest in USA, we met a decade after she got here). We have 2 kids in the 10-15 y/o range. Spend a lot of time in the (local, sizable) Chinese community and we lived in China for a year. Spent a lot of time thinking about this topic and financial habits/achievements & academic performance/success [why, for example, in my suburb, under ~20% of the high school kids are Asian yet ~80% of the academic & quasi/related accolades go to Asian names (i.e. published list of national merit semi/finalists, high test achievements being Chinese, Indian, Japanese & Korean; also the chess & robotics champs follow a similar if slightly less skewed distribution)].
    Financially, I learned a lot from your thoughts and will continue to mull them over.
    Academically, I’ve got a working theory: 1. Confucian system + limited top university capacity in origin country + cultural goals = very high emphasis on academics & focus yields results. 2. Grinder nature.

    Confucian system (I oversimplify for brevity) exists today as the end-of-high school test, which determines & allocates entrance to universities based on performance. Long-history view was that a main way to better life was to be a civil servant which is essentially proven by the exam and it was a viable way to get your ticket out of peasanthood punched.
    In China, there are a small handful of truly Top schools (Beida, Tsinghua top of the list) – only the best test scores gain access (plus a few wildcards – influenced by connections or special situations like an olympic diver) – for a sizable country, it matters and is a severe constraint – and entrance is assumed to mean success for life. (Side note: I believe a shortcoming for many firstgen Asian parents is to realize how different the US university system is – that Ivy League is not the same as the premier university of the home country and there are far more paths to success here and a more nuanced approach to college selection is appropriate; that said, it’s complicated and something good must be said for wanting your kid to be all he can be – just that an Ivy isn’t the be-all/end-all it seems to be made out as).
    Culture: ask American parents “what do you want for your child?” – they say “I want them to be Happy.”
    Asian parents’ answer “I want them to be Successful”.
    Big implications – related, but different. Happy comes in many flavors. Success for most Asian kids I know would be high academic performance and top collegiate options (leading to top school, leading to good job/career, and success).
    And then there’s the grinder nature. This is far less scientific, but it’s a combination of ideas… not many of them I’d call novel – you covered several… plus there’s a sort of natural selection–folks who come here have a deep seated seed in them that wanted so badly to make change for them and their families that they often enormous sacrifice to create success here and are not going to lose that drive for them or their kids – and the example they had, and all they can control is their own effort and how do you measure that which matters most but in academic metrics aka SAT, GPA which bring about $s with time…
    [One idea I read is the long term effects of being a culture (framing of rice in particular) shaped by the requiring of a lot of labor hours per year – more than many other historical subsistence-making and thus the generational precedents were set that hard work is a necessary and normal part of life – and when done in a tight homogeneous, multi-generational place (e.g. rice farming towns), everyone relied on each other doing the work so it was reinforced broadly with major social consequences of not contributing.]

    All this being said, we see many reasons why academic success seems to skew disproportionately Asian in places, but all these can be copied – you didn’t have to have been from Chinese immigrant parents to reap the benefits of the system. These are open & repeatable, well worn paths to success – work hard, apply yourself, have the right approach… all are welcome & encouraged… any family/individual can make a similar focus and emphasis and get similar outcomes – this is the beauty of our large and capacious system that is by and large meritocratic enough for almost anyone get payoff by availing themselves of it after having done the work.
    I guess my point in this last part is that there is no meaningful difference in the “hardware” (genetics/IQ/born-with) of any human, Asian or other… this is a “software” thing – and software is based on what we give our kids, what our kids do with it, and what they are surrounded by. (There are innate differences among all human beings, though I’m not aware of any proven & meaningful mental “hardware” differences by genetics.)

    Reply
    • Kati

      Interesting point of view, though I am not sure of your hardware/software theory. Seems hardware has to be able to evolve to operate newly introduced software. For example, a dual drive computer from 1990 won’t be able to run a new quicken program that has to be downloaded. Part of the Asian hardware is an ability to sacrifice everything and endure harsh conditions for extended amounts of time to accomplish a goal. That hardware isn’t prevalent in other cultures.

      Reply
      • Jameson

        Hmm, l would be curious about what you think those physical/genetic differences would be… they would have to stay intact for an adopted child and those who lost all contact with its ethnic home. If there were a factual, innate difference between races of humans that leads to higher achievement… well, I’d say proving that our hardware is different in such a way would be a monumental anthropological coup with insane implications.

        Reply
        • Kati

          Agreed. There are adopted children who, from childhood, had certain habits and desires that can be linked to same habits and desires of their birth parent(s). What about the Chinese guy who was abducted from a vegetable market and was never told he was adopted, but knew he was not with his birth parents?

          Reply
  78. Larry Cowles

    Great articles as usual. I enjoy your detailed summaries…

    However, your percentage calculation in the following paragraph is way off…It is more like a 50% difference…Try using a calculator for better accuracy and common sense to check the answer…

    Meanwhile, roughly 49% of Asian Americans have Bachelor’s degrees vs. 28% of the general US population, a 75% difference.

    Reply
    • Larry Cowles

      Excuse me…You are correct…Pls accept my apologies on your percentage difference calculation…

      Signed,
      Most Humbled

      Reply
  79. BLack DiamonD

    My parents are Caribbean and American. I’m Caribbean-American. I am also considered “Black”. We share similar values: utmost emphasis on education, the pursuit of excellence, hard work, saving money and discipline.

    We grind like hell. Racism and aggression from white people is something we live with daily. It seems especially reserved for us. Globally. At home we discuss the reality of hatred, we discuss other immigrant groups and their hatred, and we carve out a financial and cultural strategy for black survival. More or less, how can we turn bullsh*t into manure for our garden today?

    We know we have a unique advantage by being former slaves in this country.

    We note differences between different types of black immigrant groups (American-born, Caribbean, West African, East Asiatics (saudi, Ethiopian, somalian and others) and learn from the best of them.

    What does this have to do with Asians-Americans saving money?
    Gratitude for having the advantage of studying your struggle for success and comparing it with our own.

    Reply
  80. CJ

    Most Asian-Americans just seem to avoid pursuing any field that may pay less, even if they may enjoy it more. While Caucasians may be more inclined to pursue something they’ll enjoy, despite it paying less. For example my friend is very passionate about art so she became an art teacher… my brother enjoys being outdoors and working so he started his own lawn care business… they were heavily motivated by what they enjoy, not how much money they can get. If they were Asians, perhaps these choices would seem not worthy as they don’t pay as much as fields of medicine and computer science.

    Also, perhaps a lot of companies feel pressure to hire minorities but the ones that qualify the most tend to be Asian… so naturally they hire Asians to have a diverse working environment rather than less qualified non-Asian minorities. Companies get to mark 2 checkboxes, highly qualified and a minority… it’s a win-win for them. Hence with Google employees, Asian-Americans represent pretty much all minorities.

    Reply
  81. Duder

    I enjoyed the comments section here even more than the main article. Some of these comments, if combined together, can even make their own webpage article.

    Reply
  82. Onpoint

    I say they are the must sleek people (not real sleek is that the government is dumb and think they are angels) and they take advantage of dumb goverment when it comes to wash money in salons, laundry mat, houses and many more.
    Have kids with no type of legal papers so you can say the kids are elegal.
    they leave the problem to the citizens tax money so they dont have to worry about paying the caring of the kids, well looking at it on this perspective they just over populate the citys with the laws driving on sidewalks going in wrong direction making and forcing people to move from where they live so they can rent elegal conversion for asians that don’t complain all of that what it dose is put money on there pockets that is how asians have more money heroin a number one drug to wash a lots of money money lets say i got money to wash you wanna open a beauty salon ok i can give you money and just return simething in a month bum new money wash for a new Audi or BMW .
    All they do is disrespect the natives americans have some respect if you coming to this country

    Reply
  83. Eyetnals

    If I was to assume that culture and income are related, I wouldn’t be taking lessons from Chinese culture according to this list:

    Indian American : $127,489[3]
    Iranian American : $78,954[4]
    Taiwanese American : $73,988[4]
    Maltese American : $72,847[5]
    British American : $72,268[5]
    Russian American : $72,179[5]
    Australian American : $72,104[5]
    Latvian American : $71,797[5]
    Filipino American : $68,028[5]
    Lebanese American : $67,264[5]
    Chinese American : $67,211[4]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income

    Reply
  84. james

    what good saving money if you are 5 to 10 years behind the times?

    by the time you buy a house, others with wealthier backgrounds have bought not only a house
    but a summer home, a winter home.

    Is that the great advantage you talk about?

    Reply
  85. Indian Asian

    I live in Asia. Most native Asians are also obsessed with money. Also there is no social safety net for the poor. So you can have someone snarking down an expensive luxury food at a restaurant while a crippled beggar stands outside looking at you.

    But I noticed that even white people are becoming materialistic and not concerned about the well-being of others as I read blogs and commentary. My theory is that only Christianity has parables such as the parable of the rich fool. At least in India wealth is considered a good thing, whether earned by hook or crook. That is how I understand why there is so much myopic selfishness and corruption here but not in first world nations. People are considerate and feel guilt about inconsiderate behaviour, and the corruption has to be practiced in secret. But you can see as first world people become less concerned with religion they are getting materialistic and selfish too, seeing greed as a good thing. If you read the bible you see that materialism is a contradiction of Christianity. In India good and evil are not so absolute and only a fool is considered pure and good. My idea is that most Asian religions don’t make excessive wealth and greed a sin, or if they do the categories of good and evil can be debated.

    Reply
  86. Kim

    I stumbled upon this article because I, as a 24 year old Asian American, am moving back to my parents house. My number one concern atm is how to handle all the clutter. First generation children of immigrant parents tend to save…everything! My mom will save almost all types of plastic containers to use multiple times. This kind of resourcefulness does not occur in the American society where we buy and toss everything in the trash after 1 time use. This is due to the conditions they grew up in during Vietnam War times. Uncertainty allowed them to hold onto everything, because you never know when you might need it.

    Reply
  87. Robert J. Muzzio

    I also entered this conversation a bit late, but it touches me, so I offer my personal experience for what it may be worth. I’m the son of an Italian immigrant, born here, but imbued with that all-familiar fear-inspired work ethic of an immigrant. I didn’t have the racial stigma to deal with, but the immigrant bias was definitely there. Most of you posters are too young to have seen it, but as late as the 1930’s and 40’s, Italians were still referred to as Guineas, WAPs, and DAGOs, not welcomed in certain parts of town and many were cloistered in what some referred to as ghettos. I mention this only because I felt the sting of rejection, but it was comparatively mild, impermanent and non-debilitating. My parents were law abiding manual laborers with minimal education. As a student, I was encouraged, but not pushed by my parents. I did poorly in grammar school, and improved only slightly in high school and college, but I did graduate with honors at the masters level — lots of work experience between BA and MS. I entered the real world with a great work ethic but an enormous fear of failure, which I eventually overcame by hard work and achievement. I am now in my eighties, living happily in financial independence. The moral of this story is, I don’t care who you are, how smart you are, where you are from, what color you are, what your ancestors have endured, or any of that. If you are able bodied, willing to learn the language, join society and live by it’s values, morals/traditions and work hard, I guarantee you, the American dream is alive and well for you. If you believe anything else, I respectfully invite you to examine your attitude. Improve yourself always, for that is the essence of a long, useful and happy life.

    “Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” Adam Smith

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