Learning the value of money as a Cuban immigrant

March 7, 2023 Chelsey Sleator
Growing up in Communist Cuba, Monica had to start from zero when it came to learning finance in the United States.

Not only does Monica Vazquez have a unique perspective on the evolution of Schwab, having been part of the multiple acquisitions that make up what the company is today, she also has a unique perspective on the U.S. financial system in general. Monica is from Cuba, a Communist country, where there is no free market. 

Now a Branch Manager, Monica says one of the reasons she joined Schwab was so that she could continue to get better and help people. Growing up, Monica never imagined she'd be teaching others financial literacy, explaining, "I knew nothing about the stock market. Zero.”

But it's Monica's diverse background that has helped her become the person she is today.

Taking an interest in finance

When she was 11, against staggering odds, Monica's mother won a now defunct Cuban lottery program called “Bombo” which allowed those who did not qualify as refugees or immigrants to enter the U.S. Unfortunately, they had to leave her brother behind.

“It was very hard as an immigrant family,” explains Monica of the move to Miami. “I knew right away the value of money and the importance of saving and not spending because money was a big issue for us.” Watching her family struggle motivated Monica to work hard and set her priorities for a better life.

It was at Florida International University where Monica was first introduced to the world of finance. One of her professors guided her to an internship at Scottrade, telling her, “You are going to learn about the stock market and it’s going to bring you into this part of the finance world.” He was right, as the internship ultimately served as the launching pad for her career.

Educating others

Monica has dedicated her career to educating others about finance. “Not everyone came from a communist country like me, but different cultures have different understanding of money and investing. I try to help and mentor everyone so they can keep pushing towards the American dream.”

Monica and her team spend a lot of time educating their clients on how the stock market works. They explain that it’s not a savings account and you will see volatility, but they also emphasize that it’s not like going to the casino where you roll the dice, and you are either a millionaire or you’re broke.

Maintaining roots

Monica is proud of the success that she’s had, and also the success that her parents eventually found. After 10 years in the U.S., Monica’s family was able to bring her brother over. And after 22 years in the country, they’ve been able to claim most of their direct family, including two of Monica’s grandparents. As a result, there’s not much of a reason for Monica to return to Cuba, but she maintains her culture through food and salsa dancing, her favorite activity outside of work.