11 Perks of Growing Up Poor (Growing Up Poor Chinese American)

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Poverty sucks. Don’t even start saying I’m making light of the topic. I can’t even begin to rant to you how much being poor sucks and changes things for the worst in almost every facet of the human experience.


But we all knew that. So let’s try to… go into something a little refreshing today…?

I’ll be honest, while I was writing this, there were uh…only 24,482 devil’s advocate sitting on my shoulders going “well…that only applied to you in your mind.”

YEAH – NO – DUH because I only have this mind to work with…

Alright, now we’re getting that out of the way, I can make room for the “perks” of becoming poor. There’s not that much…and some are double-edged swords…and the cons of being poor still out shadow a lot of the “perks” most of the time but it’s not without a perspective of its own.

1. Learning independence is essential.

There’s no such thing as ’round the clock childcare without the big bucks to back it up. I was a latchkey kid for the entirety of my life.

I remember one day, I fell down a steep hill coming home in 6th grade. This was in hilly San Francisco naturally and I was a clumsy kid with cheap ill-fitting shoes. I slid continuously on the cement for a good foot because of the steepness. It was pretty gruesome if you know what friction and hard cement can do to little knees. The pain stung like nobodies business but I was by myself so I got back up (yes I was crying) and limped home on the bus with everyone on the bus staring at my bloody pants.

I limped off the bus (really painful because I couldn’t bend my knees) but I was just glad to be home. Obviously, no one was home and no one was going to be home for hours so I just cringed at the pain and grossness and cleaned up. My mom got more mad that I ruined the new pair of expensive Old Navy pants. She mended the holes back together and made me wear it for the next 2 years of middle school.

It’s just a small anecdote that happened but I learned when you fall, no one will be there to kiss your bruises and scrapes. Poor parents are too busy working or dealing with 1,000 other adult problems. Life’s rough and you just gotta get up every day because there’s no other option. You can’t just lay there on the cement or daydream about calling up your mommy and ask to be picked up like you’re a normal kid. That’s not how it works. Plus, a fall is a fall. You get over it.

2. No one will bother to be fake with you.

I always thought this one was funny!

In school, if you’re just an invisible loner fly on the wall (like me), then you can observe how perfect a person behaves around another person they need a favor from.

Ie. Kristin’s family throws the best birthday bash so everybody should be nice to Kristin.

Related: 11 Punchable Financial Offenses According To Me

No one gave me any fake airs. I had literally nothing to offer. Did you want to see my 2 pairs of pants? How about my sparkling second grader personality?


My parents were the opposite of well off. Even second grade me knew that. That’s why I found it amusing at so young. I wanted other kids to like me and at least be fake nice to me so I know what it feels like to be worth something to someone…but…then again…eh…that’s not really conducive to anything is it now?

3. Life without rose-tinted glasses.

Life is uglier when you’re poor. I mean that figuratively but you can take it literally too. Go to the good side of town and note how much litter there is compared to the turfs of homelessness near the public housing projects a few streets away. This is a combination of both the first point and second point I made. The ugly version of life might just be closer to reality. You see others for who they are because there is no reason for them to cast you a second glance or appease you in any way. That’s the real them.

4. You become less image focused.

I don’t understand why people idealize certain superficial lifestyles but I imagine it’s probably out of boredom…that or they’ve lost touch with reality that much. Lifestyle is a low hanging fruit to pursue that always shows well so I can see why it would be appealing to the crowd.

Being beautiful and well maintained takes time and resources someone improvised can’t always afford. Dental care is a big example. My bottom row of teeth is very crooked (thanks Mom for those genes) and they were never corrected due to my family’s poverty. It’s an insecure vanity area for me but it was never crippling. When you’re poor there are more things to worry about…like paying the electricity bill or making sure you get enough sleep to bulldoze through another 10 hours of mind-numbing labor (thanks Mom for that sacrifice.)

5. Thick skin for the long road ahead.

A life without financial stability would never be easy. Everyone needs financial stability for the betterment of their lives.

Life with money is pretty sweet; life without money blows.

It’s going to feel like a long hard road if you don’t start building some thick skin. If you needed to clean drunkard vomit to make ends meet for your family, then you clean up vomit. That’s what my Dad did for 5 years working as a temp janitor at South San Francisco Airport (thanks Old Man).

My mom was big on the concept of building a thick skin. Unfortunately for her, I was bashful, shy and very meek…for the first….oh…19 years of my life. I didn’t start acting resilient until middle school where I endured endless teasing on my bad wardrobe and my family didn’t always have working showers or laundry facilities.

It’s not fun being ganged up on and made to be embarrassed for being poor.

So what I’m trying to say is…hang in there. Eyes on the prize. Being poor is not the worst thing that can happen to you unless you let it be so. Build up the thick skin to go alone if you have to for yourself and stop caring what anyone else thinks.

That’s what growing up poor taught me very recently.

I looked around on my Facebook and went…oh….every single wannabe-cool school kid who did tease me (and I remember them all muahaha) is currently something along the lines of….community college dropout and/or getting by with menial jobs in San Fran while bunking with their parents.

They’re still yolo swagging BIG TIME. That’s not an exaggeration. Geez, they’re my age. Does that phrase ever end? I doubt I’m the odd case out, we’ve all seen this stereotype before…

6. Undiscounted achievements (aka STREET CRED).

It’s street cred. Do you think rapper 50 Cent would be as famous if he didn’t survive being shot 9 separate times?

I’ll use a bad example my mom gave me:

The two of the wealthiest men in the history of mankind currently live and work out of Washington. We have Jeff Bezos in Seattle and Bill Gates on the East side. Gates was born to 2 wealthy, successful lawyer parents. Bezos was born to a teenage mom and no father present.

A lot of people like my parents (they watches Chinese news, that’s how they know who he is) look up to Bezos because humble beginnings are relatable to them. It’s romantic because reality sucks for the poor. If you’re going to run a poll on who came further and polled my mom, she’s Team Bezos all the way.

7. There’s scientific research that presents a good roadmap to your success.

Most commercial studies I find just screams sad statistics about the effects of poverty on the brain and all that painful stuff that made me want to cry when I was sitting in university lecture as a sophomore.

“Holy crap, am I fixable???”

The most well-known study on human resilience was a longitudinal study done on the island of Kauai. This one is my ALL TIME FAV STUDY. Researchers followed the same cohort of children throughout a lifetime and at the end of the study, they noted the similarity in resilient characteristics of children who were able to leave poverty. About ⅔ of children in the study born to poverty stayed in poverty. I remember my developmental professor telling us it’s been a continuing field of research on why this ratio of 1/3 vs 2/3 ratio was so persistent.

The biggest predictors came down to temperament (which I know is mostly genetic), having an internal locus of control (how much faith they have in controlling their outcome), and high degrees of coping skills during episodes of trauma.

I was not the most communicative or well tempered or even good at coping. After reading this study so many years ago, I told myself to work on these 3 key traits because Lord knows how much I wanted to prove myself resilient.

Plus, if you think about it, these 3 key traits make a lot of sense to hone and why a person who possesses them would be considered more resilient. It just sounds like this person could be a really cool dude to be around. They’re mellow, nice, optimistic and can cope with a situation efficiently.

8. The possibility of public assistance.


This isn’t a great perk unless you’re deathly stuck or accustomed to the worst standard of living. But it’s something to get a person through the rough patches. Heaven help you not to get stuck in the welfare trap I pray!

Like a lot of Asian American families I knew, the older generation had a pride issue with accepting government handouts. (Not so much the young generation, they’re ready with hands open.)

My mom refused to apply for food stamps. Food is big in our culture and relatively cheap too (…or it was 10 years ago) so it’s not worth losing your ego over. Plus a lot of the Chinatown stalls don’t take EBT. It’s super cheap anyways.

Housing on the other hand…yeah OK. San Francisco is super expensive.

College too. I received all the grants available and pretty good fin. package from the school itself. If you are a poor American student with a GPA over 3.0 or 3.5 then most grants and scholarships would toss a coin your way.

9. You’ll know what comes after a fall.

My mom tries to talk me out of investing money every time the subject comes up. She says “You invest?! But everyone on the [Chinese] news said this man ended up losing everything in stocks and jumped off a building.”

I just roll my eyes at her.

Most of a person’s fear comes from the unknown. If we lose it all, doesn’t that just take us back to what we were before? Why didn’t I just jump off a school building then?

I don’t ever want to get accustomed to wealth and I doubt I ever will because I’m so used to my previous life that adopting a non-frugal mentality comes off as a real hard fight. Better this way than vice versa!

Related: Would You Survive A Second Great Depression?

(Side note: a total financial fall is not the same thing as a dangling failure. I had the worst year of my life dealing with a failed business and I pretty much cried like a sissy all throughout it. I would have been more prepared for a total fall than to dangle.)

10. You know how to live with less.

Remember when I wrote 21 Frugal Pantry Staples on a Limited Budget for Soapy? The whole time I was writing it I thought…who in the world doesn’t know this. It’s so basic. Rice, beans, chicken – the end.

After Soapy’s first ever self-guided shopping trip (in her freakin’ 30s) she expressed to me how excited and proud of herself that she did this “ALL BY MYSELF.” I asked her what she bought on budget and she replied:

1. No budget,

2. I bought steaks,

3. And shrimps,

4. And a twin pack of prosciutto.

I couldn’t even bring myself to reply to that. I was as angry as a person could get over a pack of prosciutto. There are 1001 reasons to love Soap but her style of financial discipline is not one of them. Here’s a crude summary on Soap.

“Soap is the daughter of an incredibly affluent multi-millionaire family. Soap is one of my best friends although we have very little in common. Her childhood was what one would call pure opulence. Today, she is in her 30s with a drinking problem. She has bad health and cannot hold down a job.”

But after I calmed down I thought…well. It’s not really her fault and she’s at least trying to learn how to live a normal life.

Related: 4 Practical Budgets For People Bad With Money

11. The internal raging desire to prove yourself.

This is the BEST one!!! If you have this, good!!!

I didn’t have a friend who totally got this drive until I met Ms. Frugal Asian Finance. She writes about poverty from time to time and she oftentimes throws in her aspirations for the future even though I consider her a majorly successful human being already.

Some people would use the word ‘overachiever’ but that’s because we have the world to prove wrong. We’re not trying to please anyone but ourselves.

(I’m not 100% sure if we’re on the same page here but I’ll take a stab at it…)

We both came from poor families and we both immigrated to the United States. There are probably hundreds of floating memories in between us of all the times we were teased, looked down upon, and made to feel like a lesser person. I rather quote this then rewrite it because I find this painful…

The asshat administrators in my prefecture erased my citizenship and I was no longer allowed to move onto 2nd grade. They claimed “my family and I were not Chinese citizens (Hukou)” despite all arguments otherwise. Their intention was to sell my school seat to another family with more money and higher caste system than my family.


*Tries to gather up all some Kauai style coping skills. I’ll come back to this later, I’m too angry right now.*


A lot of my girlfriends (actually, ALL of them, hmmm…) told me “Jared is so nice and he makes buckets of money. Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy it? Go have a baby already.”

At first, I thought it was flattering that they would text me stuff like that and I just treated it with passing humor. Everyone just expects me to be the wife, even the girls themselves. Hubby has mentioned many times whenever I try to do something, it creates more stress than if I just…ya know, cooked and cleaned. So I’m fighting all sides here but it’s hard to stop the Lucy Richardo demon in me. I think Jared probably regrets that about me big time.

Related: The Gray Area Of Making Financial Decisions In A Marriage

Soapy has said to me over and over and over “why don’t you just enjoy being a housewife? Pffish, if I were you and Hippo (hubby’s nickname) was my man, I make him a big fat steak dinner and then go to the mall.”

I always thought it was funny how financially opposite me and Soapy are together yet we still get along so well when it comes to everything else…

I’m not sure if everyone will understand my point but…I don’t deserve to create Life until I’ve proven myself successful at something all by myself. Being married to some guy worth $1 million or $10 million isn’t going to change my mindset on that ever. EVER.

Another thing is I don’t want to be one of those moms who crashes the weight of her lost dreams and aspirations onto their poor kid but that’s another can of worms altogether.


Mesmerizingly, I’ve managed to turn a positive post and somehow mixed it in with my tears and looney ramblings. A lot of these lessons stem from pain. Hence why I’m confused and wondering if I am coming off crazy or did I seriously just use the words “perks of being poor” wtf. I’m really hoping this is relatable to some readers out there who feels the impact of #7, #10 and #11 like I do every day. I hope there’s someone struggling out there who can get a little pep in having been through the poor house.



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49 thoughts on “11 Perks of Growing Up Poor (Growing Up Poor Chinese American)”

  • Dear Lily, it’s not crazy but actually very true that not suffering from an entitlement mentality gives young people more drive in life. While no one wishes to be “poor” it’s one of the defining factors of who you can become. Happiness = Reality minus Expectations. If you start with having everything you can only lose in life. If you start at the bottom though, there’s a great chance of ever increasing happiness ahead of you. Mean twists of life… but interesting stuff to think about.
    Matt | Financial Imagineer recently posted…Who Wouldn’t Want to Be a Millionaire: 6 Life-Winning-Lessons From a “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” Contestant

    • Totally agree with the happiness formula! Being in the FI community makes me realize more in the managing expectations and enjoying simple things in life portion of the formula and I am way happier! Not sure if it is from the influence of my hubby, becoming more mature, joining the FI wagon (or all above), my personality changed from typical type A overachiever to way more chill enjoy life 🙂

    • I loveeeeee the irony of life. ” If you start with having everything you can only lose in life. If you start at the bottom though, there’s a great chance of ever increasing happiness ahead of you.” I think Soap can attest to this. I always have to prove myself but Soap questions why do anything if we’ll evaporate in 100 years or something.

  • I love every single quality on the list except for the mention of Jeff Bezos.

    This guy’s pr team has done an amazing job, I’ll give you that. But his actual family was quite well off (famous grandparents, phd level degrees, a 25,000 acre ranch), even though his mom had him after a teenage pregnancy. His biological dad took off but his mom remarried when he was 4.

    Smart of his team to recognize no one likes a privileged person winning in life. I’m sure that’s why he worked out of a “garage” instead of an office. Even then, he knew how the story would sound if a guy who worked at a hedge fund took out $300k at age 30 to start an internet business.

    I do like bill gates better – his philanthropy and treatment towards his employees is more morally good.
    Olivia recently posted…Living in a Gentrifying Neighborhood Will Save You Money

      • I wonder if Bezos would one day, after he’s ready to hang it up, would drop a giant donation or something. He would most likely, because the government takes 50% of it after his passing (the death tax) if he doesn’t just give it away. That’s why Gates is only leaving each of his kids 10 million and giving away the rest. I don’t think he wants one drop to go to Uncle Sam vs a real charity. Zuckerberg did something similar I think.

        • Hi Lily,

          Just wanted to let you know that Bezos recently donated 33 million for Dreamer scholarships and he’s given at least 80 million towards medical research. Yes he still has a gazillion dollars but that’s not a terrible start.

          I grew up in poverty myself, and was homeless for awhile in sixth grade, and agree that being poor does help you have a more grounded, determined outlook. It definitely made me crazy stubborn. Cheers!

    • Very true and funny Olivia! That’s why I said bad example – my parents will buy the PR slop because…well they’re not the most aware. I knew his grandpa worked for NASA (nothing wrong with growing up privileged but the media loves an underdog story) and they had a big ranch.

  • I LOVED this post! It must be one of my most favorite personal finance posts ever! I can relate to all of the points you mentioned above. Being poor kinda sucks, but it’s a character-building journey as well.

    Being looked down on or made fun of for being poor was probably one of the worst things I experienced during high school. Maybe I was too sensitive, but it doesn’t really matter anymore. When I meet some of my high school classmates now, they still like to talk about their parents’ connection, money, power etc. I don’t feel jealous anymore. I’m just thinking “You love your life, and I love mine.” The American dream is one of the best things that have ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything that they have.
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…Did You Win The Husband Lottery?

    • Totally agree with you Ms FAF, like always!! “You love your life, and I love mine.” is a really great motto to live by. We live in the best country, I mean that. We live in the golden age of mankind as of yet. It’s more reason to pursue our goals and exercise that freedom.

  • This post was SO GOOD. I grew up the un-resilient little rich girl. Mr. ThreeYear grew up the bloody-kneed latchkey kid. And he is so tough and resilient and all the stuff you said. I have no idea why he was one of the 1/3 that made it out of poverty, because he’s crazy anxious, has ADHD, gets paralyzed by fright a lot… but somehow, when the going gets tough, he just turns on his turbo jet engines and blows things out of the water. I’ve always thought (from my little rich-girl head) that his poverty gave him some very real advantages over me, one of which being his ability to hyper-focus on getting the most important thing done. Great writing, Lily. I totally understand where you’re coming from with the need to prove yourself. And you are doing it. 🙂
    ThreeYear recently posted…Figuring Out the Why

    • Aw thanks Laurie! Means a lot to me. Mr. ThreeYear sounds like my Hippo (hubby). I am near sure he has Aspergers and tons of anxiety. I don’t think I’ve done anything to prove myself yet. I want to be on Forbes someday, all by myself, that is what I consider proven.

  • I really enjoyed this. Especially number 9 for some reason.

    I guess I never really thought of investments in that way. A failed business, sure. My dad always said I’m young and the worst that happens is I lose all my money and start over, just later. I guess the same is true for just investing too.

    Truth is you’ve got a great head on your shoulders and a great attitude about this stuff. Poverty I’m sure isn’t easy and it takes an awesome kind of person to realize how things that are bad in the moment can positively shape things.
    Dave @ Married with Money recently posted…We Finally Merged Finances: A Brief Money Story

    • Thanks Dave, that really means a lot to me! I think there just wasn’t that many perks to being poor so they only thing you can look is up, positive.

      I almost didn’t add that snippet in there. It wasn’t totally related but as I was going to take it out I thought, no no – because it is important for people to understand the difference between fall and failure. Falling is clean, you start over and that’s the only option. Dangling stinks!

  • you had 2 parents and that is something. i did too and we grew up in a poor farm type community but didn’t know we were poor because everybody was pretty much the same. we never went hungry and had some “stuff” but we didn’t have class or taste and that was ok. i couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there and go off to school though and figure out all those social things the sticks didn’t offer. i did and while i know now they are overrated i had to see for myself. a thick skin is to me how you make an independent spirit. even if all we worked for fell apart tomorrow it’s good knowing you could go back to the way it was and survive.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…Financial Success With a Rock’n’Roll Lifestyle? Hell Yeah!

    • I had a similar experience. I was a happy, poor kid who didn’t know she was poor. I think not having a safety net has made me hugely independent and unafraid of lots of things. I also think living below my means was easy because of how I grew up. If I were used to going on vacations, clothes whenever, then I probably would have had a harder time post-college.

      The key to getting out of my social class was moving away, no doubt.
      The Luxe Strategist recently posted…My Weekend Money Diary #7: Going Costco Crazy + Serendipitous Shopping

      • I was very young and I noted that we were poor. I went to elementary school and immediately knew it because my peers were wealthy (better shoes, clothes, parents had cars etc.) I think I would have preferred the happy, poor kid road because I think it gave me some weird self-esteem issues in the end. It also caused a them vs me mentality. (Like how some people hate the rich simply because they’re rich.)

    • When I graduated, the first thing I wanted to do was leave. Leave anywhere, to another state etc. Ironically, that drive to “leave home” is advantageous because biologically it strengthens the diversity of the gene pool. Humans moved 20 miles further between generations on average – I learned that in Anthro class and thought it was hilarious. I’m sure thick skin works the same too. We’re geared for survival.

  • It’s cool to see you married to a higher earning husband but still desire to prove yourself. This is different side of the coin than I am experiencing. Growing up my dad works and has a great career and my mom stays at home. They have a great marriage and love their role. I am definitely influenced by it. I never expect to be a stay at home wife, but always have the notion of my dream husband should make more than me (1.5-2x) my salary. Husband provides for the family, my income used to enjoy life 🙂 Sadly that never turn out. I always make more than my husband. For the first 4 years of our career, I would be pretty sad that this dream notion did not come true. I will try to motivate him, etc… but it never worked. Now with my compensation continuously to rise, there is no way that’s going to happen so I just kinda make peace with it and accept the reality. I start to appreciate the pro side of his job ( super cool and inspirational) and not worry about his pay anymore.

    • I grew up thinking I would be the breadwinner (or at least very much equal!) because I was a good grader getter and…I thought grades mattered back then. That could be another reason why I’m so stubborn in jump starting a career. But I am glad my husband is a sufficient provider so I don’t have to worry about having food on the table.

      As a girl…yes I think it matters how much a guy makes but that curve slows as it goes up. $200k vs $300k is a big difference but not really in a “Is this person a good provider and would make a good family man?” equation because both of those wages are strong enough. As long as Mr. EC is making something and he’s happy about it, the best and only thing is to do what you’re already doing 🙂

  • This was actually a fun post for me to read. I grew up poor in a single parent family and can relate to a lot of what you’ve written. I’m now in the middle class and the skills I’ve gleaned through the years of being broke serve me well as we work toward our financial goals of paying off our house early and retiring early. One thing I’ve noticed about myself (and a lot of other who grew up poor) is that I spent a lot of time being obsessed with my appearance and clothing when I finally got a little money. I remember seeing an Oprah show way back in the day where she gave gifts to poor African children. These gifts included toys and clothes, they were surprised that the kids were more interested in the clothes than the toys. She surmised that it was because people judge each other by their appearance when they first meet and wearing nice clothes starts you off on the right foot, so to speak.

    • Oh Terri I DO know what you mean! My example only applied to me/frugal people but most people aren’t even aware enough to be frugal.

      I just unlocked a random memory about what you just mentioned. I was in math class and this girl came in with brand new shoes. The teacher asked for everyone’s assignments and she said she didn’t have it because she didn’t have a printer and the teacher said: “….but you bought brand new Air Jordans?” And she and the class laughed. Except me. I didn’t think it was funny. I think it was stupid she chose shoes over academics. I wasn’t sure of her family income though but she was in public school in the inner city like I was so I doubt she was well off. Teenager girls lack a certain confidence most of the time.

  • Wow, a lot of emotion in this post. I think you’ll mellow out as you age. It’s awesome that you’re striving to prove yourself. Keep working on it. You never know what the future is going to be like. Don’t settle for being a housewife. Keep trying new things.

    That Kauai study sounds interesting. I’ll look it up. Actually, 1/3 is pretty darn good. That’s higher than I expected. The 3 qualities are great. I’m trying to encourage my kid to be more resilient, but it’s really hard.
    Joe @ Retire by 40 recently posted…2017 Blog Income Wrap Up

    • I really hope I mellow out as I age. I would hate for be 45 and carrying as much baggage! The hubby would like it better if I was a housewife to be honest. But yeah, I don’t know if I can do that. For one, I STINK at cleaning and organization. Just…awful. It’s like me with Tetris. Did you look up the study yet? I think there’s a Wikipedia article about the research and follow up studies. I read it years ago but it was ultra fascinating.

  • Great post and I am so glad you focus on the perks of being poor. I can relate to the majority of them as our family grew up poor like yours and Ms. FAF. My mother is still feeling guilty today that she couldn’t provided me what other kids had during their childhood. She kicks herself for not helping me financially through college.

    As a young kid, I did everything alone without much supervision and managed to stay out of trouble – most of the time. I did work study and enjoyed the perk of financial aid to help me get by college with minimal debt. I totally love the American Dream much more than what I heard of where I was born. Great article Lily and I hope this comment sticks compared to all my previous ones.
    Mr. MFC @ Morning Fresh Cent recently posted…Knocking Down The Wall About Life Insurance

    • Aw always a great addition to have you comment MFC. Financial aid was a big help for me too and for the poor in general. It has advantages like mobility IF you did everything else right (major, grades, what you did during college etc.)

  • Great post and I am so glad you focus on the perks of being poor. I can relate to the majority of them as our family grew up poor like yours and Ms. FAF. My mother is still feeling guilty today that she couldn’t provided me what other kids had during their childhood. She kicks herself for not helping me financially through college.

    As a young kid, I did everything alone without much supervision and managed to stay out of trouble – most of the time. I did work study and enjoyed the perk of financial aid to help me get by college with minimal debt. I totally love the American Dream much more than what I heard of where I was born. Great article Lily and I hope this comment sticks compared to all my previous ones.
    Mr. MFC @ Morning Fresh Cent recently posted…Knocking Down The Wall About Life Insurance

    • No 😫😫😫😫 freaking trash bin ate it!!!! I’m sorry, what the heck. I think the issue is on my end.. change your name to Fresh Cent instead, maybe it doesn’t like periods or it’s too long?

      I think your momma amazing, she raised you and you’re successful. You don’t need the frills if the bones are good.

  • Great post Lily!
    Even if it is a little crazy :-p
    Nah it’s true though that it’s the periods of adversity in your life that give you the tools and perspective you need to forge ahead and be successful in the future. I’ve learned much more from the bad times in my life when I’ve lost everything (or it felt that way, anyway) than from my successes and wealthier periods.
    Thanks for sharing!
    G. Brian Davis @ SparkRental recently posted…4 Preventative Maintenance Jobs to Save Landlords Thousands

  • I can’t say I grew up poor but we were definitely lower middle class and paycheck to paycheck. I like your “life without rose-tinted glasses” one. Great observation as I feel that describes my childhood very well. I was in a crime-ridden big city, and saw the ugly parts of life, with some folks who were very rough around the edges. Also called “the school of life”

    Great post!

    • Very true. I remember some people were uncomfortable riding on public buses and I thought…”but that’s my entire life, and it’s fine. I was never shanked.”

  • Good post, and I can understand the number of conflicting emotions associated with it. We were upper “poor”/lower middle class. For me one of the best things about growing up without a lot of money, is I know that if it all hits the fan, I (and my immediate family) can get by on very little. I have siblings and other family who are living on $25K or less a year. They struggle, but manage. So while my ego would take a major blow if I fell back to that level, there is also a part of me that knows I would survive. The worst thing is once I graduated college and started making money, I foolishly thought I was rich and naively spent money and started my slide into debt. My spouse came from a similar background and was even worse because in her family when you got “extra” money you splurged and spent it on stuff you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get. That crushed us financially through our 20’s and 30’s because it lead to the big house, new cars, etc. lifestyle even though I was trying to be frugal in some ways (e.g. being careful in the kind of “new” car I picked) I still was buying lots of things and upgrading my house because there was a part of me that wanted many of the things I was “denied” when growing up. This was really hard to curb when we started with the kids even though we became personally more frugal both my spouse and I wanted them to have things we hadn’t and we really had to reign in those impulses to overspend on them. Finally, the one good and bad thing about the way I grew up is I’m a borderline hoarder. I have an unbelievable hard time letting anything go because I’m always thinking I’ll find a use for it and would hate to have to “buy” something new when I have something already. It works well in having back-ups of useful things, but I don’t really need four hammers, dozens of screwdrivers, jars of screws of all shapes and sizes, etc. not to mention all the “stuff” we are saving for the kids when they start their own homes that they likely won’t even take. We are working on clearing in prep for an eventual downsize.

    • “I’m a borderline hoarder.” Oh yes – me too. A lot of people who grew up in poor environments do hoard. It’s survival instincts. I have a huge obsession with food (use to hide food in my stuff animal) and later I learned that was probably not normal.

      My husband and I are frugal people but having kids might change all that frugality for me. Because my logic is like you and your wife’s thinking. “I have to give them everything I didn’t have.” ( That thought is so noble and pure by the way.)

  • I think you’ve done an awesome job L. Damn impressive I would say.

    I never had it as bad, so I’m thankful for all the hard work my parents did. My parents had to make it out from poor to “middle class” (my Dad still think it’s a stupid term) after they and my grandparents came over from China after enduring WW2.

    The times when I had to bathe in a bucket next to the fireplace during winter still sticks with me. The busted up Casio watch gives me a reminder not to forget where I came from, and get lost chasing the money all the time.

    Maybe I have money guilt, I’m not very impressive compared to everyone else here, but making a fair amount of coin at a young age let’s me help out the friends that I consider family. Barring most things, helping to pay for education is still a pretty good investment I would say. 🙂

    • Your family history sounds freakin’ fascinating! Your family came over pretty early then! Did you watch the Mississippi Chinese short on YouTube? They came so early and had to settle and fight to survive. I admire the hell out of that.

      Oh my god, is Casio still in business?! Haha that was like early 90s! You shouldn’t have money guilt if you’re still working hard for it. There are a lot of worst worst wayyyyyy worst people out there.

      • Yeah, my grandparents and parents came over very early. It was pretty bad for my Grandparents. Most of my 爷爷’s family didn’t survive, out of his 5 siblings it was him, and his sister.

        Thanks for the recommendation on the YouTube short, I never heard about it!

        Re: Casio? They’re definitely still kicking! Instead of those digital watches with a calculator I was given a chronograph one. But I DO still have my digital one too! I use it for work, much easier to have when you’re rushing around during hospital shifts. 😊

        With money guilt, I guess so, but it was all dumb luck. Definitely not possible without the safety net to be okay with failing. Just got to make sure I pay it back, and give a hand to hard working people that just need a little boost.

  • Well hello 潇小姐!
    I read your story and I must say, you are really are a strong person. Congratulations on your strength and fortitude. Saving such a high percentage of your income with your background is simply amazing.
    Yes, having less teaches more. I doubt that many people who were born into wealth have the foresight and drive to grow as much as I have seen in your blog.
    Good luck!

  • I grew up in poverty as well and absolutely agree with every one of your points. There exists an unstoppable drive in some of us; yet, we constantly have to fight against ourselves to keep going.

    Also, who on earth thinks steak and shrimp are budget foods?!? My husband and I are working on paying off debt and eat chicken, rice, beans, and pasta almost exclusively.
    Keturah recently posted…5 things to remember when facing hard changes

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