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Family finance lessons: Author Amy Tan

Amy Tan with her husband Lou and mother Daisy in Beijing, China, in 1987.

The most important lessons we learn about money don’t come from textbooks, TV or even the radio. They come from our family.

Every week, we invite a prominent person to tell us about the money tips that they inherited. 

This week we hear from Amy Tan, author of “The Joy Luck Club,” who just published her first novel in eight years: “The Valley of Amazement.”

When Tan’s mother came to the United States, she left behind an opulent life with a wealthy family in Shanghai. “She left China to be the wife of a very poor minister, who earned fifty dollars a month, and he gave five dollars back to the church!” says Tan.  “So, she had a hard adjustment.”

Tan recalls that her mother had particular tastes for food and could tell when clothing was finely made, but was also insistent on never paying full price. “We were a family of bargains,” Tan says.

(courtesy of Amy Tan)

That trait is something Tan is still proud to display. “I could go through almost everything in this apartment,” she says, indicating the Chinese antiques and textiles that decorate her open loft in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, “and tell you what bargain I got for it.” Indicating one of the chairs sitting nearby, she says that the set of six, with a table, came from Ebay for a hundred dollars.

“I think, you know, it matches with what my mother would say was good frugality,” Tan says. “She never looked at anything that I bought and say, ‘Oh you shouldn’t have bought that.’”

What did your parents teach you about managing money? Comment below, through the Public Insight Network, on our Facebook page or tweet us @LiveMoney. Also, we're asking listeners to tell us about their emergency savings. Tell us about your safety net below:

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a multimedia journalist in New York City. He has reported for NPR and WNYC, where he has focused on business and the New York tech scene.
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