Are the children of immigrants financially savvier than those born in Canada? Pracheer Saran explores the phenomenon of greater financial literacy among newcomers – and what everyone can learn from frugal living practices.
One aspect of starting a life in Canada that has always baffled me is the ability of immigrant children, as young as eight or nine years old, to be quite financially responsible, especially compared to kids who were born in Canada. Now, I’m not being judgemental here – I have concrete reason to support this claim.
Learning From Example
Consider this – the majority of immigrants to Canada come without a job offer in hand. They look for employment once they have relocated here, and survive on savings or low-paying work while they hunt for jobs in their field. Such situations require excellent financial planning skills, especially when one has immigrated with kids. And, as almost all conversation among immigrants revolves around ways to save money, kids are exposed to such financial issues and practices from an early age.
As well, consider that immigrants, especially those from developing countries, have a nagging habit of converting everything they buy against their home country’s currency. Due to the strong Canadian dollar, this makes many items seem very expensive – and may make them feel as though their choices are limited.
Kids, especially when they are in their preteens, tend to emulate whatever their parents practice, and subconsciously adopt such habits. However, I find children born in Canada, even to immigrant parents, have a different outlook towards life and take things for granted like access to co-curricular and recreational activities; for many immigrant kids, these are luxuries.
Also read: Are you an underemployed skilled immigrant?>
Saving Money is Universal
Take, for example, these experiences from fellow immigrants:
Rafiq Ahmed, the son of a Bangladeshi immigrant who came to Toronto at the age of nine, recalls when his father worked as waiter in an Indian restaurant, and made sure to get plenty of food from the restaurant at the end of his shift for his family of four. “When my sister and I were growing up, the idea of eating out was considered ludicrous since we were anyways eating restaurant food most of the time, thus, saving on groceries too. My father always joked when we asked him if we could eat outside at a restaurant by saying that he feels like he is going back to work.”
Aleksei Karwatsky, the daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant, learned a valuable lesson from her parents – why buy from a supermarket if you can grow your own food? “While growing up we had a small vegetable garden in our tiny one-bedroom apartment. In addition to this we adhered to a strict budget for groceries and other expenses. Eating out was strictly limited and shopping for clothes and accessories if not on sale was considered a taboo.”
Both Rafiq and Aleksei give credit to their parents for infusing financial soundness in them – but they don’t consider them to be penny pinchers. After all, it was their parents’ lifestyle choices and sacrifices that helped their kids attain university educations – even without taking loans.
They also imparted important financial planning lessons that both Rafiq and Aleksei plan to follow when they have children of their own; though they plan to be less stringent and indulge in some guilt-free shopping and eating out from time to time.
Teaching Kids About Finances From an Early Age
However, there are also many immigrant parents who feel that because they are getting the short end of the stick, that they must overcompensate with their kids, providing them with all the luxuries in life. In my opinion, pampering kids to this extent fails to teach them anything about smart personal finance. Whether you are an immigrant or not, it’s important to have a conversation with your kids about finances. After all, according to research from the University of Cambridge, kids’ money habits are formed by the age of seven.
What I’ll Teach My Own Son
About five years ago, I overheard a woman, who by the way was not an immigrant, tell a bank teller to open a savings account of her five-year-old and issue a debit card. At that time I was taken aback and thought her request was ridiculous. Today, however, as a father of a two-month old, I’m not reluctant to say that I was completely wrong. In fact, I think the decision to make money an important part of your child’s upbringing is one of the most important . I plan to start the practice of saving with my child by giving him a piggy bank on his fifth birthday – just as my own father did when I was five.
About the Author: Pracheer Saran
I am a travel enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves to write about my escapades, from travel to beer – but when it comes to finances, I still had a lot to learn. I first moved to Canada five years ago, and as a new immigrant, getting a credit card to building a credit history was a mammoth task for me. I mostly learned from trial and error – and am still learning!
There is some homework a new immigrant can start a few months before moving to Canada to ensure a smoother settlement. So fasten your seat belts and join me for an informative ride as I share the challenges of managing my daily finances, hunting for my first job, battling high car insurance rates, buying my first house and securing a mortgage.