Acknowledging My Financial Privilege

Social media has been awash with the discussion of financial privilege. Who has it. Who doesn’t and what it means to navigate the world with and without it.

Now you may be thinking: “Toni, you are female first generation immigrant – how do you have financial privilege?”

Financial privilege isn’t only having your parents pay for the cost of your college education or receiving an inheritance. It isn’t just receiving money after college or down-payment assistance.

Think of privilege as a sliding scale. It doesn’t matter what race, gender, or ethnicity you are. That doesn’t define IF you have had privilege or not. It may just govern the degree of privilege you’ve benefited from.

Here are 3 ways I’ve been financially privileged

  1. I’ve never known hunger. Despite being immigrants with only a few dollars to their name I’ve never gone to bed hungry in my childhood. I’ve never had the lights cut off for lack of payment. I don’t know what that feels like. Not bragging just sharing my reality.
  2. Despite the struggle for my parents to pay the $7,000 annual tuition (and trust it was a struggle) my parents sent me to a private catholic high school. That may seem like a long time ago “Toni, what does that have to with today?” A lot of the opportunities I’ve been afforded come from the name & reputation of that school. Attending college was never a question because the high school carried such prestige. On top of that I was a good student but I could’ve been a mediocre at best student and still gotten in to a decent college. In addition I was exposed to leadership positions and learned to navigate being a minority in a mostly white environment. P.S. the tuition of that same high school is now $22,000 a year- yikes!
  3. 7 years ago.  I was diagnosed with an eye condition called keratoconus. Basically, I had a worsening astigmatism and if left unchecked the front of my eye would move away from the back of my eye and I would experience limitations with night driving as the condition worsened. At the time, I worked at an eye doctor who was able to negotiate on my behalf to get me into a trial for a treatmet to stop the worsening of the condition. Although what I ended up paying was just a fraction of what other people paid for the same treatment because the procedure wasn’t FDA approved (thereby covered by insurance). I was able to pay for it through a gift from my brother and had other options to take out a personal loan from friends of the family. I wasn’t stuck with the ridiculous bill for the procedure I needed to be able to see.  To keep this in perspective 41% of Americans struggle to pay medical bills.

Acknowledging financial privilege, even if you are the direct beneficiary of a less privileged individual doesn’t make you any less privileged. Recognizing and acknowledging the leg-up in the world that you have, navigating this financial space because of it doesn’t take away from the work that you’ve put in to achieve the things you have. It simply is an acknowledgement that you had help along the way.

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