I’m the young Asian friend who was the subject of Assunta Ng’s blog post in last week’s issue, and I thought I would provide a response on searching for the right balance when dealing with money.
First, even though I have worked at a financial institution for five years, no matter how frugally I lived, there was no way I would not have been able to save enough money to afford school. And it is unfair to say that I can count on my parents for a financial bailout — as far as they are concerned, I am and have been on my own financially since my undergraduate days.
Past that, I think this is an interesting generational difference in how we view money. I’ll say it up front: no one is right and no one is wrong because the way that we view money is simply different. For me, money is not about a house or clothes. Actually, it is not about material things at all. Rather, money is what lets me have amazing experiences. And for me, my decision to attend Yale is not as much about the education or the degree, but rather the experience. This experience is going to be priceless. How could I put a price on the friends I will make, the growth I will experience, and the things that I will learn? The monetary cost is high, but money is something that I can always earn and this experience is something that I would not trade for anything in the world.
My parents have similar views as Assunta does about money. Frugal choices lead to a life of financial stability and fewer worries about money. This is one way to live life. But it is not the only way. My priorities and their priorities are different.
The standards to which we measure success, or consider a life well lived, are certainly different. It may make financial sense not to buy a latte every morning, but if that latte provides you with happiness every morning, isn’t it worth it? I would argue that for the young staff member, the $5 latte is not about the latte itself, but the experience of the latte. The smell of the coffee, starting the morning the right way, and enjoying the small things in life. I would say that $5 is a small price to pay for a little bit of happiness every morning.
In general, I agree with Assunta. Material things do not bring you happiness in life and younger people need to make smarter decisions about the things you buy. Be frugal. Save money. But at the end of the day, life is too short to worry about money. Rather, we should think about the experiences that we can enjoy. In two years, when I come back, I don’t want to tell you, “I told you so.” Instead, I hope that you will be able to see that the experience made me a better person, wiser and happier — things that money cannot buy.
“Young Asian Friend”