Fish and finance

Developing good saving and spending habits

According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, Feb. 18, 2015 was the last day of the Year of the Horse and night before the start of the Year of the Sheep. Chinese people traditionally celebrate New Year’s Eve with many special dishes, and each dish symbolizes great hope for the New Year.  One dish that has left a long lasting impression with me was the fish dish.

Growing up in China, I remember no matter how difficult life was, my parents somehow managed to find fish for our New Year’s Eve “feast” every year. At the center of our dinner table on the New Year’s Eve, there sat the fish with its head and tail intact.

We were told not to touch it and just look at it. It was meant to be saved for consumption on New Year’s Day. For us little kids, it was a cruel punishment that we were not allowed to touch the fish when the fragrance from it was so irresistible.

But my parents always said that saving the fish dish for the next year was important. It meant we would not go hungry next year because the Chinese word for fish “鱼,” sounds similar to another Chinese word which means, "extra". By saving the fish dish, we learned not to consume all we had at once and always remember to save something extra for the future.

Saving the fish dish was the first personal finance lesson my parents taught me, and they reinforced this valuable lesson year after year through the fish dish on New Year’s Eve.

This lesson has served me well. When I came to the U.S. 18 years ago, I had less than $100 in my pocket. I not only worked hard but always saved a little extra for future. Now, I am the founder of Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, a company that focuses on helping others to achieve financial freedom.

I feel deep gratitude that I am living in the richest and most powerful nation in the world. At the same time, I am concerned about how many people are trapped by debt. According to a report by Bloomberg, consumer debt in America has reached an all time high of $3.2 trillion. The same report also reminds us that consumption, financed by debt, is not the path to resilient growth.

The best gift that parents can give to their children is to help them develop good saving and spending habits through everyday teachable moments like the fish dish. The road to prosperity is simpler than many people think. It begins with living within your means and always saving some extra for the future.

Categories: Finance