This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.
At the beginning of 2021, Kim Liao paid off her mother’s mortgage.
The 27-year-old saved up the $28,000 needed in nine months during the Covid-19 pandemic, after her mother, Carrie Cheng, lost her job and was worried about making her housing payment each month.
Liao and her now-husband, Greggory Bollweg, cut out basically all non-essential expenses to save the money, which she said was made easier by the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. (Bollweg was supportive of Liao’s goal, but aside from splitting living and food expenses, he did not contribute any of his personal income to the cause). She began signing up for credit cards and bank accounts for the new account bonuses and sold items around her house.
Kim Liao, 27, lives in Orange County, California.
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She also began dog walking to supplement the $100,000 annual salary she earns at her day job as a senior financial analyst at a medical device company in Orange County, California.
Liao considers it the least she could do to provide her mother financial security.
“It was the best money I’ve ever spent because it made my mom so happy,” says Liao, whose mother now owns her two-bedroom condo in San Diego outright. “There’s no other fulfilling feeling for me than seeing my mom happy.”
It’s always been Liao’s goal to get a stable job in order to help her mom with her finances. Born in Shenzhen, China, Liao moved to the U.S. with her mother after her parents separated when she was 12 years old.
Kim Liao (R) and her mother on her wedding day.
The pair lived in what Liao describes as a shed on a relative’s property in Los Angeles when they first arrived, wearing clothes donated by their church. Neither spoke English, but the Disney Channel became Liao’s language tutor over the next few years.
After two years of living in the shed, they rented rooms in other people’s homes until her mother, who was a college professor in China but sold sunglasses at a kiosk at the mall in the U.S., was able to rent an apartment for just the two of them in San Diego.
All the while, Liao excelled in school despite the language barrier, especially in math. She attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, which was almost completely paid for with financial aid she received via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). She also qualified …….