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Thriving but Still Vulnerable in the U.S.

by U.S. Financial Diaries

The latest household profile from the U.S. Financial Diaries project presents the story of Mateo Valencia, 31, and Lucia Benitez, 30.  Mateo and Lucia are an unmarried couple currently living in Queens, New York after moving to the U.S. from Ecuador in 2005. They live with their four-year-old son Pablo in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom townhouse, and they rent out rooms to friends and relatives who are between homes or jobs. Mateo and Lucia are in many ways emblematic of the American immigrant experience. They came to the U.S. with hopes of building a better life and while they are not truly secure yet, they are finding opportunities. They each work multiple jobs and actively seek additional income earning opportunities. But Mateo and Lucia live much of their financial life outside the formal financial system. They deal primarily in cash, so there is little information to support a credit score and they do not have long-term savings or health insurance. Their undocumented status also undermines their ability to invest in the long-term.

Photo credit:  Robin Holland

Photo credit:  Robin Holland

Each of the U.S. Financial Diaries' Household Profiles presents the financial life of one family in the USFD study. While these families are not necessarily representative of the total sample, they illustrate recurring themes: households struggling with income volatility, unplanned expenses, and finding ways to save and invest, but also using creative–and sometimes counter intuitive–budget and money management strategies to help make ends meet.

Click here to read Mateo and Lucia's complete story and visit our homepage to explore additional USFD publications and resources.