FINANCIAL PLANNING FOR IMMIGRANTS

Nandita Das Financial Planning Leave a Comment

Do immigrants really need financial planning?  The question really is “Will they find the right kind of financial advisor?”  So what do we mean by that? Well as you all know financial planning is required for all people irrespective of how much of your financial assets are available for the financial adviser/planner to manage. Most immigrants come to this country for one major reason – better education for children or rather a better life for their children. Thus, you are really looking for an expert who understands your value, respects your value-system while helping you navigate the financial maze of their adopted country. We believe that requires immigrant financial planning. (See the link for more info) 

My immigrant financial planning story

I will give you an example from my own life. When we decided to leave our home country in search of an uncertain future, we were leaving behind two well-paid jobs while having the added responsibility of raising a baby in an unknown country. This is the story of so many immigrants that come to this country that I almost hear myself saying “So, what is the big deal”? What came later was a big deal.

Some 25 years back then I came to this new adopted country of mine I had left behind all my ties in my home country India, at least that is what I thought. I can tell you from my experience that it is very difficult and probably not required to cut off the umbilical cord of your birth country. The reason for my coming to this country was like all other immigrants, that is, better education for myself and my daughter. While I was busy with my higher education and trying to make sure that my little one had a home away from home, I realized that adjusting to a new country despite having good grip over language was not easy. I still thought we were doing a pretty good job.

College planning before retirement planning?

When my daughter was to go for her University education, I knew I needed to plan a little more in advance. This was a rude awakening for me because despite my qualifications- PhD in Finance and a Chartered Financial Analyst designation, I soon realized how much I didn’t know about the personal financial planning techniques. Here I was, with a dual-income family and one child and still facing a dilemma as to “How do I finance my daughter’s college education?” We had no choice but to take a ParentPlus loan. Did I really have a choice? Experts would say yes you did have a choice. You should not be funding your children’s college education at the cost of your own retirement savings. My immigrant values dictate that college education funding is more important than my own retirement savings. What the financial planner understands immigrant financial planning is different.

Even now when I teach personal finance to my students, I realize that we start by saying every client has one goal- Retirement. The question really is the priority of the goal; experts vouch for retirement being the Top priority, but really doesn’t it depend upon your value system? I only wish I had someone who was a true Certified Financial Planner who could have understood where I come from and what values I care for. Two things happened here that is worth mentioning.

Financial advice or investment management?

  1. I did not go looking for financial planning expert at the right time which was to a greater extent my fault. Because I did not go seeking financial advice, nobody would have known that I needed help. That said, I didn’t know that I needed to find a culturally competent, Certified Financial Planner to help me with my immigrant financial planning.
  2. When I did decide to go looking for expert help, I soon realized that what the experts were recommending did not match my value system. Many of these experts wanted to know how much assets I had that they could manage (sounds familiar!). Translate that to an advisor’s perspective “It was not worth their time to take me as a client”.

Of course, my antennas went up as it was obviously the wrong question and I was not interested in hiring the expert who for one asked me the wrong question and secondly, he did not respect my value system. I since
learned that people who can invest your money don’t have financial planning credentials such as Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor or Retirement Income Certified Professional.

By the way, as a result of my experience, I decided to go through the rigor to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER professional.

So, through blogs and videos, I help/educate immigrant professionals navigate the financial maze of their adopted country.

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