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9 Things My Asian Parents Taught Me About Wealth

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Let's see... what did my parents teach me about wealth? Not much.

I was raised by immigrant parents who were focused on surviving, not thriving. I was raised by, as Robert Kiyosaki coins them, “Poor Dad” parents. So how did I become a wealth coach? I took their habits and flipped them 180.

 

1. Give, give, give

My family is all about giving, sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice. They always gave to others, above and beyond, even if it meant neglecting their own kids. Thanks to them, I've become a generous person.

But generosity without boundaries is lethal: there’s nothing left of yourself. You become a martyr, a victim, an exhausted heap of resentment — not an effective way to become wealthy. Limiting my busy bee volunteer roles was one of the hardest, most heartbreaking, and best things I've ever done.

My parents lent out money they never got back. I'd rather lend out wisdom so that you can make your own money that you don’t need to return to me.

 

2. Pack lunch the night before

I hated having to pack my own lunches in elementary school. Everyone else's parents packed it for them. So I learned a long time ago that if I have to be my own parent, I'm going to do it my way, I'm going to eat what I want, healthy.

Thanks to this habit, I prepare my entire day the night before. I know exactly what’s I'll do tomorrow. I have scheduled in buffer time between meetings. I can sleep and wake peacefully.

By default, most people get jolted out of bed by an alarm and start their day in a frenzy, feeling like they’re already in deficit. They’ve basically set themselves up to fail the moment they awake. Then panic and stress courses through their veins all day long. I guess all those years of packing my own lunch as a kid paved the way to habits of preparation and calm, keys to my creativity and presence with clients.

 

3. turn the lights off

Being efficient and running a very lean household is important, but my parents took it to an extreme. We were only allowed to take five-minute showers, and there was always shouting about turning off the lights and the water.

My dad would even save water he used from hand washing clothes to mop up the floor later. Growing up, all we could think about was “save money, save electricity, take the bus, clip the coupon.”

So no, my parents didn't teach me about investment funds and abundance mindset, but they instilled a waste-not attitude, whichI applied to my business. There’s no fat in my business, it's a lean running machine; there are no love handles.

 

4. Save everything

My parents were pack rats. They saved everything, like empty Kleenex boxes and Nutella jars, “just in case.” In case of what? I don’t know. A zombie apocalypse?

Before they tossed out a coat they'd cut off and keep the zippers and buttons. Today, I do the opposite. I run a location-independent paperless business. I have four 1-inch binders where I keep original documents. The only other things at my desk are my laptop, a Post-it dispenser, and a few colorful pens.

This is what freedom looks like! I could be packed and ready for the airport in under 45 minutes if needed. Everything I possibly need is on my laptop, synchronized to the cloud, with backups upon backups of everything. (Ok, so many I'm a digital pack rat. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree :P)

 

5. Do what you’re told

Growing up, I was taught to always do what I was told. Get a job to pay the bills. Given four career options: doctor, lawyer, engineer, or failure, you better pick the highest paying one. I couldn't stand blood nor am I argumentative. So I became an engineer.

I practiced 89 days on the skytrain project for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. On day 89, I resigned. One day before my probation ended. The tsunami of criticism I got for leaving a cushy secure job and pension, I can't even begin to describe.

What I gained instead was my will to live, my freedom, and the expression of my life’s purpose on Earth. I'm ever so grateful I flipped that one 180 and didn't do as I was told. How much would you pay for your will to live?

 

6. Turn clothes inside out

Growing up, I was taught to turn my clothes inside out before washing, so that they last longer. I don't think I bought any clothes until my third year of university. Appreciating the longevity of products and not being wasteful is a quality.

But my parents definitely took that too far. Not buying things is one thing, but not investing in tools that can generate even more money, ease and joy is just silly.

A concrete example: I had my previous laptop from 2007 to 2012, a long time for a laptop. By 2012, it was damaging my business: it was slow, software would crash, files would get lost, it was super heavy. When I finally did the opposite of what my parents would do, ie buy a f*cking buy a new laptop already, my joy soared and... my business profits soared.

 

7. Save face

There’s this whole concept of saving face in Chinese culture: it’s better to sweep things under the rug so we all look good, regardless of whether or not the issue is resolved. A lot got swept under the rug, especially openly talking about money, sex, life purpose, fulfillment, etc.

Because my parents weren't communicative, I always had to guess what they were thinking / wanting. A handy side effect of that is my keen ability to reading people's mind, body language, mood, etc. I can always figure out what’s not said. As a wealth coach, I can always read a client's thoughts and emotions — an asset in my profession!

 

8. Fix things around the house

Because we never threw anything away, we always fixed things around the house, which fostered resourcefulness in me. I know how to change car engine oil and renovate an entire kitchen. Not having much growing up has taught me to think outside the box: what can I make with what I have.

In my business, I sometimes use office software for audio editing and blogging software for data management. If I run into a tech roadblock, I take a DIY approach and just Google how to fix it. Rarely do I spend time lining up at the Apple store for tech support. Getting really crafty has saved me tons of money!

 

9. Education Trumps All

To my parents, education meant academia, the more letters after your name the better! Double the points if you married a man with lots of letters after his name too! They valued achievement to such a point that I couldn't come home with a grade of 99 or less.

They’d ask where that 1% went. It was like I had to prove that it was worth their while to immigrate to Canada. It was brutal… we were not rich growing up, so I knew I had to pay my own way if I wanted to go to university by getting scholarships and internships. It drove me to work really, really hard. If I wasn't in the newspaper twice a year, I was nobody, I was nothing.

That's a lot of weight to put on a young girl's shoulders. And I'm living breathing proof that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Freedom on!

xo, Ella

Ellany LeaAbout the Author • Ellany Lea is an elite success coach. She's traveled 100+ countries and writes about freedom at the intersection of: entrepreneurship, enlightenment, and enchantment.
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