Filipino families are all too familiar with financial problems. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re experiencing financial problems right now, and you want to find ways to improve your situation. Or maybe you simply want to be proactive and prevent difficult times.
There’s a saying that goes, “A wise person learns from their mistakes, but a wiser person learns from the mistakes of others.” With these words in mind, I share our family’s experiences in the hope of offering some comfort and foresight, so that you may come out of life’s challenges with less struggles and more fulfillment.
Snapshots of our family’s financial struggles
My father was a TV commercial director, and my mother was his project coordinator. At 40 years old, my father had made his first million pesos. We could afford a brand new car every few months, buy all the branded clothes and electronics, and my two eldest siblings both went to exclusive universities. Life was good for our family.
But then the economic crisis and a few financial missteps happened. My parents found themselves walking out of the bank, box of loose items in hand, after surrendering the last car we ever had. From that time, buying branded items and eating out at restaurants became a once-in-a-blue-moon luxury. Things got so hard that, in grade school, I had to sit alone in the library for hours while my classmates checked each other’s exam papers; my family couldn’t afford to pay the tuition so I wasn’t allowed to take the exams.
Looking back, I realize there were financial decisions we could have made so life didn’t have to be as hard as it was. The thing is, it’s one thing to know what to do; it’s another thing to take action. (Read: The Knowledge-Behavior Gap) Sometimes, we may know the right thing to do (like save money or invest for the future), but it can be harder to actually do it.
Here are financial problems my family went through and practical tips on how you can apply money principles in real life.
Losing our house after buying audio recording equipment
Ideal: Research and make a plan before starting a business.
Reality: It can be tempting to jump into a business without thinking things through, especially at the chance of earning a large amount of money.
Somewhere at the peak of my parents’ careers, they decided to import the latest audio recording equipment from abroad. The promise of good business caused my parents to hurriedly purchase the equipment and rent a studio in Makati. They had overlooked one detail: the equipment was so advanced that no one in the Philippines was equipped enough to help them run the business. And so they had to spend months and months to train people and pay for the rent— all the while cashing out thousands of pesos, without any money coming in. This situation ultimately led to my parents having to give up our house to pay for debt.
How to avoid this misstep:
- Be patient. Do your research and consult with people who could help you make wise business decisions.
From over one million pesos to nothing
Ideal: Pay yourself first (i.e. set aside your savings before spending money).
Reality: It’s hard to practice delayed gratification when you’re in the moment.
After years of frugal living (e.g. rare to zero occasions of dining out and shopping), my parents had another big break with a high-paying project. We knew the ideal thing to do was to save or invest some of the money, but we kept putting it off for instant luxuries. We were simply happy to treat ourselves after all those years of prioritizing needs over wants. I’ll always be thankful for my parents’ generosity, but I realize there could have been ways to better safeguard our future and sustain our acquired wealth: by saving and investing.
About two years went by, and our money eventually ran out. We were back to where we started, having to, once again, make ends meet by forgoing the wants to prioritize our needs. If we found a way to invest our money early on or start a small business, perhaps our income would have become more sustainable.
How to avoid this misstep:
- Invest a portion of your money to ensure that your wealth won’t be short-lived.
- Write down your values on paper. You can sit down with your family to align on these values. Do you value family time, personal growth, or acts of service? Write them down.
- From there, you can plan and make sure you spend your money on these values, so that you’re sure to spend on the things that truly matter to you.
- How To Become A Millionaire? Use Your Allowance As Training
- How Do Successful Working Students Earn And Save Money?
Two college kids, bi-weekly dialysis treatments, and four mouths to feed
Ideal: Set up your insurance and retirement fund to secure your future.
Reality: Old age or sickness seems like lightyears away, so investing in your future is the least of your concerns.
My parents were, unfortunately, unable to set up their insurance and retirement fund. When they were younger, sickness and old age just seemed so far away. But life happens fast. In 2010, my father suddenly got diagnosed with kidney failure. We all didn’t see it coming, and so it was a struggle to come up with the funds for his medical expenses on top of sending us to school and covering our daily needs. Had we invested in a retirement fund, we could’ve been more prepared, allowing us to focus on enjoying moments together as a family, instead of worrying every day about money.
How to avoid this misstep:
- Set aside a sum of money every year for your retirement fund. The earlier you start, the better.
- Sign up for an insurance plan. Your future self will thank you.
- Beginner’s guide on investing: How I Opened My Own Trust Fund at 24 Years Old
We’ve gone through years and years of financial problems, but fortunately, we managed and worked with what we had. Financial intelligence—in the form of good spending and saving habits—was a skill my family slowly learned along the way. This goes to show it’s never too late to make better money decisions. And by doing so, we can strive for a more worry-free, enjoyable life.
Maybe you already know what you and your family should be doing now in order to avoid the struggles my family went through. Truly, it’s one thing to know what needs to be done, but it’s another thing to take action.
It can be hard to plan for a future you don’t see yet; but real-life experiences from other people can provide you a glimpse into your own future—and what you can do to make sure it’s a good one.
You can start by asking all your family members to take the FQ Test and see where you all stand!