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Embracing Arab American Identity: Navigating Finances with an Iraqi Mindset

Growing up as an Arab-American in America comes with its unique set of challenges and blessings. For many of us, our cultural heritage intertwines with our religious identity, forming a rich tapestry that shapes our values, traditions, and way of life. As an Iraqi American, my upbringing was heavily influenced by the vibrant culture of Iraq, particularly in the realm of money management and budgeting.


Preserving Cultural Values:

One of the remarkable aspects of being an Arab American Muslim is the preservation of our cultural values and traditions. The Iraqi culture is deeply rooted in hospitality, generosity, and close-knit family ties. These values often extend to financial matters, where community support plays a vital role. In many Iraqi households, it is customary to prioritize collective well-being over individual desires, and financial decisions are often made with the entire family's needs in mind.

Living in Utah, where the cultural landscape differs from Iraq presents a unique dynamic. While we strive to maintain our cultural heritage, we must adapt to Western lifestyles and economic realities. This juxtaposition creates a fascinating blend of traditional values and modern financial practices.

tools for money management

Budgeting with an Iraqi Twist:

In the Iraqi culture, budgeting is seen as an essential tool for financial stability and responsible money management. These principles are deeply ingrained in our upbringing, shaping our perspectives on spending, saving, and investing.

· Emphasis on Family: In the Iraqi community, supporting and caring for extended family members is highly valued. This mindset influences our budgeting decisions, as we prioritize allocating funds for familial obligations such as education, healthcare, and financial assistance.

· Thriftiness and Resourcefulness: The concept of "a penny saved is a penny earned" resonates strongly in Iraqi households. We often find creative ways to stretch our dollars through DIY projects, reusing items, or seeking the best deals. I remember going to Deseret Industries before going to a store trying to find a product due to us knowing that it would be the same thing just lightly used and that’s completely okay. This resourcefulness becomes even more important as we see expenses go up with costs like cost of living, tuition, maintenance, and even just a few extra dollars to spend on yourself and your family.

· Planning for the Future: Iraqis understand the significance of planning for the long term. From saving for retirement to setting aside funds for major life events, such as weddings or purchasing a home, we embrace the idea of financial security and prioritize disciplined saving and investing. These understandings of finance get passed down from generation to generation. Muslim individuals are required to give a portion of their wealth as Zakat or Khums, which is used to provide financial assistance to those in need.

zakat, rice, coins,


We all start learning about personal finance from our families, whether we have a close relationship with them or not. However, as independent individuals, our financial freedom should reflect our own goals and values. To achieve this, seek peer support, make use of university resources such as the Financial Wellness Center, and educate yourself on personal finance to create a budget and financial plan that aligns with your needs.

You have the power to shape your own financial path and take charge of your financial future with confidence.

No matter where you come from, financial wellness is an essential part of life. If you have helpful tips from your family and friends, incorporate them into your financial journey. If you need more guidance, the Financial Wellness Center has peer mentors and accredited financial counselors who are eager to help you achieve financial stability. Take advantage of their expertise and resources to navigate your unique path and build a solid foundation for a prosperous future.


paved road with the words MONEY

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Last Updated: 12/12/23