Here on the iRemit blog, we cover a lot of topics that have to do with Filipinos moving to Australia, so you wouldn’t be too remiss in thinking that the land of Oz is the end goal for a lot of us locals. Funnily enough, though, the reverse is also true: many Aussies also dream about retiring in the Philippines.
There are a multitude of reasons why many foreigners choose to spend their twilight years on our side of the globe. The lower cost of living is one of them. Here, you can live like a king or queen on chump change (well, relatively).
Still, it doesn’t hurt to be smart about how you spend your retirement dime, and the following are just a handful of life hacks for stretching your already considerable purchasing power even further:
1. Get an SSRV
Also known as the Special Resident Retirement Visa, this is the ultimate accessory for a card-carrying member of the Expat Retiree Club in the Philippines. If you are at least 50 years old and are receiving at least AUD1,058 a month as pension, then you’re eligible for this.
While you have to deposit around AUD13,222 in a Philippine bank account to apply for this, that amount pales in comparison to the savings you get from the visa’s benefits: exemption from travel tax, customs duties and import taxes for bringing in personal effects (up to around AUD7,000 worth), tax-free interest on your required deposit, and tax-free remittances on pensions or annuities from your home country.
2. If you plan on staying in a certain area for a long time, consider buying a condominium
As a foreigner, you are legally barred from owning land in the Philippines, but since condo unit owners don’t usually own the lot their building is built on, you can go ahead and purchase that snazzy 1-bedroom.
Sure, renting a property in the Philippines is way cheaper than in Australia, but if you plan to base yourself in a specific location (e.g., Makati or Cebu City) for an indefinite time, it makes more sense to buy your lodgings outright, not only because you won’t have to pay rent monthly but also because its value is bound to increase over time, making it a default investment.
And should you decide to go back home to Australia after a couple of decades here, the condo unit can even grant you passive income as you can rent it out to other people, perhaps to the next batch of expat retirees even.
3. Go where the locals go
You may have visited the Philippines previously as a tourist and perhaps stayed at the various luxury resorts that dot the country’s pristine shoreline, but unless you have Gina Rhinehart’s net worth, living like that will deplete your retirement income faster than a gold-digging sixth wife or husband.
Rather than buying your food at upscale supermarkets, try venturing into the local wet markets where the produce is both undeniably fresh and cheap. You can also go to flea markets like Divisoria and be amazed at how much you can save when you buy beddings, home decor, and clothes there instead of at a posh shopping mall. And the best part is, you can bargain with the vendors at all the aforementioned locations, potentially driving their already affordable prices down to an outright steal.
4. Invest in a little property that you can rent out or start a sideline business
If you’ve got some extra money saved up or perhaps a windfall from an unexpected inheritance, you can put it to good use in the Philippines. You can either purchase another condominium unit or a plot of land (in the latter’s case, you’ll have to do it under your Filipino spouse’s name for legal reasons) and rent it out or develop it.
You can even come up with a small, home-based business. Filipino consumers have become more discerning over the years, and they have always shown a marked preference for imported goods. If you can create or import something authentic from Australia, such as meat pies or boomerangs, you can bet that there would be a number of people interested in purchasing such from you.
5. Be wise about what you do for fun
Filipinos love to have fun, and you would be hard-pressed to get bored with all of the entertainment on offer. However, you should pick your poison carefully.
A night out at Solaire or whatever they’re calling the latest, most happening casino these days is fine on occasion, but spending your weeknights here can’t be good for your health or for your wallet.
Why not catch a movie at a cinema instead, or better yet, take up a hobby? Some expat retirees have even found fulfillment in founding and taking care of an underprivileged community here, so there’s always that option too.
6. Brush up on your Tagalog
Nearly everyone in the Philippines speaks English, but having a passing knowledge of the national language is crucial if you want to make the most out of your retirement here. Not only will it let you strike interesting conversations with locals, but the ability to speak it also tells unscrupulous vendors that it won’t be so easy to fool you into paying much more than you should for that whole chicken at the market.
There are formal lessons being offered, but it’s a lot easier to pick up the language when you practice it with someone at home (e.g., your wife or your household helpers).
The formula for an expat’s happy and comfortable retirement is quite simple, really: do as the Romans do. The sooner you familiarize and acclimatize yourself with how locals live, the better it will be for your wallet, and the more the Philippines will feel like home.