What You Can Learn From Immigrants on Personal Finance and Running Your Home


grapes.jpgMy parents emigrated from Italy in the early to mid 1970’s.  My father has the equivalent of a technical high school education and my mother finished her formal education in the 7th grade.  Yet my parents are one of the most financially savvy couples I know, often making smarter economic decisions then their US-born Boomer peers (with BAs and Master’s Degrees in hand).  How do they do it, here’s a quick list:

  • My parents spend much less then they make and live below their means. 
  • My parents do not eat out regularly, go to the movies, or buy fancy cars.
  • My parents are incredibly crafty and skilled: they can make their own home repairs, make their own food (including food from scratch and canned tomato sauce, pickled vegetables, homemade pasta, homemade wine, etc.), iron and repair their clothes, grow their own fruits and vegetables, landscape, etc.
  • My parents are always saving
  • My parents are not slaves to their paycheck, they have other forms of income.
  • My parents own a two-family home and are landlords
  • My parents do not panic and are level-headed about financial decisions and the economy, in general.
  • My parents own a single car
  • My parents live in a solid, blue collar, middle class neighborhood, in a comfortable but mid-sized home.
  • My parents do not feel a sense of entitlement from a material perspective. 

Mom and Dad also have their financial house in order because they realize that life is about being fulfilled and fulfillment doesn’t come via a big screen TV or a fancy vacation home, it comes by way of:

  • Being with family and friends (my parents social network is very larger and they’re always out visiting people or having folks over for dinner or espresso).
  • Traveling and vacationing in smart ways (my parents visit their families in Italy every summer and they don’t pay for restaurants, hotel, or souvenirs).
  • Helping their immediate family (kids, brothers, fathers, etc.) with home renovation, home health care, decision making, etc.

So, if you’re looking for your own personal finance bail out program just look at the habits of folks who didn’t start with much and had to build wealth on their own terms.


  1. Great case study and advice. A good education has nothing to do with fiscal responsibility, it’s all about attitude. Although I must say that my giant 1080p LCD TV is pretty fulfilling… it fills the entire corner of the room.

  2. Glad you are enjoying your LCD TV, don’t spend too much time in front of it or you can’t get all that cleaning in!

  3. Glad to see someone else notice the admirable qualities of family immigrants. They are a very special group of people. They came from nothing and buit up everything from hardwork, self-reliance, and smart financial decisions. They know how to keep it simple, yet lead fulfilling lives. They may not have a complete education, but other worthy traits, as you mentioned. We can learn from the living habits of people like your parents.

  4. Great advice. We can all learn from people like your folks. They truly have a success story to share.

  5. I love it. Give me more.

  6. Vin, let me know if you’d like to see other topics?!

  7. Thansk, Selvi!

  8. Thanks, Diana!

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  12. Being Italian immigrants ourselves from the 50’s, we live our lives similarly to your parents with one exception – we have two cars. I cherish my independence.

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