When you leave the Philippines to work overseas, you probably have set your objectives already. Earn bigger wages, save most of them and return home may be one of them. But in reality, working overseas is more likely to be complicated than what we initially imagined. There are many distractions that dissuade us from pursuing our goals.
Many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) spent many years working abroad yet they found themselves almost empty handed and unable to figure out why they were unable to save by the time they decided to go back to the Philippines. Remember that a high paying job does not guarantee savings, if you are not diligent in doing so. Or if unfortunate things happen (you figure in an accident or get sick, you get duped, you get laid off from work, etc).
Filipina domestic helpers spend their day off at a Hong Kong street. Photo credit: Ian Riley
Successful Overseas Filipino Worker sounds very subjective. But for the sake of this article, let’s say successful OFW is one who is able to provide the needs of his/her family along with sustainable source of livelihood long after he/she decides to go back home for good.
Therefore, if you don’t want to take the same route as these ill-fated OFWs and instead be successful, the following tips may be helpful to you.
1. Apply the job without spending a fortune. It is not practical to spend a fortune to land an overseas job, no matter how high-paying it promises. Many Filipinos take the radical route of selling farming lands, houses and other family properties to pay for placement fee for a job that pays only a fraction of that amount. While you successfully get the job, your family’s livelihood or convenience is compromised, putting you in a bind to contribute a significant amount of your earnings on a regular basis. This becomes the main reason why OFWs are unable to save for themselves.
2. Save before you spend. The fact that you are receiving much higher salary abroad than what you did back in the Philippines is a big temptation to spend more. After all, you have the money to spend, right? You might say you deserve a new car or a fine piece of luxury jewelry after all the hard work. That’s not a problem only if you already managed to save a reasonable amount on a regular basis. That amount may be from 5% to 15% of your monthly income. Many Filipinos want a taste of luxury even for a short while, only to regret what they did. You can be like them, but make sure you put money into the piggy bank first.
3. Become a property investor. Investing in farmland, house for rent or lots is a wise investment with guaranteed yields better than passenger jeepneys or sari sari store because they require a bit less maintenance and whose value doesn’t depreciate as much as others.
4. Invest in retirement savings plan, educational plan or life insurance. Even when you’re working abroad, be diligent in contributions to SSS, Pag-Ibig Fund and educational fund for children or future children as well as health and life insurance to safeguard financial security during challenging times.
5. Educate your family members on spending your remittance. Don’t make your beneficiaries think making money abroad is an easy task. Instill in them the value of saving and less reliance on your money remittance (or balikbayan boxes). By doing so, family members are motivated to help stretch the budget and save whatever you send instead of immediately seeking help from you for financial assistance.
6. Don’t pretend to be a millionaire when you’re not. Sometimes, neighbors have this mentality that if you are on vacation, you are poised to give away stashes of money or bags of chocolates. And many OFWs oblige to avoid being maligned as too prudent and don’t know how to share. Sharing what you have is a good gesture but it does not need to be too extravagant that it’s like starting from scratch when you return to work abroad. What about if your company suddenly shut down or have to let go of people (you included) due to financial difficulties? Or you got sick and unable to go back to work?
7. Think of a good investment while you’re abroad. If you are business-minded you can think of ways to establish business in your home town. Internet cafe for computer-literate family members, eatery for cooking mothers and siblings or a business center offering photocopying, typing, and book binding near a school. Don’t invest on a business you have no idea how it’s run. You better save your money in a bank than get involved in a highly risky business venture.
8. Think of acquiring new skills. Acquiring new skill can be accomplished through short-term courses such as dressmaking or cooking courses. Or maybe enroll in a distance learning institute. Other skills are not necessarily for livelihood but are good to have, such as guitar or karate lessons. Being an OFW should not limit you to be part of working class only.
9. Set short-term, middle-term and long-term plans. By planning on a short- (within the year), medium- (2-4 years) and long-term (5 years or more) plans, we are more focused on what we can accomplish on a daily basis. Do I want to own a new house within two years? Do I want to go back home in five years? Can I establish my own business before I reach the age of 40? Draft your own plans first and you’ll be able to steer towards a clearer direction.
These are practical tips that are not hard to do. Even the lowest paid Filipino abroad can still be a candidate to succeed in life overseas. It just begins with forward thinking, a little self sacrifice and focus on achieving dreams.