Succeeding in America
How a Chinese immigrant learned the language of American finance — with the help of his Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors
Proud grandparents, the Tsuis are funding 529s for their grandchildren Tiffany and Adam.
Charlie Tsui faced many hardships growing up in Northern China. But those hardships lessened when a division of U.S. Marines stationed near his home befriended him. They fed him and taught him English, and gave him the nickname "Charlie Two-Shoes." After the troops left in 1949 and the Communists came to power, Tsui was imprisoned for 17 years because he refused to denounce the Americans who had become his friends.
Several of his benefactors kept in touch with him, eventually helping Tsui, his wife, Jin Mie, and their three children come to America. When Tsui opened his first restaurant, in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1987, at the age of 49, he knew a lot about Chinese cuisine but very little about American business or personal finance. He found himself turning informally for help to two of his most devoted diners, Financial Advisor Cindy Clark and her husband, Joe Hackley, who were also becoming close friends. "Joe was a Marine, so we spoke the same language," Tsui says.
A Financial Education
One of Clark's first challenges was to help Tsui get past his initial wariness about investing. "Cindy told me, 'I will do for you what I would do for my own brothers and sisters,'" Tsui says. Among other things, Clark and her partner, Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Chris Combs, explained the importance of retirement accounts — a relatively unfamiliar concept to the Tsuis. "Charlie loves tax-deferred investments," Clark says. "When I explained that he could invest money for his retirement and potentially deduct the investment from his taxes, he was amazed."
Over the years, Tsui became even more successful, eventually opening a second restaurant. With Clark offering investment guidance along the way, the Tsuis put two of their children through college and helped them start their own businesses. Now retired, the Tsuis have donated gifts to their three children, as well as set up savings funds for their grandchildren.
In the end, no matter what financial challenge they tackle, the Tsuis and their Financial Advisors find common ground based on a bond of trust that's stronger than any cultural barrier. "We are family," says Tsui simply.
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