MANILA, Philippines - There’s been much ado about how Filipinos working overseas are putting our economy in a sweet spot.
That is something the whole economy must applaud, but then at some point, the OFW must face his own economic mortality and ask: "Until when am I going to be a hero for everyone and start being a hero for myself?”
Imelda Dagus started working in Yemen right after college as a flight attendant. She has worked and lived abroad for 25 years —more than half her life, far away from her home in Jolo, Sulu.
This September, however, she is finally coming home. She reached out to entrepreneurship expert Chit Juan, who inspired her to expand her father’s coffee shop called Dennis’ Coffee Shop.
She will leave a high-paying job in Oman in an oil and gas exploration company to promote Sulu coffee culture in Zamboanga, using her ancestral home as a venue for a unique coffee shop experience.
In the process, she’s also providing employment and hope for her people in war-torn Jolo. Imelda is now an ambassador for entrepreneurship and financial literacy among OFWs. And she is pumped up for her new adventure.
“I have found that bag of gold and I wanted to share it with friends, family, everybody. And what is surprising is that you start talking about these things, but nobody seemed to really believe. Like I found a bag of gold, would you like to share it with me? And nobody would… Come on. It’s just uh… Maybe you’re pulling our leg. But the truth is, that’s what I really feel. Like opening your eyes and knowing what this financial literacy is all about. It’s really a big thing to living your dreams," Dagus said.
Dagus said she found it hard to come home because she was so distracted by the ease of living in first-world countries and shopping, among other things.
“You see one bag, and then you like the color, you like the style, this year you see another color, at least two. And you don’t really think about it. So looking back, when I have realized what I have been doing in the past, I really consider myself you know, like, why did I act so stupidly before? My message is that I hope people will realize that this retail therapy is really something that OFWs must learn to control," she said.
But all that changed when she started getting hooked on financial literacy in 2008 and realized that she had to build a roof while it wasn’t raining yet.
"You don’t want to end one day, but of course, it’s an illusion. It will have to stop one day whether we like it or not. So to me, we might as well prepare for that," she said.
Dagus bought five condominiums which is now valued at around P16 million. She also has savings in the bank for emergency funds, and a start-up capital of P2 million for her business. She has realized that she shouldn't have some of her money and properties, but now, she knows better.
She lost money to scammers. One of whom was her downline in a network marketing business. But she refused to be defeated. She consistently saved money and was wise of her spending.
Dagus' financial awakening allowed her to save and invest to provide additional income for herself and her family. She could have achieved so much more with a concrete strategy and financial plan but what she has done is already a major achievement.
For overseas Filipinos who want to come home for good, find a way to do the following:
1. Have a clear mindset that the income will end at retirement age.
First, have a clear mindset that one day, all of the things you enjoy will disappear. So you should prepare to come home as early as you can.
"When you find that work abroad, it is the ultimate goal, because I think that is what the OFWs miss. They forget to do the exit plan. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’ve signed the contract abroad. This is it. This is the ultimate goal.’ And then they get trapped in that comfort zone if you will and never plan of coming back," Dagus said.
2. Prepare financially.
Don’t just save. Invest your money. Learn about creating passive income.
"Saving is not actually making your money grow, because you lose on inflation. If you save your P1,000 today, it will not be P1,000 in value tomorrow. So I think financially, Filipinos have also to prepare," she said.
3. Build the skills of an entrepreneur.
"OFWs in particular should think of building a business back home instead of coming back and looking for another job, because you will definitely not get the kind of income that you earned overseas back in the Philippines," she said.
Dagus said the truth is, most OFWs are afraid to leave their jobs and come home.
However, OFWs should look beyond your current comfort zones. Coming home for good will turn from dream to reality only when you push yourself to make goals and move from wishful thinking into creating a concrete plan.