OUTGOING AMBASSADOR. H.E Jocelyn Batoon-Garcia, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand met the key leaders of the Filipino Community in Phitsanulok on March 2015 where she emphasized the importance of financial literacy.
ENZO'S POINT. Filipinos who have found their niche in Thailand continues to grow. Although it does not count as one of the top destinations for the 1.6 million Filipino overseas workers around the globe but still the number has grown considerably as more and more Filipino entertainers, engineers and teachers have found job opportunities in this vast land of smiles.
I'm on my sixth year of working as a Foreign Language teacher in a government school and although the salary is not as attractive as those working in other countries where teachers are in demand, I still get 4 times higher than the minimum wage I got while working in the Philippines.
The irony is despite the big difference of the salary; I still struggle to set aside part of that income for my savings. Is the process of 'saving' too complicated that most of us working overseas can't do it?
Here are the top reasons why my 'savings' account continues to suffer until now.
1. SHOPAHOLISM. Thailand is not only 'the land of smiles' but a land of shopping centers and all kinds of markets: Night Markets, Tuesday Markets, Wednesday Markets and Saturday Markets where you will see many different items that will surely drain that cash out of your pocket. The department stores around here are also holding frequent "sale" which are sometimes too difficult to resist. And what else is too hard to refuse? The latest iPhone and Samsung phone and iPad units, the newest model of laptop, the coolest Lacoste sling bag, the hippest Adidas and Nike shoes on display, DSLR cameras for our future trips and a lot more.
Needless to say that with our constant battle of 'homesickness', we look for reasons to divert our attention so we go out even without the intention to spend only to be betrayed by our pair of covetous eyes and our own impulsive heart. Hence, 'spending' is our only escape.
2. UNSTOPPABLE TRAVELING FEET. Of course, Thailand isn't tagged as 'Amazing Thailand' for no reason at all. There are a total number of 76 provinces in this country each teeming with different tourist attractions. There are majestic waterfalls all around the country waiting to be discovered. In the south, the crystal clear blue waters of the beaches are also irresistible especially during summer. In the north, the thick jungles are just waiting to be explored and so with their old-aged temples and ruins. And with the many long holidays we have, it's also very hard not to join the bandwagon of the many traveling 'Pinoys'.
We need to travel to break the monotony of our daily routines. Traveling enriches our experiences about the culture of others that no book could describe. Experience is the best teacher and sometimes too, traveling will also teach us that 'saving' will give us more opportunity to go to any place we want without limiting the experience that we might have.
3. TOO MUCH GENEROSITY. We, Filipinos, are very family-oriented. We always put our family first before our personal convenience. That's what happens to most of us here in Thailand. We send half or more than half of our salaries back home for the sake of our family; food, clothing, education, medical and other expenses that we sometimes here needed to tighten our budget so we could afford a comfortable living for our loved ones at home.
This is not bad. But we should also realize that if we set aside part of our monthly pay, we are assured that in emergency cases we have something to withdraw instead of relying on loans and donations from our fellow overseas workers who are also struggling to make ends meet themselves.
4. AIMLESS FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. How many of us here have a definite financial goal? I remember before coming to Thailand I gave myself 5 years then I'll go back home for good, but it seems 5 years will become 10 and I still don't know how many times do I have to reset this target because I failed to impose an ironclad objective as to how much should I be able to have saved within 5 years. Instead, I became a voracious spender thinking that money will come by at the end of every month ensuing several failed attempts to save.
Having an exact financial goal will help us avoid unnecessary expenditures brought about by 'impulsive buying' because it will pull us back every time we feel the urge to bring that cash out of our pocket.
5. SENSELESS DEBTS. Wait, aren't all debts senseless? Financial experts say, no. Bad debts are those we incur using our credit cards, those loans we made just to finance our wants of having a new mobile phone or making that trip that may be postponed till we have the capacity to finance it. These are debts that yield interest in favor for the lenders. In short, if these are not paid, they have the tendency to grow until we drown in our own debt-related mess. Good debts? These are the ones that give us an investment that will eventually increase their value and thus will give us a financial breakthrough in the future. Real estate properties are an example of 'good debts' however, we should also take extra precaution in investing in these otherwise results may turn out the opposite of what we expected.
The way to financial freedom is a tedious process. It takes a lot of guts and discipline in order for it to work. There's no secret to it because we know ourselves better than others but learning from other people's experience may help us so it's not bad to read books about saving and financial literacy.
In my five years here in Thailand, I've realized when it comes to 'saving', one's salary grade does not matter. Whether our paychecks say, we only have 20,000 baht or as much as 50,000 baht if our lifestyle is beyond our means, saving is impossible.
So, from now on, I'll start saving...fingers crossed.