"Many immigrants start out as street peddlers. In three or four years, they have saved enough -- between $50,000 and $100,000 -- to start small businesses. I didn't see how that was possible until I met Mr. Lin. . . .

"Lin forgoes any privacy or comfort not because he is poor but to save money. He earns $360 a week peddling vegetables and fruit. Selling umbrellas is more lucrative, bringing in from $80 to $100 a day. His monthly income, Lin says with utter frankness, and with a relish common to most Chinese when they discuss money, averages $1,800. He has saved some $18,000 of his annual $22,000 income in each of the last four years. . . . All told, Lin has $70,000 tucked away for a small business.

"I asked Lin how it was possible for him to save eighty percent of his income.

"He explained that he spends only $250 a month -- the money for his rent, a few dollars on the telephone, and about $100 on food. 'Rice very cheap,' he said, smiling. 'And boss gives me lunch.' "

-- From Chinatown: A Portrait of a Closed Society by Gwen Kinkead (HarperCollins, 1992)

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