Saving and Spending: Young British Asians and their Relationship with Money

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you” - Dave Ramsey, American Radio Show Host, Author and Businessman

Two words that I associate with money - fear and freedom. The fear of not having enough money to pay my bills and financially support my family. The fear of suddenly earning more money than I have ever earned and losing all that money.

Money alone cannot make you happy but money can give you the freedom to do what you feel is important whether that is travelling or helping out family/friends with financial issues. What words do you associate with money? Now many people reading this article may think it is inappropriate to openly talk about money, but in the South Asian community, everyone is money orientated whether they want to admit it or not because money is an important part of the South Asian culture … just look at our weddings, cars and other materialistic goods. According to the UK Office of National Statistics in 2019, the average full-time annual salary in the UK is £36,611 per year.

I don’t know about you but I’m nowhere near that salary despite having spent years in university studying Law and working in the legal sector/banking sector. Also like many graduates, I am probably going to spend the next 10-15 years slowly paying off my student debt (in the range of £50,000-£60,000 if you are wondering).

However, there are Young British Asians that I have reached out to who have a better understanding of personal finance than most of us which may have been passed down from their parents or practices that they have learnt themselves over time.

Simranjeet Kaur Mann is a Future Trainee Solicitor at a top London law firm, who provides free legal mentoring to South Asians looking for training contracts to contribute towards increasing diversity in the legal field.

“I view money as something that should be spent in a balanced manner. Being stingy with spending defeats the purpose of earning it in the first place. However, excessive spending can also land you in trouble when you need urgent funds for ‘rainy days’. As a young person, I am more on the saving side than the spending side as I am aware such savings would prove useful in the future should I decide to invest in a house or car for example. One thing I have done is to have a separate bank card that is purely for my ‘spending money’ for the month. This would be for things like entertainment and socials. I also found banking with Starling Bank and Monzo Bank is useful in setting goals and seeing your spending instantly. I would steer clear of payday loan companies working as an insolvency paralegal meant I saw the ugly side of such companies where sometimes they were charging customers extortionate percentages of interest”.

Priya Kudhail is an avid literature enthusiast and passionate fashion blogger who is currently a marketing assistant looking to work in the publishing industry.

“I view money as a tool. Something that can help me get to be but something I can’t rely on completely. I would tell British Asians to forget what their parents have told them and look into Rich Dad Poor Dad (best selling book) and Minority Mindset (Youtube). We need to reimagine the way that we use money and not view it as the end goal. We need to understand that it’s okay to have fun and splurge. But also question why we need to splurge and purchase designer items? If you can’t come up with legitimate reasons, then should you really be spending? I always think that if I can’t afford to buy it twice then I can’t afford to buy it. Additionally, it is so important to have multiple bank accounts and have a list of outgoings. Know where your money is going”.

Navjot Sawhney is a creative engineer who has worked for great companies like Dyson and Jaguar Landrover. He has taken his talents and set up the Washing Machine Project, providing alternative washing machines to refugees in areas such as Iraq and Jordan. Their mission is to create a washing solution that is affordable, portable and accessible for everyone.

“Coming from a South Asian background money is seen as an opportunity not to spend but to invest. My personal relationship with money is to save it and invest it in yourself. My advice to young British Asians is to just keep an eye on the number of monthly streaming services you use as they all add up and can be expensive. It’s not about being frugal but being smart … spend money on experiences and learning rather than material things”.

Indy Hothi is an economist by profession, humanitarian by nature and explorer by passion. His extensive work as a trustee for charities such as Khalsa Aid has helped to provide humanitarian aid in disaster and civil conflict zones using the Sikhi principle of recognising the whole human race as one. Indy is the co-founder of Upside, a new age digital consultancy and venture builder. He is also the Vice President of ICAS, one of the global accountancy bodies in the UK. In addition, he has recently co-founded a social business called Hothi and Othi which aims to create a platform for emerging artists and to support their careers.

“Money is extremely important to me, but not necessarily in the context that is considered the ‘norm’. Fundamentally to me, money represents my life energy. Our time (life energy) is our most precious asset. When we go to our jobs we are trading our life energy for money. People spend the largest chunk of their life either earning, spending, worrying about or fantasising about arbitrary monetary goals. Therefore establishing how much money I trade my life energy for and subsequently being conscious about where I spend money, where I receive the most fulfillment, satisfaction and value ARE of extreme importance – after all, I’ve traded my most precious asset.

Juggy Sohal is a very talented DJ and freelance development presenter at BBC Cambridgeshire and BBC Essex, who pitched, produced and presented his own talk show on the Sikh Channel. Recently he has written a short film called 'Colour Me Brown' narrating his personal experience growing up as a young British Asian in a school that was predominately white.

“Money is very important, as soon as you leave the house, whatever you do there is most likely a cost attached to it in some way. However, how you earn it determines your happiness, so it’s not necessarily the key to that. Words I associate with money are survival, freedom and security. I am still figuring out how to manage money to be honest, so not sure what advice I could offer but what I would say is education or learning a skill that could lead to regular stable money is something I wish I had done so I could have that secure income allowing me to pursue the creative career I am doing now in a more fruitful progressive way”.
Remember that there are two issues here.
1) Lack of Financial Literacy
2) Money is a ‘taboo’ (when does anyone openly discuss money in a positive way around the dinner table?)
Start with improving financial literacy. From experience, I see that British Asian millennials are great at pursuing education and subsequently careers but I often see a lack of understanding around the basic principles of financial literacy and how to apply processes and systems in their day to day lives. Money management isn’t just about the pursuit of accumulating more, but about understanding how it can benefit and enrich lives in a meaningful way. I’d highly recommend reading ‘Your Money or Your Life’ by Vicki Robins who delves deeper into this topic. Finally, the first generation of British Asians were often hardened savers and investors because their circumstances dictated this. Whilst there are pros and cons to this, I often see millennials moving away from this but to the other end of the spectrum whereby they’re (unknowingly) depleting their families financial reserves for what I would consider frivolous spending”.  

As you can tell spirituality and money are linked as money goes where your energy flows.

In other words, FOCUS on learning one valuable skill that could be applied to any type of business then your income will eventually increase as your energy is flowing in the direction that you personally want to go in.







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