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The following is a guest post by Financial Orchid hailing from the west coast.
Her family immigrated to North America when she was a baby, but her Chinese identity is still very important to her.
On her spare time, she enjoys sharing financial optimization ideas, spending management, and cooking Cantonese cuisine. She never turns down dim sum.
As Chinese New Year is here on February 16, 2018, Financial Orchid shares her thoughts on some of the financial advantages of being ethnic Chinese from traditional and cultural perspectives.
Happy CNY! Kung Hey Fat Choy! Gong xi fa cai! 新年快樂 恭喜發財 萬事如意 身體健康
The Year of the Dog is supposed to be a shining year for me with a purple star bringing a helper to aid me in times of difficulty.
This year should be a highly prosperous year for me apparently? Let’s see.
The Lunar New Year, when children, unmarried singles, and employees get their tax-free income (bonus) from elders and employers alike.
Today I’m going to point out many (not all of course depending on financial circumstances) financial advantages Chinese people enjoy traditionally.
There are sucky traditions too, but in the spirit of ringing the new year I’ll focus on the positives.
Isn’t it great that Chinese people get 2 New Years? Some interpret the Chinese New Year as a spring festival even when it’s still winter in many parts of China.
1. We enjoy tax free income since birth.
After a child is born in the first month, parents may sometimes opt to throw a huge party.
In the old days, with high infant mortality rates, hitting the first month of life was considered a milestone.
Thereafter, there would be no big celebration until a person turned 60 (for females that would be age 61). Friends and relatives would attend the month old’s celebratory feast bearing gold and jade gifts for fortune and prosperity.
Wealth and prosperity is big in Chinese cultures up there with health. Each year during lunar new year, children receive cash in red pockets from married elders.
Singles also receive red pockets (as financial aid or good luck) because of course in the old agrarian days it was a lot harder for a single person to get by financially without a partner.
Bosses also pay out bonuses during the lunar new year in the form of red pockets. This is practiced even today in many large international corporations in China/HK/Singapore/Taiwan. In some instances this is the 13th month salary for paying taxes.
2. We inherit our parents’ estate.
There’s a caveat to that of course depending on your birth order in the family. Generally the house goes to the eldest male offspring.
Kind of sucks if you are not the eldest male especially when most people’s asset are locked in their primary dwelling right? Even in today’s standards, that is still the practice in many Chinese families all over the world. Not to say the other siblings get nothing, but often a smaller portion.
The traditional view is that the eldest son is the appointed successor by birth and must continue the family legacy thus inherit the ancestral home to raise his own family.
In turn, the eldest male is responsible for financially supporting not only for his immediate family but also all his younger siblings and the widowed parent for the rest of their lives.
This not always a feasible, practical, or even expected in today’s world. In some instances, siblings may find this as extreme favoritism and a host of complications can result.
The issue can further be complicated for Chinese families living under the western legal system. Again, I’m just talking about tradition. Not all traditions are fair and equitable and varies across family circumstances.
The positive is that a lot of Chinese parents feel an obligation for passing on a legacy so they tend to save more, spend less, clear out their liabilities ASAP and take great pride in having wealth left to assist their offspring’s livelihood when the parents are no longer around.
3. Living with parents your whole life is highly acceptable.
In fact, inter-generational homes are customary and still continues with today’s sky high urban realty. Traditionally, the wife would move in with the husband’s family.
In highly traditionally families (i.e. my grandparents’ era), the daughter in law even had to pour a cup of tea for her in-laws each morning and ask how they were feeling.
Grandparents looked after grandchildren to save on child care costs. In many urban centers today, that’s equivalent to over $1000 savings per month per child.
Grandparents have companionship and light household chores that keep them alert, and slows down mental deterioration. Parents have less financial pressure.
If one of the parent lived in the same house since childhood or for decades, chances are the house is mortgage free or soon to be and that’s a huge burden off the collective.
The key here is collectivism. One will always be taken care of regardless of their employment situation, which could lead to problems of entitlement and lack of motivation.
On the flip side, it could lead to increased accountability for the offspring or married couples as they now carry the providership torch.
For western families, living with parents well into adulthood may be a no-go and odd even. In prior generations, that wasn’t even a choice for traditional Chinese families. Collectivism and inter-generational living was just the way of life.
When you got married, you joined a company except you were legally related to all the people you saw everyday and worked to support. The eldest had the final ruling. Birth order and respect went hand in hand. This is common in many eastern cultures.
Concluding remarks from Ms. FAF
I can relate to all three points Financial Orchid pointed out above since they are also true in Vietnamese culture.
I strongly believe that every culture offers its own unique advantages and perspectives.
The key, in my opinion, is to preserve the traditions that we hold true to our values and minimize those that are deemed not constructive to a financially secure and healthy lifestyle.
What part of your culture do you think is particularly financially advantages to you?
If you celebrate the Lunar New Year, do you have any plans yet?