This post is a little different because I’m going to share my thoughts about being a Filipino worker abroad. Specifically, I will discuss the common misconception of OFWs and why it’s not wise to send all your money to the Philippines.
The main reason why Filipinos pursue working in other countries is certainly because of money. It is no secret that the salary we get abroad is way higher than what we could earn in the Philippines. A Filipino English teacher in a Thai government school, for example, earns at least 20,000 THB per month. If converted to Philippine peso, it is equivalent to around 30,000 PHP. That amount is likely to be sufficient for personal expenses and family support back home.
Financial Expectations of OFWs
Being an OFW myself, I have observed firsthand how others wrongly think of us in terms of money. Most people believe that once you step into another country, it automatically transforms you into a rich and wealthy individual. They focus on this thought forgetting about the sacrifices some overseas workers make. Maybe, they think that living abroad is easy and simple. It’s not. We work hard- sometimes doing two jobs, part-time jobs, to earn the money that we have now.
This way of thinking shows from the little requests of pasalubong here and there and the messages in social media borrowing or asking for money. However, I am not saying that all of these are wrong. What is inappropriate is when someone demands pricey presents almost every month as if you poop the money. Or when the borrower gets angry and upset when you answer them “no”.
Personally, I had a fair share of these experiences. There was even a time when I received chat messages from acquaintances borrowing money at the same time. It made me stop and think, “wow, I must really have lots of money that I don’t know of”. Ha! But, they must be forgetting that some of us have our own responsibilities to our families. Or if not, we may also have our own plans for ourselves, like maybe to buy a house or to travel and to enjoy some hobbies.
Filipino Culture (Utang na loob or debt of gratitude)
It brings me to the second part of this article, how much is enough money to send for the family. Here in Thailand, for example, I have close friends who send almost all their salary to their family every month. They only take a small part for daily allowances/expenses. I agree that unquestionably, it’s the most selfless and righteous thing to do especially in our society. But, it has numerous disadvantages as well, particularly to the sender.
For one, if an OFW sends all his income to his family, there’ll be nothing left for his savings in case of emergencies. The fact that he’s away from home makes it even more important to consider. What happens if there is an accident or any health problems while abroad? Who will he ask for help financially?
I have always shared my strong beliefs in saving up in my blog. That there should be at least 2-3-month worth of salary kept aside either in a bank or in a piggy bank. It may be difficult for others considering the needs of their family. But why not start in small amounts? Is it achievable to save up 500 PHP a month? What about 1,000 or 2,000 PHP? Besides, if accumulated in a year, it’ll become 6,000, 12,000 or 24,000 PHP. Better than nothing, don’t you think?
Personal Interests & Dreams
Second, each of us has our own desires or interests in life that may require money to transpire. It could even be just wanting to be financially secure in the future. For me, I want to be prepared when I get old. That is why I tried my best to invest in the stocks, mutual fund, and insurance now that I’m still able to earn money.
In addition, I honestly think this is where we should be smart about our money. Sharing to our parents and family members is showing our love for them. But I disagree when children do it because they feel completely indebted to them. Our parents sent us to school and brought us up. However, in the first place, shouldn’t it be their responsibility to make sure their children are properly taken care of and well educated? So the child grows independent and capable to survive in this big world?
A Vicious Circle
Expecting something in return from their children is a continuous cycle that exists in many Filipino families. In my opinion, this practice should be moderated so as not to put the burden to the children. For instance, the situation of my single friend who sends almost all her money to her parents in the Philippines. As a result of this, she wasn’t able to save up for herself. Let’s say years later, when it’s her turn to get old and unemployed, most likely she will expect her children to provide for her too. Therefore, putting the same burden she had experienced to the next generation.
What if we change the ending of this story?
While working for 30 years of her life, she managed to save up 1,000 PHP/ month. So in three decades, she collected 360,000 PHP. Let’s say, she’s smart enough to save it in a time-deposit account or invest it so it grows much bigger in value. So, what if she ends up with 500K to a million, will that be enough for her daily needs (medical bills, food, etc)?. For me, it’s a yes. Obviously, it’s better than having no single penny at all. In the end, she won’t be asking monthly allowance from her children unless her kids will offer. Furthermore, on her children’s side, they will have money of their own to spare for their needs and wants. They will have the luxury to live a more comfortable and happier life. Everyone will be happy then, right?
Save for yourself & share some…
I guess what I’m trying to point is to keep a portion of your hard-earned money for yourself. You have to plan ahead so you won’t depend on others during tough times. As I have seen in many families, the lack of money usually breaks relationships and trust among its members. Siblings, for instance, fight over who will take care of their aging parents, or who will pay for their medical bills. It is a sad truth but it happens.
In conclusion, we Filipinos, are known to have these close family ties. We prioritize our family over anything else. We work hard for them, to give them a better life. However, we must also think of ourselves and our future because whatever happens to us will most likely affect our family too.