By Marge Wang
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Studies have shown that Asian Americans tend to save more than other groups in the United States. This is especially true for those not born in this country, those who immigrated here in search of a better life.
Many retirees among these Asian Americans could be enjoying the fruits of their labor. They could be out there buying new cars, new gadgets, second homes, going on cruises — in other words, spending money more frivolously. However, most of these seniors still live in a frugal manner.
Take, for example, some friends of ours that we recently visited. When we entered their house, we noticed they were both wearing outdoor jackets. The temperature that day was cool, in the low 50s. The house felt just as cold as outside, so we also had to keep our jackets on.
I could not help but wonder why this couple was still trying to save money by not heating their home to a comfortable level. They are not poor. They have good retirement incomes, no relatives to support in their home country, and their three grown children are all in successful professions.
There is also the couple whose house looks like a mini warehouse. Half of the garage and two bedrooms are used to store stuff like paper and plastic bags, particularly those that are free from grocery stores. They also like to stock up on packaged and canned foods and bottled drinks. Though their closets are full of new and trendy clothes (given to them by their children), they mostly wear their old, out-of-style apparel (including clothes that their grandkids have outgrown).
So, why are many Asian American retirees still saving and skimping?
I guess old habits are difficult to break. While saving is an admirable trait, there are downsides. For one thing, much of the stored items have expiration dates and would have to be thrown out before ever being used. As to the bank savings, Asian Americans can become easy targets for investing scams, whether it’s from unscrupulous financial planners or get-rich-fast schemers. They are also often targeted by religious groups, both legitimate and bogus, as they fail to check on the credentials of these “Reverend Ministers” or “Dharma Masters.”
It is time for my fellow Asian American seniors to spend money on themselves! I am not worried that they will go hog wild, deplete all their savings, and then become dependent on their children or the state to take care of them.
A lifetime of being fiscally responsible is not going to change overnight. Go ahead and replace the old TV with a plasma TV, buy more gold bangles and baubles, indulge in gourmet meals and drinks, and take more “ski” vacations. No, not skiing vacations down the snowy slopes in Snoqualmie Pass or Aspen. SKI is an acronym for “Spending Kids’ Inheritance.”
By splurging in these ways, you would be bringing enjoyment to yourselves and also doing your share to stimulate the economy! ♦
Marge Wang can be reached at email@example.com.