It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 hit the entire world. What began as a health crisis evolved into an economic slowdown on a global scale. Among the sectors severely affected were Filipino migrant workers who lost jobs, some had to return to the country and others unable to work abroad again. From 2.2 million OFWs deployed in 2019, it dropped to 549,000 in 2020 causing a significant decline also in remittances sent from OFWs in countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan and United Kingdom. However, OFWs sent more money to their families in this time of an economic downturn or crisis. The effects of the pandemic extend from an OFWS’ physical, emotional, mental and financial aspect. What the past year taught us is that being wise with money allows us to be flexible during these uncertain times. To prevent us from being drained again – whether we’re talking about our energies or our pockets, here’s a list of what we need to start or keep doing:
Setup an emergency fund
OFWs have always been the go-to persons when there are immediate needs like emergencies. When someone gets sick, hospitalized or affected by a calamity, they are urged to send money right away. Building your emergency fund can help you fund these immediate unexpected expenses without hurting your daily finances. The ideal emergency fund is at least three to six months of you and your family’s expenses. Be wise in categorizing what is an emergency for you and your family. Another’s emergency should not necessarily be taken out of your emergency fund. “We never want to count on the kindness of strangers in order to meet tomorrow’s obligations. When forced to choose, I will not trade even a night’s sleep for the chance of extra profits.” – Warren Buffet
Manage your Debts or your Debt will Control You
Borrowing money can become the frequent answer when you don’t have an emergency fund. OFW families also tend to borrow money in anticipation of remittance from their family abroad. Some OFWS also had to borrow money to work abroad and spent years of working to pay up debts. Debt is not always bad. Ideally, if you borrow to acquire appreciating assets in exchange of low interest rates, this is considered as wise borrowing. Monitor up to when you will be paying up each debt. Once you’re done with a loan or borrowing, you now have extra cash which you can allocate in other financial aspects like emergency funds, protection and investments.
Consistently Manage your Family Expenses
OFW families must be involved in controlling expenses and debt. As a family, it is not only you who needs to live within your means but also your family in the Philippines. Celebrations can be made simpler, buying gadgets as gifts should be based on needs and not on the want to keep up with the latest trends and consistently planning your budget keeps you on top of your finance.You need to teach your partner or family in tracking expenses vs remittance you sent. Involving your family include planning how long will you be working abroad, why expense must be within or below your salary and why your family needs to save or invest for more important matters, like education or a home. This can help your family support you in other ways, such as putting more value with your gifts by taking good care of their gadgets, laptops or home appliances, aspiring for scholarships to lower the cost of education, taking part in household chores to lessen the cost of helpers and getting part-time jobs during vacation.
Find other source of income for both the breadwinner and the family
Your family can maximize your remittances by using some as capital for online business, putting up a sari-sari store and other income-generating businesses that may add to the day-to-day needs or to build the family’s savings. You can also look around your area and determine opportunities to part-time based on your untapped or unused skills. As they say, “Find a problem that you can solve with your skills. Then why not get paid to do it?”. While you only have 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week, taking extra jobs or part-time opportunities will surely take up a lot of your personal time. So, think about ways where your money can work for you instead of you working for your money all the time. If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die. – Warren Buffet
Protect your income, protect your family
As we grow our income, we become wiser with how we can keep our income and our family safe. Ensure that you have corresponding HMO and insurance in the country you work.
Invest in your most important resource – yourself
Whether working in the Philippines or abroad, your current job may soon become obsolete or redundant. By continuously developing yourself, gaining new knowledge and skills, you discover better opportunities. You don’t need to go out of the industry you belong to, as they say invest in your circle of competence. It can be driving, learning MS office, writing a book about your experiences, blogging or vlogging. “The most important investment you can make is in yourself. The more you learn, the more you earn.” – Warren Buffet
Invest regularly and invest wisely
When you think of 3, 5, 10 or 20 years from now, what do you want to achieve for you and your family? What are your goals? How long do you plan to save up for these goals? How much are you willing to set aside to fund these goals? What instruments can help you reach your goals given your personal factors?These are important questions you should answer before jumping into any investment trends or riding with the hype. Finding an investment consultant can help you determine whether an investment product is suitable for you given the time and effort you have. If you have a full-time job and find it complex to study trends, investing in pooled funds like Mutual Fundsis best for you. Here, you leave the worries to the fund manager’s expertise. Always match your investment horizon (how far are you from your goal) with the type of investments you will choose. Rule of thumb is, in short-term – be more conservative, in long-term – be more aggressive. But be wary of investments that give you very high returns over the short term. In investing, time is your friend. Funding your child’s education or your retirement earlier can play a big role with how soon you can realize these goals. “Successful investing takes time, discipline, and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”- Warren BuffetThe above are only best practices that you can immediately start doing. You can focus on paying your debt first, then managing your expenses and eventually building your emergency funds, protection and investments. “Less wants now, more savings in the future, the closer you can come home”. Source:AAG_Migration and Remittances amidst COVID 19_final.pdf (senate.gov.ph)
About the Author
Ruth Chaneco, CIS, LPT is an experienced Training Manager at First Metro Asset. She has 14 years of demonstrated history of working in the process outsourcing and financial industry.