An Immigrant Nurse in America: Completing the American Dream
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Financial Independence has a different meaning to different people. Some may say you are financially independent when you can do what you want when you want it. Others may say when you don't have to live paycheck to paycheck. For me it is when you can stand on your two feet and have the confidence of your financial well being.
I immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 at the age of 31 on a working visa during the "Nursing Shortage". It was my first time out of my home country of the Philippines. I had studied nursing and worked in a small town hospital a few years post college, but I itched to go somewhere new. With a lot of hard work and luck, I passed the U.S. Licensure Exam on my first attempt so I escaped the threat of deportation. I came to the U.S. with 8 other women and with $80 dollars in my pocket that a God-brother gave me and a handmade jacket made by my mother. I could have stayed in the Philippines with my husband and 2 daughters since we were financially okay working for a multi-national company, but we wanted to give our two daughters the opportunity to see the other side of the world. It was not an easy journey with the culture shock, the homesickness, but it was important to survive in a foreign land with only friends and no immediate family to go to for support.
I was in the U.S. for five years before my family joined me in 1992. Like many immigrants it took a bit of sacrifice and perseverance to acclimate in a new country. In 1995, our youngest daughter Elaine was born and our priorities really changed. It was not enough to provide food, clothing and shelter but to help our daughters with education expenses AND to save for retirement. For my husband and myself, college and retirement were non-negotiable. We had to save for both. Although our three daughters followed different paths and did not go through the nursing route that many Filipino families go through, we are very proud of where they are in life. They took out student loans, worked while in college and with discipline were able to finish in four years. Finishing college in four years was important to me because I knew that student loans would become exorbitant and I wanted to make sure they didn't have a lot of loans to pay for.
Fast forward to 2018, Cathy and Anna are both married and on their way to financial independence. I hope with the guidance and example of their sisters, my youngest, Elaine, will be able to achieve Financial Independence as well. As for myself, I hope to retire in a few months and see what other opportunities await me. It hasn't been an easy road juggling a full-time job, a mortgage, 3 kids in college and planning for retirement, but it was possible.
For me the American Dream was not without it's struggle. The first was being in a new place, in a completely different country and culture. The second was living without family for years. The third was learning a completely different financial system. I learned a lot just from reading. Strangely, I did not like to read books on nursing and I gravitated towards personal finance books instead. Suze Orman was a big influence on me. I gifted my daughters Young, Fabulous and Broke at their college graduation. My advice is to always keep learning.