My Story

Today, I share with you a story of myself, for the benefits of those of you curious about the writer of this very very exciting blog *laugh*. For those of you who are uninterested, you can stop reading now.

For those of you who are still reading, I will try not kill you with boredom.

I was airdropped onto a frozen part of America, aka Mid West, in the middle of winter as a pre-teenager from Hong Kong. As a small Asian male with very little fat cells, it was the perfect time and place to be. I hope you realized my sarcastic tone. I had a cold that lasted me that whole winter, and the winter was loooooooooooooooong in Michigan.

Why the ice-land? The idea was to be close to relatives. Though, the main purpose for my parents to move to the States is still the education and future of their children. This is important because I would otherwise only have a “lowly” bachelor degree today. Kidding about the “lowly” part.

I never really enjoyed those early years in the U.S. because I had to help my parents due to English barrier, while my siblings were away at college for most of those time. Imagine a young teenager dealing with bills, writing checks, balancing accounts, reading work-benefits policy, visiting banks and insurance agency… Now imagine Paris Hilton reading the Constitution and studying mountains of text for Harvard Law. And I still had to deal with school work. I also had no idea about Simpsons and Dunkin’ Donuts and Backstreet Boys. I was as FOB-ish as can be in a mostly black and white community. It was impossible NOT to get picked on. And don’t get me started on the house chores. It was definitely GOOD time. I did enjoy the part where they all think about me what Keanu Reeves’s famous for saying, “I know Kung Fu.”

An extra little fact is that during this time, I, this clueless teenager only knew some half-ass English, is the translator in the house… at least attempting to doso. The best stuff were these insurance policy materials that contain “sophisticated” words and legal jargons. The result amounted to something like Chris Tucker trying to speak Chinese… But I digress.

I did not write about all these to complain. Besides to humor you, I mentioned these experience because I believe they have a huge impact on what I would become and how I would handle money. Most importantly, I realized how money can become such big issue in life. Yeah, I am real brainiac :P Moving on…

For my undergraduate studies, I was lucky enough to obtain enough scholarships to cover the 4 years at a state university. Additionally, I worked half-time in my college department as a slave system administrator to support my lifestyle. During that time, I spent some and saved some, without paying too much attention. I paid off credit cards monthly and never carried any balance. I believe this is the result of family influence, without noticing it myself then. As a computer science geek, I am as big a party animal I could be. I spent money eating out and for some evening outtings as many fellow students did. I did not travel to exotic places to see women with beads as vacation, but I did incur a lot of expense as a fencing team member. Besides the athletic part of the fencing experience, I was able to visit many college campus in different states (even Florida!), bonded with my fellow teammates, and met lots of other students from other universities. Although it cost me a lot during the 4 years, it’s not something I’d ever regret doing. This goes to show how money isn’t everything.

The tougher time comes during my master degree. First, let me say that I did not plan nor want to do a master degree because (1) my desire to become independent, (2) knowing there will be little financial support from family, (3) consequently, my concern with debt, and (4) I was never a big fan of school. I was a brat who is ready to become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs… yeah right. Anyways… life is not without a sense of irony. I was accepted into Stanford, to my surprise AND dismay. I finally decided to go for the sake of myself and for family expectation – to fulfill my “final” duty as a son. Remember my parents’ purpose of coming to the States?

I said “final” because it is part of my desire to become independent from my parents. You can chalk it up to typical relationship between son and very strict Asian parents.

At Stanford, no longer with any scholarship, I spent most of my savings (from scholarships and part-time in undergrad), took out student loans, and stopped to work full-time (and continued half-time during the rest of my school) in order to afford the tuition while opting only for subsidized loans. I did my best to make it through the 2 years. Before I found work, I sometimes starved myself until I can get home for dinner to save lunch money.

I kept telling myself this is an investment into myself. Hmmm, self-hypnotizing… that to get the Stanford name is akin to getting my name “gold-plated.” I was very fortunate to received help from my sister for a place to stay. Stanford’s environment began to shift my mentality and the tougher time makes me think, really think… It became the turning point for me…

To start learning about money.
To take charge of my own finance.
To try short-term stock trading. (bad idea…)
To understand that long-term is the way to think.
To know that having a corporate job will only get me so far, without supplements.
And most importantly, to take full responsibility for myself.

I used to envy peers who received support for school and especially, for their first real estate properties. However, I know now such envy is unnecessary. I know I would not become as independent had I gotten an easy way out. I would not have the confidence I have today. I would not act with backbone. I would not be an avid learner to study myself and the world around me. I am in the best place I can be. Oh, and of course, this blog would not exist otherwise either.

These experience also made it apparent to me, why a friend called me “a survivor” years back.

Hereby I conclude my little semi-autobiography. I notice I ended on more boring notes. My apology. Still, I hope you enjoy the read.

Originally posted 2008-02-25 00:32:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

5 Responses

  1. xuan says:

    You are a hero!

    Good job!

  2. Kin says:

    Thanks, that’s very flattering. I think I am very far from one or will ever be one… Actually, it doesn’t really matter, hero or not, because we just need to do the best and make the best out of every experience. That’s what I believe in.

  3. jason says:

    To start learning about money.>>>> Financial literacy is indeed a must for all of us. Unfortunately there is no organized way an individual can leran about money management skills. There is not enough emphasis on fiscal learning in most of the schools and even in homes. Most of the parents willingly do not discuss financial matters and money management stuffs with their kids. In my opinon parents should be more open with their kids, after all discussing money is not a taboo, is it?

  4. Kin says:

    Jason, I think you are right. Look around us, there is no trace or any mentioning on financial literacy in the all the way from kindergarten to a post graduate program. If we do not have a personal finance 101 class, it becomes the parents’ responsibility to educate the kids like you said. It should not be a taboo to discuss money in family, but most family behaves as if it is.

    Take a look at my post on Mone is not evil

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