SuChin Pak is a multifaceted individual – mother, wife, daughter and the first Asian-American correspondent on MTV. During its heyday in the ’90s to ’00s when boy bands and teen pop stars were all the rage, SuChin was everywhere. Although she had it made by appearances alone, what most didn’t know was that despite her impressive position at MTV she couldn’t even rent an apartment in New York City without someone co-signing! Although discussing money can be considered impolite in some circles, SuChin has made it the focus of her new podcast – and with good reason! Her advice about how to best use your hard-earned money will leave you wanting to take notes. Trust us when we say that she knows what she’s talking about!
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“The subject of money, when I really sat down and thought about it, it is at the center of who I am and I think a lot of people would agree with that,” SuChin tells us. “It’s a source of tension or happiness or whatever. There’s always such an emotional reaction to that question.”
These days, SuChin is focusing more on creating meaningful projects that reflect her own values and ideas. Her latest collaboration with Umpqua Bank has resulted in a captivating podcast series called Open Account which delves into the often-taboo topic of money. Guests such as NBA player Meyers Leonard, celebrity chef Eddie Huang from Fresh Off The Boat fame, and SNL actress Paula Pell have already appeared on this show to share their perspectives. “I didn’t want to talk about money in the general sense like, does it buy happiness? That I think is a very common conversation. But I get down to the [questions like] what’s the number that feels right for you in your bank about, what do you do with your paycheck? I wanted to get to the really nitty gritty of it,” she says. Unflinchingly, SuChin relayed the truth when we inquired about her biggest financial mistake.
“The worst financial decision I ever made was to put the down payment of my car on my credit card in college, which then spiraled into just an enormous amount of credit card debt because I really couldn’t afford the down payment or the car,” SuChin says in her weekly intro for Open Account. “I kept putting that on the credit card and then on multiple credit cards. Nobody taught me how to use a credit card. My parents never had a credit card, they never had a debit card. There was nothing like that. I’m sure they had a bank account, but that was never a part of our conversation at home.”
Her story started when she was a hopeful freshman in college. She, like many of us, opened her welcome packet and listened to the flyer encouraging her to get a credit card—which is exactly what she did. A decision that led her buying a car with it and carrying its debt for 15 years! “That was the most expensive, cheapest car ever bought from that dealership,” she says with a laugh. “From that point on, I’ve always used the credit card like a bank card, meaning I never spend on my credit what I can’t cover in my checking account.”
Following her successes, SuChin married and became a mother to two children. We inquired as to what financial knowledge she is most eager to impart upon her three-year old son. “Credit card definitely is one,” SuChin is quick to say. “Linked to the credit card is ownership of your credit score. Having lived in New York and even when I was making a really pretty decent living working in television, I couldn’t rent an apartment because my credit was so bad. Nobody told me that this thing you kind of carry it around with you and it can help you or prevent you from doing very basic things like getting your own apartment or a loan.”
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Furthermore, this is precisely what she strives to achieve — not only as a parent but through her podcast too. “I wish someone would have explained this to me very early on. And being mindful of making sure your payments are on time. The other thing too is the act of saving… everyone says this, and they say it for a reason. I think even if you’re starting out and you’re saving just a little bit, it doesn’t seem like very much, but the practice of saving—of [thinking] the first person you pay is yourself, and cutting off a piece of whatever you’ve earned and putting that straight into the bank—it’s a muscle. It should be reflexive.”
From the money lessons she’s had to acquire firsthand, like being a college student with hefty credit card debt and having immigrant parents who didn’t use credit cards, monetary issues are very personal for her. “I think I have a lot of guilt and I have a lot of fear when it comes to money,” SuChin tells us frankly. “I think that I tend to always have a feeling of lack when it comes to money and I think that has a lot to do with how I grew up.”
She aspires to give her kids something phenomenal. “I hope that my kids will understand that you can be responsible and save, and when you spend responsibly, it should be a very freeing process,” SuChin says. “I want to give them some basic building blocks, so that when they do spend the money, they can feel really good about it.”
“Spending has never been a freeing thing for me, so I hope that’s something I can teach them,” she says. “It’s something they should be proud of.”
This article was originally published on BRIT + CO.