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Asian American Spending Habits
(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:56:27 PM)

o aspect of the Asian American experience seems more fractured than notions about our spending habits. Images of Rolex-wearing, Gucci-toting highrollers driving gleaming new Beemers and Benzes duke it out, in the American psyche, with images of inveterate pennypinchers wearing bargain-basement rags and boiling up ramens in motel rooms.
Fireplace Couple
Big spenders or pennypinchers?

     Both images are stereotypes. Both images have some socioeconomic basis.
     The percentage of AA living in poverly (defined as household income below $17,029 for a family of 4) was 10.7% in 1999*, significantly higher than the 7.7% rate for non-Hispanic Whites, albeit lower than for Blacks (23.6%) or Hispanics (22.8%). On the flip side, Asian American median household income was $51,205, 25.5% above the national median and even higher than the $44,366 median for non-Hispanic Whites.
     That means Asian Americans suffer the most extreme gap between the haves and the have-nots. It results from three key factors:
  1. the poverty of new immigrants;
  2. their remarkable acculturation and upward mobility over time; and
  3. the high college graduation rates of U.S.-educated AA (twice the national average).
     Does this mean that the pennypinchers are recent immigrants and the highrollers are U.S.-born? It isn't so simple.
     Turns out that within 10 years of their arrival, the majority of immigrant Asians move up into the middle- and upper-income brackets. Some of the Asians flaunting designers labels and driving status imports are the half-pints who had accompanied their parents on the transPacific crossing -- or the parents themselves. And some groups of U.S.-born Asians -- notably Japanese Americans -- show little inclination toward conspicuous consumption despite their relative affluence.
     So the apparently yawning abyss separating the AA haves from have-nots is actually spanned by a well-traveled bridge. Economics, it seems, isn't the only factor separating those AA who enjoy spending money and those who prefer to sock it away.
     So what social, cultural, economic and personal factors really separate Asian highrollers from pennypinchers? What, if anything, distinguishes Asian American spending habits from those of other Americans?
* The most recent year for which U.S. Census figures were released (as of Oct 2002).

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WHAT YOU SAY

[This page is closed to new input. --Ed.]
To Valley Chinese Dude,

I am pretty much in the same boat as you are. My parents provided a middle-class lifestyle for my sister and me, and so I aspired for little more than my own home, enough money to do some fun things every once in a while, like go to Disneyland, or Las Vegas, maybe once a year or something like that.

I am always appalled at people who show off their wealth in an ostentatious manner - to me it speaks about their low-class beginnings and tags them as a "nouveau riche" - someone who suddenly comes into money but has lower-class mentality. Truly wealthy people have a more toned-down approach to displaying wealth.
"B" as in "bictory"
   Tuesday, December 10, 2002 at 15:06:22 (PST)    [63.98.74.2]
I grew up in a working class family. First generation immigrants. Don't know what it's like to be wealthy nor do I know what it's like to be poor. I was raised to work hard to have enough for the essential things in life and my family never even considered the excesses.

Now that I'm a grown man making a good living as an engineer, I can afford these frivolous things that you're all talking about in here. But you know what, it doesn't appeal to me. My vision of success was to be middle-class. No more. No less. To me, there's no need to prove anything to anyone. Showing off only reveals your insecurities and lust for attention.

If being able to afford a BMW, yet driving an old Honda makes me a cheapass or pennypincher, then so be it. I think people who would judge me on these grounds aren't people I'd be friends with anyway, so who cares what they think.
Valley Chinese Dude
   Tuesday, November 12, 2002 at 22:56:22 (PST)    [67.25.246.246]
It's simple people.... money comes in, and if it doesn't go out, then you get rich. Woohoo!
1+1 = 2
   Tuesday, November 12, 2002 at 21:12:48 (PST)    [128.253.186.46]
What about the FOBS consuming and spending like there is no tomorrow? I think many of the overseas Asians come here with the attitude that they have to be better than everyone here so they have to buy nicer cars, homes, clothes than regular citizens to show that they are not dimwitted FOBS or poor FOBS or to show other FOBS that they are better than them and their counterparts back in Asia.

Many FOBS have no concept of false modesty once they have some money they want to show it off as if they would be looked down by other for being average. If they can just get someone to drool or gawk over their imported vehicle, they get a sense of pride they wouldn't normally get in their regular humdrum resturant or garment or beer/wine store.

Since many imported goods are from overseas, many of them will pick the best of the best and know the style name-brands of everything from cars to clothes - more so than your average American.

However at the sametime many of these FOBS showing off only have shallow materialistic lives which should only be looked at with contempt and indifference as to their wealth they so desperately try to display.
FOBS also LSD
   Sunday, November 10, 2002 at 03:37:00 (PST)    [64.156.37.26]
One of my close family member is a pennypincher, but he is also LOADED!!! I believe in treating yourself and your family, but i don't believe in doing that to impress other people.

by the way, some of the richest people are the cheapest as well.
Chicagoan
randomtexture@yahoo.com    Friday, November 08, 2002 at 10:39:38 (PST)    [12.250.171.174]
Why do people have issue with Asians buying high end items????? Jealousy? insecurity? prejudicism? all of the above?

Asian spending habits are unique.... What's wrong with that? Not everyone has to conform to the "typical lifestyle of Americans".... $150,000 home, Wal-Mart shopping, Ford F-150 truck in the drive way.
Asian entrepreneur in CA
   Friday, November 08, 2002 at 10:37:58 (PST)    [205.188.209.136]
cheap tippers though
seen enough to be ashamed
   Thursday, November 07, 2002 at 01:22:00 (PST)    [172.146.171.163]
All of you people who have the money and "overbuy" things are missing the point. It's not about flaunting it or expressing yourself or asserting your wealth and presence. You should keep spending on the more modest side because that is how you keep your money and grow more money. If you look at a lot of rich people in the U.S. you will be surprised that many of them spend very little on themselves. It's this pattern of living/spending that has helped them earn and accumulate so much money. It is this pattern of living/spending that will likely ensure further financial growth in the future.
Rolando
   Wednesday, October 30, 2002 at 04:57:46 (PST)    [151.198.160.74]
To all you folks that would like to tell me how to spend my money, buzz off.
I make it and I'll spend it as I see fit. If I want to burn it all off at the casinos, then I will. If I want to spend it all on golddiggers, well I'm a big fool. But it's mine to throw away not yours. Matter of fact I don't like how you people act like a bunch of miserly peasants. We're over that phase so no need to act like the quiet minority anymore, always kowtowing and afraid to assert yourselves. Stand up and be proud. Stop being afraid of your shadows. Go out and spend. This is America. Get the biggest SUV that they make. Get the sexiest clothes, dine at the most trendy restaurants. Act like you're all that and as if you own the place wherever you go. Get the manager whenever some lowly employee takes issue with you. In general, be as high and mighty as you please. Don't forget the eye candy. Make sure they're bubble headed and hot looking as that makes your statement as obvious as possible. It's not necessary to be rude but be sure that they get the message.
If you got it..
   Tuesday, October 22, 2002 at 23:11:33 (PDT)    [205.188.209.136]
All I got to say about this issue is hey, if you have the money, why not?
LBC
   Tuesday, October 22, 2002 at 15:08:20 (PDT)    [138.23.59.245]
'I don't see people getting all huffy and puffy when a white person buys a beemer or goes to Kmart in their beemer. Or better yet wear the lastest Kmart fashion when driving their beemer.

This board just solidifies these prejudice of asians.'

AC,

It's true that many White People dislike seeing Asians with luxury cars or with fancy stuff. They have this notion that minorities should not have the priviledge.

This board is not about Asians driving Audis, Beemers or Benzes, or about those who drive them to the malls. We are talking about the Asians who spend obnoxiously..meaning those who rack up every unneccessary expensive item to make a statement.
LSD
   Tuesday, October 22, 2002 at 07:29:55 (PDT)    [66.212.81.229]
AC Dropout:

My sentiments exactly.
the conspicuous consumer
   Monday, October 21, 2002 at 23:05:23 (PDT)    [64.130.204.9]
'The man is married, and he shares his home with his sisters?! What kind of extended family situation do we have here anyhow? I hope he’s saving money for a new place for the two of them. And the other guy with the two nice cars doesn’t have a girlfriend? Well of course not. What do you think he got himself those nice cars for? To attract bird poop? If he had a girlfriend, she would be driving one of them now anyways.'

conspicious spender,

Dude, do you have the gray matter that makes you the typical Asian? Think for a second...

His 2-family house has 2 floors, he lives in the top floor with his wife and kids. His sisters live in the lower floor. Does it bother you for a person to be in this situation?

The dude with the 2 cars is only 3 years younger than the guy mentioned above. He has no pad of his own, but just 2 damn cars to impress people, and so far it isn't working! He also has several loans and credit card bills to pay up due to his excessive spending. Now tell me, would you want to be like him? He is indeed a conspicious spender!

'Yes, I like meeting highly sophisticated people. If they’re attractive, even better. I’d like to think that’s a given for most people.

You needn’t ask. Unless you’re trying to appeal to the unsophisticated, unattractive ones.'

Well, if you're standards are very high, be prepared to become frustrated like many ignorant and naive ABCs.
LSD
   Monday, October 21, 2002 at 07:53:09 (PDT)    [66.212.81.229]
I think people should just buy whatever makes them feel comfortable. If it means buying a Beemer, then that's that. If it means looking for bargains in at Kmart, that is also that.

I don't see people getting all huffy and puffy when a white person buys a beemer or goes to Kmart in their beemer. Or better yet wear the lastest Kmart fashion when driving their beemer.

This board just solidifies these prejudice of asians.
AC Dropout
   Sunday, October 20, 2002 at 12:47:32 (PDT)    [24.90.98.143]
LSD:

The man is married, and he shares his home with his sisters?! What kind of extended family situation do we have here anyhow? I hope he’s saving money for a new place for the two of them. And the other guy with the two nice cars doesn’t have a girlfriend? Well of course not. What do you think he got himself those nice cars for? To attract bird poop? If he had a girlfriend, she would be driving one of them now anyways.

Yes, I like meeting highly sophisticated people. If they’re attractive, even better. I’d like to think that’s a given for most people.

You needn’t ask. Unless you’re trying to appeal to the unsophisticated, unattractive ones.

Having your own pad would be helpful, don’t you think? Or have you just been sneaking the chicks in under Mommy and Daddy’s noses this whole time?
the conspicuous consumer
   Friday, October 18, 2002 at 23:51:56 (PDT)    [64.130.204.9]
Conspicuous Consumer,

Umm yes I am, what makes you think I'm not?
Eunku
   Friday, October 18, 2002 at 12:53:16 (PDT)    [138.23.59.235]

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