Filipinos decide to leave the country for one major reason – they want a better life.
This dream, however, is something that varies greatly from one overseas worker to another. While there are a few that think about the long-term, a huge majority still thinks the same way that every other Filipino does.
I want a new car.
All my kids need new phones.
My wife wants signature clothing.
This is why you see one OFW after another coming back home after years of hard work being in the same condition that they have always been before they left. Some, even worse.
This only shows the poor state of financial education in the Philippines. More often than not, Filipinos are taught to work and to pay the bills, period. Whatever they have left over, they use to buy things they don’t really need – like cars, phones, or clothes.
Only a chosen few have the training and sense to think about what’s going to happen 10 or 20 years from now and not just what’s happening today.
So here’s an important question to ask: is the money you remit being spent wisely?
2014 was a good year for OFWs, breaking records and totaling $26.93B all in all. That’s a 6.2% increase from 2013. If you are an OFW, this only means that life should be getting better for you. If this is not the case, however, then you would have to start asking the following questions.
Why do you spend money?
Although the answer to this question would correspond to the usual fare of trying to separate the needs from the want, there is often a conflict on how to distinguish the two. How do you define something as a need or as a want?
This is a common mistake that Filipinos have.
Our daughter NEEDS new shoes. The question is this: why does she NEED the shoes? This is where you see how the WANTS are mistaken for NEEDS.
Her classmate got a new pair, and I don’t want her to be embarrassed.
It’s a new school year, therefore, she needs a new pair (even if the pair from last year still looks great).
Kawawa naman. The common excuse of Filipino parents who believe that they are giving their kids a better life if their kids are well-dressed.
Here’s a good guide for those who are about to make any kind of purchase:
Will it fill a void in your life?
Will it make life easier?
Will it provide lasting pleasure?
If you say yes to all three, then by all means, make the purchase. Of course, coming up with the answers to all three questions would also have to be thought about for quite some time, and not just for a couple of minutes.
After all, it’s pretty easy to say yes to all three questions when you’re right in front of the new tablet that you’re eyeing, not remembering that you just bought one a few months back (with that same unit still working by the way), and that the only difference between the old one and this would be a feature or two that you can actually live without.
Have you paid the non-negotiables?
When you say non-negotiables, these are the things that you must absolutely pay no matter what.
A lot of Filipinos are one-day millionaires. They get a chunk of cash now, they also spend all that cash now. The bad part about this is that they often spend the money on the non-essentials first, such as shopping, eating out, buying gifts for all the neighbors, and throwing parties for no reason.
The next day, the disconnection notices come.
If you have the tendency to think about the things that are not essential before you remember the things that you truly should not be neglecting, then this is a sure sign that your money is not being spent well.
How much have you invested?
Anything can happen when you’re an overseas worker. People get laid off. You can have an accident. Wars happen. Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the country you’re working in could change anytime.
The moment any of these happens and you find yourself jobless and back in Manila, do you have enough investments for your entire family to continue living as if nothing happened?
If you find that you have no other source of income aside from the salary you earned when you were still working overseas, then you’re in big trouble.
There are several investment opportunities for Filipinos. All it takes is the patience to learn new things and the will to become more financially wise. You could put up your own business, starting small and eventually building up for growth. Or you could also go through the usual investment routes – the stock market, foreign exchange, bonds, and a lot more.
You see, it’s all about the decisions that you make. It’s also about making the people back home understand that just because you’re earning big does not mean that you’re wealthy. Remember that wealth is accumulated over time, and is not something that you get overnight. And once you learn how to change your mindset about your finances, then you may find yourself actually living the dream ten or fifteen years from now.
Special thanks to ABC.net.au for the main image.