Managing Money: A Perspective from a First Generation American Nav.igator


Being a first Gen Nigerian American is pretty freaking cool! I've had the pleasure of being in both worlds and code-switching like no other when it comes to both sides of the ocean. I can do street slang with my African American friends and broken English with my African friends. I think being able to assimilate into the western culture while keeping my heritage has been beneficial for me in so many aspects of my life because I can maintain my traditions while fitting into any American environment effortlessly.

However, being a first-generation comes with its own set of challenges, as many first-generation immigrants may know. You sometimes have parents who have unrealistic expectations on how things are done here in America, for starters. They expect you to be a good obedient child who listens to them while still fitting in with your peers. You're expected to maintain excellent grades, have a high paying job, get married with kids, and live a lavish and successful life happily ever after.

I think it's safe to say that many of us feel that pressure the moment we utter those first few words as a baby. Even if you don't feel it from your everyday parents, you feel it from your extended family and relatives. I know I have! I remember graduating from college, and on graduation day, not even an hour into my grad party, my uncle asked me when I am getting my Mrs. Degree. For those who don't know, that means when I am getting married. Then, there was a follow-up comment about not getting your masters before you get married because no man will want a woman who is too ambitious.

I know, right! Ouch! It was the same day I walked across the stage to receive my bachelor's too! With all this talk about how your life should go, they never seem to talk about how your money should be? Our immigrant family always talks about what job you should have, who you should marry, and even how many kids you should have, but they seem to leave out the money part.

Our culture tells us how to be perfect citizens of society, but they don't teach us anything about managing our finances. I see immigrants, all the time, getting good jobs and living lavish lifestyles, but there is no saving or investing involved. In the event something does happen, that's it! They go straight into financial ruin. What's even sadder is I see this in minority communities because these immigrants already come from impoverished places and situations. Saving or investing is a little too foreign because everyone is just trying to survive at first when they come to America.

I always use the example of my parents, coming from two small villages in Southern Nigeria. They didn't have a lot growing up, but they came from high-quality families with integrity and morals. When coming to the U.S, they sent a large portion of their money back home to Nigeria to relatives who needed help because that was their obligation. In fact, my father spent all his savings sending money back home or helping people come to the U.S. So much that growing up, we didn't have any savings; we lived paycheck to paycheck. It wasn't until he passed, may his soul rest in peace, my mother came up with a plan to manage her money and create something for us, her children.

Passing that baton onto me, I'm now a financially literate first-generation Nigerian. I majored in finance and school and began to set the foundation of what it means to have your money work for you. I've spent time reading, learning, and applying my knowledge to my own personal finances to teach my child and others about what it means to build wealth in this country. Looking at a lot of my first-generation peers, we just don't know because of all the things that were passed down to us, money management wasn't one of them.

With more and more information now available, we are starting to learn about building our own wealth in America. We leverage books, blogs, networks, and social media to learn about money management. It feels empowering to be a child of immigrants and know what it means to make my money make money. I owe it to my parents for giving me life, and I owe it to myself to take that life and make something out of it. It's not enough anymore to just have a good-paying job, a lovely home, and some kids. It means everything to build a foundation for future generations. Especially as the cost of living will continue to go up, more is needed to sustain an excellent life quality. As a first-generation, I want to set a foundation that will impact my kid's kid's kids.

My hope is that as times continue to evolve and change, first generations and immigrants can continue to set the precedence in this country on what it means to build generational wealth and having sustainable finances for the next generation to have. Like I've always said, my goal in life is to make sure that everyone wins! And that is on Period!

The Lioness is a financial blogger based in the Twin Cities. After spending most of her career in accounting, she decided to leap into the world of small business, investing and savings. As she is on this journey of juggling both her career and small business, she wants to share what she is learning along the way, as she builds her passive income.

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