The FSC is supporting Sorted Money Week using our conversation cards to have honest, open conversations about money! We interviewed some of the FSC team and our wider community to find out about their personal financial journeys.
Meet Esther Zhuang, the FSC's very own Marketing and Events Coordinator. Esther also owns her own streetwear brand (Tsrang Label) and works with Future Dragonz to connect and empower young Kiwi-Chinese professionals in New Zealand. Impressive, right?
Read our conversation with Esther below.
Does what you earn affect how you feel? Why do you think that is?
Yes it does. I think money has always been a symbol of freedom and being able to achieve my dreams for me. When I wanted to travel, it was only possible because I had the money. When I wanted to move out, it was all up to my finances.
There are still so many things I want when I envision my ideal perfect future – to travel more, to buy a house, to have a big wedding, to have a bach, to go on nice brunches, pets, babies that get dressed in white while I walk around with a $6 flat white in activewear, to be able to gift big things to family and friends.
When I see that I am not earning as much as others around my age group and experience, it makes me feel like I am either underachieving or not valuable enough. It also makes me feel like the above scenario, which I don’t believe is shooting for the moon, is even more unlikely. It makes me feel stagnant and that I’m trapped in my current life stage, even if I’m not ready to move on – but I would like the option to when it comes up.
Who taught you about money?
My parents taught me about money. They are classic Chinese immigrants who scrimped and saved every dollar they made in low-wage manual labour jobs, and are extremely secretive and also conservative about their money choices.
We never went without and bills, food, education were the only things worth spending on. They even paid off their mortgages fairly quickly. But my parents also never indulged – we hardly went clothes shopping or spent on entertainment, never threw food away and always chose the free, harder option. It also meant my brothers and I never received Christmas or birthday presents from them. But I do believe that most of their savings are for our inheritances. Of course, this adds to the ‘everything they do is for me’ guilt that a lot of immigrant children have, to see their parents living a harder life or going without indulgences – even though they can afford it, but nothing will change their habits.
Although it has taught me to be very good at saving and hoarding money, it also makes me feel guilty when I spend money on things I know my parents would say is a waste of money, or could never afford. Pulling the trigger on more ‘riskier’ things like investing in shares or changing KiwiSaver provider also feels riskier as I know my parents would be against it.
I have since had someone tell me that immigrant parents mostly operate on a ‘scarcity mindset’ based on their backgrounds and life, and it has helped me explain their behaviour and alleviate the guilt.
Is it better to live for now or save for the future?
Personally, to save for the future as it worries me when I don’t have any options for what’s next. I think in a cause and effect way, when you save for something it will come true e.g. save for a holiday = you will go on holiday.
What was the last big thing you bought? Was it worth it?
I went to Queenstown recently by myself for a weekend (it was before a conference) and had to toss up on whether the tourist activities were worth it or if I should save my money. The activities and trip overall was worth it, but my decisions to take ubers and get uber eats when I got tired were not!
What makes someone good with money?
Someone who is in control and knowledgeable about their money, and has perfected the art of making conscious choices and not regretting what they purchased!