Transcript: How New Immigrants Can Thrive and Have Financial Success, Even During Crisis

Keisha Blair: Welcome to the Holistic Wealth podcast. I’m your host, Keisha Blair, wife, mother of three, Author of Holistic Wealth and founder of the Institute on Holistic Wealth. The show will showcase various experts in the key pillars of holistic wealth. Each week we deliver the best information on how to become holistically, wealthy and live your best life.

Today I have a very special guest with me on the show. I have Fijeh Aadum and she is an author, social entrepreneur, and investor. She is the Founder of Immigrants Thrive, they have a community of immigrants and they’re empowering them with knowledge, tools, resources that they need to save more, pay off debt, build wealth in a sustainable way and give back to their communities. Fijeh also has her own podcast entitled Thrive with Fijeh where she’s educating immigrants and others about proper investing and money management.

Keisha Blair: Fijeh, Welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.

Fijeh: Thank you Keisha. I’m happy to be here. Thank you for having

Keisha Blair: You’re welcome. And so I just wanted to get started just getting the audience familiar with you and about your journey and your passion and mission to help immigrants, because I think that’s so needed. Especially in north America and Canada, where I am and where you are in the United States. So can you tell us a bit more about your journey and how this became a passion for you?

Fijeh: Yeah. So I’m an immigrant myself. I’m originally from Nigeria. I relocated to the United States about three years ago, or a little over three years. And, before I moved here, I lived in Nigeria, I ran a not-for-profit. I used to tell people jokingly that I was semi-retired in Nigeria because I had worked many years as a financial advisor. I worked with my husband and the family business, and then I just went into not-for-profits and I was focused on enterprise development among people who are disadvantaged groups, you know, in Nigeria.

And then we suddenly had to move, it wasn’t a planned or prepared, to the United States. So it was a bit difficult and challenging, we were so established back home, you know, and then getting here, I just saw that things were quite different. And even though we had visited in the past, for vacations, various trainings. Coming here I became more acquainted with the challenges immigrants faced, especially first and second generation immigrants. I think the first thing I learned about north America is the fact that if you are going to thrive, if you’re going to do well, you need one of two things. You’re not into lots of things. Or you have good quality information if you don’t have either of them, well, you’re going to be in a bit of a bind. The immigrant community, I was so hurt by the fact that people had been in North America for 5, 10, 15, 20 years. And they really didn’t have a grasp around how to find a balance. I was just here two years and I was literally advising people, oh, why do you do that? You’re going to be doing this forever. I could see people not taking it, but then I think it came with the mindset. I wasn’t certain, but I was seeing that vibe and was like, oh, don’t worry.

If you’re here, you just need to be ready to struggle to hustle. And it’s a continuous thing and just be grateful for whatever you get, you know? So that’s where the seed got planted. But I think what really made me launch out was an experience I had with a friend. He’s also Nigerian and I met him in an Uber.

We became friends with the family, very close. He would help us around. And he had the challenges of his immigration story. I mean, almost 10 years in the United States and he wasn’t really settled. So I became very invested in him. I said, okay, rather than do this, why don’t you do that? Get you into a business, I was really trying to help him structure his life.

But then as a new immigrant myself, I had a lot doing myself, you know, so I was really, really distracted. And the pandemic hit. And I realized that I lost touch with him literally. And the next thing I knew, someone called me to say, did I know this person passed away? And it really, really broke my heart because I was so familiar with his situation, the responsibilities he had back home and here, he was almost celebrating, getting his citizenship.

And in the midst of all that he just passed away. And I just had this guilt, like maybe I could have done more for him. I could have been there more for him, but I was so busy trying to settle in and having lived such a public life in Nigeria. And I came here. I’m like, I’m just going to be quiet. Sit in my corner. I’m not going to attract lots of attention. You know, so that hit me really hard. And after in a beat, I just knew that this idea that had been coming up, I needed to get on with it and begin to help people. So, yeah, that’s the background story around why I started the Immigrants Thrive community

Keisha Blair: And that’s amazing and such an amazing story, Fijeh, because as you’re speaking, I think about immigrants in Canada and there are studies that show, for instance, it takes them 10 to 15 years, just to establish themselves. And as you know, same in the United States for Canada, most immigrants have to retrain, so they have to go back to school. They either have to switch professions or, you know, retrain in their stated professions. And then they have to try to get a job in their field and then try to move up from scratch from bottom up and start from the very beginning and work.

If you immigrate when you have young kids or starting a young family already, it’s even worse. So I know that firsthand. I know that struggle been there, done that. And so that’s why I’m so interested in this because I think it’s wonderful, especially when it comes to finances, because when you’re a new immigrant, you have so many expenses related to school, settling, buying a home or renting somewhere, and setting up your kids. And so it’s hard. And so I wanted to know from you, Fijeh, especially with your background and your skills, what do you advise immigrants in terms of their financial habits and their money management. What are you advising them to do?

Fijeh: As an immigrant, your financial journey is quite peculiar because and you’re very familiar with the challenges. Immigrants face. Many people have never thought about it. They just don’t get it, you know? And the truth is our challenges are unique because people who said to me, oh, this field is saturated. Why are you going into this field? Look for something else? And I’m like, yeah, it probably is saturated because you are resident here and you’ve lived here most of your life, or maybe you are eighth generation immigrants, but there isn’t a lot of advice, targets specific to immigrants.

And I’ll give you an example when people come to the United States, it’s a big thing to build your credit. And when they talk about building credit, I see a lot of them say, yeah, what you need to do is ask your parents to put you on their card that would really help. If you’re a first or second generation immigrant, that’s not an option.

I hear people say, oh, I’m going to help you take out the negative things off of your credit history to help your credit go up as a new immigrant that doesn’t apply because you don’t even have a history to begin with not having a history. So the advice, the situation, people, a lot of things that are put out there. They’re great. They’re awesome. But they are not targeted specifically to immigrants. They don’t take into consideration the fact that it, lots of immigrants are coming here. Maybe they’re already working a month entry level, And you get, you actually have to start from scratch.

And then another thing that I noticed is lots of immigrants base their decisions on the experiences of other immigrants and the experience of all the immigrants are more frequently negative, you know, so they are starting off on the wrong foot, they put on the wrong, Google’s very pessimistic just with, oh, I’m here to struggle.

I just need to be humble and really struggle. I have to start from scratch. So they don’t know. They have an idea of, oh, this is a rat race. I’m going to do this with very few of them. Consider opportunities. , it’s not really a thing for them because they’re like, no, I’m starting from scratch. I’m supposed to be ready to struggle. So the decisions based on those situations. And I understand, because other immigrants who have good intentions are telling you, oh, this was my struggle. This is the path you have to follow. You need to go study nursing. That’s the way you can make it. That’s you know, so they all have, it’s like, you’re already full of good with the wrong advice.

So it’s really even hard getting the right thing into them. Even when you try to think, be like, oh no, those things may work for people who are from here, but we have a defense. You know, so for me, the first assignment I usually, I always undertake is trying to change their mindset, letting them understand that you can have an abundance mindset.

You don’t have to have been here for 10 years before you can consider yourself as having settled down, you know, things can work for you. And you know, the thing about having the wrong mindset is this, it blocks your eyesight to opportunities. I’ll give an example. I was speaking with someone at a salon. I was saying that I’m trying to purchase this investment property. And they’re like, when did you come here? Because she knew me from Nigeria. She says that won’t work because she tried everything. The reasons why it couldn’t work, she’s like, it doesn’t matter how much cash you have here. And I had to educate her on a few opportunities. These rules that they’re not selective, they don’t have a bias against you because of that, because she was here at least two years before. And I told her, she said, oh, well, you couldn’t have credit.

I said, yes. In two years, my credit is already very good. You know? And so it’s those opportunities. You know, I just realized that the first hurdle to overcome is the mindset. Because when I let them know, it doesn’t have to be that hard. Then they can open their heart and their eyes can begin to see opportunities.

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And that’s something I firmly believe in too. And in Holistic Wealth, I talk about a lot about mindset. And I think to be honest with you, it’s because of the reasons you listed above. You mentioned, you know, immigrants thinking about the struggle, because when they come in a new country, they’re just ready to struggle because they’ve heard of the struggle and it creates a sort of scarcity mindset, which isn’t good, you know, but I know what they’re thinking and I know what the thought process is. And of course, There are people saying in the background, well, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. Forget that, you know, forget that idea. You’re just here. You’re just coming. You have to struggle, and there’s all these hurdles and barriers and constraints that they put up and, you know, it can be quite daunting for new immigrants.

So yes, absolutely. Mindset is so important. And there are so many things, as you mentioned, like so many things that you said awhile ago with, you know, like do nursing or do this, get into this field because it’s quick and easy and you’ll get a job and, like I have lots of nurses in my family. They’re amazing, but you know, it does really, set in motion, this trajectory where we’re not aligned with our passions. We’re not doing what we’re called to do and living our purpose.

Fijeh: Exactly. You don’t have that privilege. That’s the word. Exactly.

Keisha Blair: That’s word, privilege. And so you’re basically channeled into a set career or path, and then it becomes hard. And you know, the sad thing about it, Fijeh, which is what I wanted to ask you about next is that people become unhappy and they’ve spent, let’s say X amount of dollars doing training for this program when they realize, I’m so unhappy. And now I need to switch. And they’re at a point where they’re considering switching and they know they have to make that switch because they can’t continue on that path. And so I’m wondering with your group and with your work so far, if you’ve seen that and how you counsel people on that when, and it’s so hard, the journey as an immigrant, because of course there’s the pressure to get your feet on the ground fast enough to get a job fast enough because you hear things like, oh, the money is dwindling. You know, the money I came with is dwindling. So I need to get into something fast. And so most people, a lot of people get into survival jobs. Yeah, not a career. It’s a survival job just to get something in the door.

So the money doesn’t dwindle. And so for people listening in or for people thinking about, yeah, I have to take that survival job, but here I am now and I need to make that change. Do you have any advice for people like that? 

Fijeh: Yes, what I would say, what I usually say to them is understand the need for survival job and was lots of people who are not privileged to have resources cause I not, but who would borrow money to get in here? And their family back home is under pressure, but then just that paying off the debt they took to come here. I understand why you would want to take the survival job and go ahead. Do it, do what you have to do, but just don’t set yourself up in a way that it’s a long time.

For example, you try nursing. You go ahead and invest thousands of dollars to become a nurse, not an assistant or something temporary to do while you’re finding your way. Then that investment, it’s like a bondage. You tied yourself because you’re imagining, man, I spent this number of years, this amount of resources, I’m not loving it. So you become a slave to your own doing. People do need to get something to start off right away. And I do understand that. But when you plan have the long term in mind, if you’re doing this, if you’re moving into a country and you’re going to stay upward of five years, whatever you’re doing right now, you have long-term implications.

You should be thinking long-term. I know friends who came here as lawyers and I saw them as waitresses. They would do, work as nursing assistants. One said when she started as a nurse assistant a colleague said to her, you’re so brilliant, go ahead and apply to be an RN.

You will pass the exams easily. And she said, no, I’m not going to do that because I know the path I want to take. And that was the best decision she made today. She did those odd jobs. You know, she would not need that to point. It was a waitress at a point, but she particularly specifically refused to get long-term certifications because she had a goal on one thing. She took her time, did the research, or this is the kind of life I want to leave or to have time work from home, you know? But when you just jump into what everybody’s doing, you just. You really read your chances, your, your opportunities, your options are greatly reduced. Why? Because you’re so committed in it already. So yeah, I do understand the essence of all let’s do this, but I would say the greatest problem I have seen among immigrants is actually mental laziness. People don’t want to do the research.

They just want to ask what’s working, what are other people like us doing? They don’t look out for opportunities. They are afraid of taking the risks because they also commit themselves mentally. Just want to know what works for others. Alrighty, let’s do it. But if you can just take out a little more time, it’ll cost you effort. It will cost me to be a little more dollars because you’re any less in the beginning because you’re looking at a long-term thing, but in the long run, you will thank yourself for doing that research. So one of the things we do at Immigrants Thrive is we introduce immigrants to opportunities that we believe will help them get established faster.

If you have some bonds, depending on the amount, we’ll let you know the options you have. If you have no funds at all, I need to build up to a particular level. We’ll let you know what to do, you know, so we give those options. But I always say to people, depending on your city, whether you’re in Canada or in the U S do some research at then be ready to take responsibility for those decisions. Okay, but think long term, don’t think, how do I survive in the next 3, 1, 2, 4, 5 years, because then you enter into the survival mode and it is really difficult to get out of that because then it’s just a rat race day to day, you know?

Keisha Blair: Absolutely. And so I’m thinking about the top three money issues that immigrants face Fijeh, in terms of, you know, you mentioned a couple with setting up your credit, getting that credit history, paying down debt, for instance, if they took out a loan before immigrating. And I’m just wondering if, based on your experience with working in the community, if you could highlight the top two or three money issues that immigrants face and potentially how, you know, they can address them.

Fijeh: Ofcourse you have to deal with credit given how important it is, but it’s a short-term problem because it’s something you can do quite easily. The greatest challenge I think the immigrant community, I think is when we are guilty of holding onto past challenges. For example, if you come from a country like  Nigeria, you don’t have any trust in the financial institutions there. I do really believe that if you’re taking out insurance, you’re wasting your money because the insurance companies will wiggle out of their commitment when it’s time to pay.

And they do try to do that. It’s maturing more, but because of that, I’ve seen immigrants come into this country, even after they’ve settled that I want 2, 3, 4, 5 years they’ve settled down and they don’t have any protection for their families. I had someone I know recently, through a friend that has one passed away recently, and she’s a nurse now she didn’t ask for, they couldn’t afford to because he deserved to be buried back home in Nigeria. They couldn’t afford to take him back. They had to go and raise a Gofundme. You know, that this could have been taken care of by putting aside $40, $50, $30 every month towards just by buying an insurance. But there are products right now that even with the lack insurance. So wherever it wants to be paid, everything is handled. So it is, and it is rooted in the fact that for some people anyway, the fact that, oh, they are thinking because institutions back home are not so reliable. They do not understand that the institutions here are reliable.

And for some people is just superstition. They’re like, oh, why would you take life insurance? Are you ready to die? So it is important decisions about protecting your family. I mean that it gets work. Some of them, you got to start investing by stating that it’s like building a house without a foundation and lead to wind and everything can be wrong.

You know, anything could happen to your investment or I have all one care. I go buy a hundred thousand and then the markets. 40-50% and your everything is good. But when you have protection, you know, you knew at least your basics are covered. Nobody looks forward to losing a loved one, but if it does happen, don’t you want your children taken care of, but don’t you want your spouse provided for the house you just bought, not, you want to ensure they can pay for it.

I think the number one thing obviously to immigrants is make sure you and your family are protected against the circumstances. I wouldn’t really pay for health insurance, especially if they are self-employed I’m like, how can you take that risk in the United States? Well, the highest causes of bankruptcy is critical illness because healthcare is so expensive in this  country. And yet people can afford it. They’re living a reasonably good life, but they don’t think to make sure because the idea of protection is not very big, especially Africa around Africana and, Asian immigrants. It’s not a big thing for them. So I stayed as a family so far because the fail to make.

Keisha Blair: No, you’re absolutely right.

And for audience members who know my story, my husband died fairly young. He was just 34. I was 31. And one of the things I tell people, and I say this in my book, I tell people all the time that is the basics that’s foundation. You have to do it. I mean, we had a life Insurance that cost us just $25 per month. But when you look at the risks of not having one compared to the reward, I mean, my husband died. You know, after I gave birth to my second child, just eight weeks, I was young, he was young. We were just starting a family. And so absolutely like, I cannot emphasize it enough of why it’s so important and all the reasons that you listed a while ago. And I know this firsthand because this happened to me. And so it’s something I I’m actually on a mission now to make women everyone understand because most women will outlive their husbands by about 15 years on average, to make them understand that this is critical. It’s critical for you and your, your children.

And there’s so many options out there with insurance and it’s getting easier and easier. And one of the things that I want to emphasize too, is for people to do this while you’re younger. And just so don’t wait until you’re 50, when you think, you know, as you mentioned BJ, when you think, okay, I’m closer now. So let me do it now. So the insurance company doesn’t get my money. What if your spouse dies in their early thirties? That’s what happened to me. So I know it all too well, it can happen. And so yes, absolutely. This is something that everyone needs to do. And that’s so, so important. And so Fijeh, I know these are really good lessons and I’m so happy that you’re on the show to talk about these things.

And one of the things that I’ve highlighted is also this personal financial identity quiz that I talk about as my guests share their results every week. Because I think it’s so important and it’s so important for immigrants too, because it’s so amazing that once you get into North American culture, the spending habits change and things that you wouldn’t buy previously, you start to buy, you know, you start to follow the crowd and yeah and so immigrants can get into trouble with credit. They can get into trouble with spending and adopting a certain lifestyle. And so I just wanted you to share with us your results and kind of your thoughts around that. Because I think, you know, we’ve been having some tremendous insights from previous guests talking about their personal financial identity. So I’ll let you tell our audience what your results were.

Fijeh: My results were the Minimalist.

Keisha Blair: Okay. And so do you think that is roundabout what you would expect?

Fijeh: Yeah, because the thing is, I remember working as a financial advisor in Nigeria, in early two thousands. And because of the nature of the way Nigeria is, if you’re going to talk about money, I was into wealth management. So you really need to look really lavish. Everything had to look that way where I can manage your money because I’ve got some myself, right. And I remember those years, I made a lot of money, but didn’t have much to account for, because of that ideology. So when I changed companies, I moved to a UK company. I had a 360 degree start around things completely different. And I can tell you that the results I got from the five years I worked at the UK company was totally different that when I worked with the south African company. Similar role, you know, almost the same pay, but completely different attitude.

Keisha Blair: That’s interesting because that’s so true. I think in a lot of cultures too, especially when yes, when it has to do with wealth management or money, money management, there’s this perception that you have to put forward this certain persona and drive a certain car and dress a certain way. That’s an interesting take. Have you seen, you know, in terms of yours, like the Minimalist, have you seen where that type of philosophy spills over into your business decisions as well, and even your investment decisions?

Fijeh: Yes, I would say so, but I also totally agree that it can be quite different because as minimalistic as I am on a personal level, I think the area I’ve found it, the most difficult to control spending is when it comes to my business, I’m willing already to invest everything. And I had to remind myself recently that the way you budget, you have to start doing that in business, even though I’m passionate about it, because I have a profitable business, right.

Going overboard, you know, like, oh no, holds barred. I need the best quality of this. I’m just going to go ahead and do that. When I checked my overheads, I realized was really negatively impacting my profit and my ability to grow the business. You know, so it took conscious effort. Now I have begun to apply the same principles like strict budgeting. I had to personally and consciously, I still have to make myself do that consciously, you know, like, no, take this option, keep an eye on the overheads.

Keisha Blair: That would be interesting to hear if he’s a Minimalist too. Do you think he’d be a Minimalist?

Fijeh: Yes. Yes. But he’s, this kind of on a personal note, he really is a Minimalist, a simple guy, but where my husband, his greatest weakness, this is an inability to say no. He wants to solve everybody’s problems. He wants to calm everybody in Nigeria. They have a problem. He feels it’s his responsibility to solve it. Always have to be like, Nope, I promise you those guys if you died today, they wouldn’t go down the grid with you just set a budget.

Keisha Blair: That’s interesting. And that’s another lesson there. I think for everyone in terms of just, you know, saying no, regardless of that personal financial identity. So that’s interesting. So Fijeh thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and insights with us on the podcast today.

Can you tell listeners where to find you on social media and your website?

Fijeh: Sure. Thank you, Keisha. You can find me at and on social media is the same thing, @fijehaadum or @immigrantsthrive.

Keisha Blair: Okay perfect.

Keisha Blair: Thank you for joining us this week on Holistic Wealth with Keisha Blair. Make sure to visit our website where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify or via Rs so you will never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you found value in this show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes or if you simply tell a friend about the show that would help us out too. Are you a member of the Institute on Holistic Wealth? If not, what are you waiting for? Go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to choose your membership plan and join as a member. You get so many perks, free worksheets, advice coaching, and a member’s workshop to design an intentionally designed life. Do you need to figure out your life purpose? Take the Build Your Life Purpose Portfolio online self-paced course. Are you struggling with all your money decisions? Take the free financial identities quiz and then take the personal financial identities course. Did you recently suffer a breakup job loss or experience the death of a loved one? Take the Holistic Healing online course. Do you need an overall plan to achieve holistic wealth? We will help you figure out your Holistic Wealth Blueprint and of course if you want to start making money by helping others achieve Holistic Wealth, become a Certified Holistic Wealth Consultant. Regardless of what career you’ve got, the Institute will show you how to increase your income and walk in your purpose. The sooner you join the sooner you start to achieve a more holistically wealthy lifestyle and you’re going to want to stay for a very long time so go to Institute on Holistic Wealth/memberships to join. If you haven’t read the book yet pick up a copy of the award-winning best-selling book Holistic Wealth: 32 life lessons to help you find purpose prosperity and happiness