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What Your Culture Says About The Way You Manage Money

Haley Paskalides  |  April 17, 2024

Gigi Gonzalez shares the bicultural approach she uses as a first-generation American navigating money issues with her family.

Navigating money issues with your family is hard. Navigating money issues with your family is even harder when you’re a first-generation American. First-generation children of immigrants face unique cultural and emotional barriers, and often find themselves at the intersection of building a financial life for themselves and supporting their parents financially. A recent survey from the Motley Fool found that the majority of first-generation Americans who provide support to their family members use a whopping 25% of their paycheck to do so.  

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Gigi Gonzalez found herself at the intersection of this dilemma when she got serious about her finances, and realized the information she was reading didn’t align with her lived experience or her values. In 2020, she started posting on TikTok about this as @thefirstgenmentor as a fun way to educate and connect with other first-generation Latinx who may be experiencing the same issues. She now has over two hundred thousand followers on the app and she’s the author of a new book: “Cultura and Cash: Lessons from the First Gen Mentor for Managing Finances and Cultural Expectations.” 

Gonzalez says that first-generation Americans need personalized financial information because their parents are not able to pass down the knowledge that second or third-generation Americans have. “My parents’ priority was just to keep the lights on and keep food on the table. Wealth-building wasn’t even something that came to mind,” Gonzalez says. “And if anything, because of their mistrust of financial systems in their home country, they don’t really trust anything here, even though our financial systems are much more regulated.”

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When Gigi started putting money boundaries in place with her family, she came up against a clash in expectations. “In a Latino family, the only acceptable answer when your family asks you for help with money is yes. Anything less than yes, like a maybe, or a not right now, or a I don’t have that much but I can help you with this, is very much seen as disrespectful, ungrateful, and that you’re leaving family behind.” 

So, she came up with a method she called  “Quiero y pedo,” which translates to, “I want to and I can.” She uses this as a method to evaluate when and if you’re in a position to help your family financially. She says the first question to ask yourself is: Do you want to? More specifically, do you want to do this because you want to show up for family or are you being guilted into it? Next, can you: “Puedes? How are your finances looking? Do you have enough savings for if something happens to you, you’re gonna be okay?” Gonzalez says, “If you can’t contribute with money, contribute with your time or resources. It’s all about finding that bicultural approach of taking care of your individual needs but still showing up for family when you want to.”

In Mailbag, we talk about the best investment options for a young kid, and a listener who doesn’t have much saved for retirement is wondering if she should take out a loan to pay her mortgage. In our news of the week, we cover the new magic number for retirement, the best time to sell your house this year, and what to do if you still owe the IRS money.


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All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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