(Business Mentor's notes: Anne Mitzi Lopez, 29, graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2007. She worked as a volunteer nurse in Zamboanga City Medical Center, then as a customer service representative for over a year. Later, she had a working stint as nurse for a specialized hospital in Saudi Arabia for four years. She loves writing short stories and novels in an online writing site. One of her write-ups, “The Five Direction,” won third runner-up in Wattpad AmbassadorPH’s opening line contest.)
MANILA - Ah, yes. It's payday tomorrow!
You can’t wait until your salary has been credited to your payroll account. You want to treat yourself with a scrumptious dinner at that not-too-fancy restaurant only a few blocks away from your flat. After all, you are allowed to reward yourself once in a while, right?
You have been working hard all week, and you deserve at least to have a decent meal unlike those nights you serve yourself a plate of instant mi goreng noodles. Oh, but you will have to stash away a portion of your salary for savings, of course. You’ve been meaning to open a bank account, but for some reasons you keep on postponing that plan. And then there’s the monthly allowance you send to your family. You are now in the middle of jotting down your grocery list when you hear your colleague groaning as if in pain.
“Hay naku! Naaalala lang ako ng mga kamag-anak ko tuwing sahod,” said one of your friends at work.
“Ako nga, kapapadala ko pa lang noong isang araw, humihingi na naman ngayon. Akala ata nila isa akong human ATM!” grumbled another.
Not surprisingly, though, you also receive a text message from a kamag-anak asking a special favor if you can sponsor the birthday of your niece, gifts included of course. Guess you’ll have to use the money you intended for opening your savings account. Ah, just one of the things you face every day.
Will this be forever your life as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW)?
It may strike a nerve, but this scenario is actually a common occurrence among OFWs. And in as much as we don’t want to sound ungrateful to our families and relatives back home, we sometimes cannot help ourselves but express these kinds of sentiments.
I have experienced working in Saudi Arabia for several years, made friends with fellow OFWs doing different kinds of work. Often times, they share their feelings on how their families do not give value to the sacrifices they make to give the ones they love back home a comfortable life.
The Not-Too-Noticeable Cycle
Looks familiar? If not, then let me explain the flow chart for you: That will be your future if you will not think and plan ahead. For most first timers, especially if you’re in your early twenties, you tend to get excited at the prospect of going abroad, chasing your dreams of providing a better life not just for yourself but for your family as well. But what most fail to realize is one might get trapped in a certain cycle so common for the OFWs if he or she is not prepared and equipped with the right mindset before embarking on a journey in search of a greener pasture.
It’s a lonely life out there, and it is not as good as it seems. Not everyone will be as blessed as the others. Not everyone will be living the dream. At one point, you will experience wanting to throw everything away and just go home because you can’t bear to stay away with your family for so long. Not everyone is as strong as the other. So what can you do to avoid whining at the end of the day?
How To Break The Cycle
You went overseas not only to provide for your family but also to help yourself. You want to give yourself a better life someday, too. You have already set your mind that you need to think about your future. But that won’t be enough. You also need to educate and prepare your family of your plans that would benefit not just you but them as well, to teach them how to be not too dependent or relying on you all the time. It will be a hard process, but doing little steps at a time can help you get there.
Now, how to go about doing that? Let’s see…here we go:
Breaking the Cycle #1: Budgeting will be your new favorite word.
We all know this word. Remember the time when mom used to tell you, “Oh, baon mo para sa isang linggo. I-budget mo ‘yan!” Sigh! Those were the days when your only problem was school and when you will receive your baon. But the difference this time, you and budget will be best friends. Sure, you have been doing this a lot, listing down this and that, but let me ask you: did you really stick to it? However, this does not only pertain to your monthly personal expenses but also for your family as well.
Talk with them until you come up with an agreement on a fixed amount you will be sending as part of your monthly budget. That way, your family will know what to expect from you.
Breaking the Cycle #2: Spend and wisely are a couple
Spend wisely. A common tip but hardly ever followed by most of us. Oh, but you are determined now more than ever, you say. That’s great! Still, if you will not also educate your family back home to do the same and live on a lifestyle that you can afford, they are bound to spend and spend more, going out of their budget and ending up asking you for extra. You have been scrimping and saving all the time, but your family has been living a lavish lifestyle--that won’t do at all.
Teach them to prioritize their expenses. You can also throw in the famous, “Is it a want, or a need?” line, point out the difference between the two. Spell out the scenario with your younger siblings. Buy the latest, high-end, flashy gadget and be the talk of the town or go to a good school? It is alright to reward yourself or your family once in a while because it is fulfilling to see the smile on their faces as they give their thanks to you over Skype.
Nevertheless, you may have a huge salary, but if your and your family’s expenses exceed that amount, you will never get out of that cycle. You will forever be working hard not to provide the needs of the family but to maintain the kind of lifestyle you yourself helped create.
Breaking the Cycle #3: The art of saying "no" is really not a bad thing
Your mom asked you to sponsor the celebration of your fiesta, you know, enough to feed the whole barangay if you can, to keep appearances of course. You said "yes."
Your tito wanted to loan money from you to buy a car for the whole family to use (your family included, he says.) You said "yes."
Your pamangkin is graduating and asks you a laptop as a graduation gift. After all, she really did work hard on her studies. You said "yes."
Your former kapitbahay-slash-friend texted you, asking to borrow money from you since their electricity bills are a month-long overdue. She reminded you of how she had helped you once when you were struggling with money yourself. You said "yes."
You have a soft spot for all of them so you gave an affirmative answer. Then you asked yourself, “Now where will I get the money?” Let me answer that for you: a.) You will use your savings; or b.) You will make a loan/borrow money from someone and end up having a debt of your own.
It is so rare for OFWs to admit that they are short of funds. And everyone back home seems to think that OFWs are an endless source of cash, that money never runs out in your wallet, that you always have an extra cash on hand. Let us try to break that myth, because not everyone working overseas is doing well. And, as much as you want to keep everyone in constant happiness, you must also set some boundaries. Say "no" if you have to.
Breaking the Cycle #4: The back-up plan
So, you were able to stick to your budget, resisted the call of flashy things in the mall, was able to teach your family how to manage their finances, learned that saying "no" is not a bad thing (although it did really break your heart to say it)…then what?
Remember that time when you wanted to open a savings account but you didn’t because for some reasons you were always buying time to do it? Of course you do. Now try doing it now. And while doing that, think of some unforeseeable crisis that you or your family might encounter.
Any health issues to deal with? How about if you decide to quit being an OFW? How do you see yourself for the next, say 10-20 years? While it is perfectly fine to help our family back home (and to be honest, isn’t that our primary reason why we went abroad to work?), our family also needs to understand that we won’t be an OFW forever. We must all remember this: nothing is permanent in this world. So is your job. So is your salary.
Emergencies can also arise anytime in the future, and we (that includes us OFW and our family) must be prepared for it at all times. Your family, as well as yourself, must set up funds for those unexpected events.
Breaking the Cycle #5: Debt of gratitude
A family is the basic unit of society. And, as Filipinos, it is already inherent for us to pay our debt of gratitude to our parents who raised us, and to family members who helped us. We love our family, and as a sign of our love and gratefulness, we exhaust everything we have to give them a comfortable life, and there is nothing wrong with that.
But wouldn’t it be better if you show your gratitude by helping them to be not too dependent on you, just like how your parents had wished you to be independent when you set out in the real world?
You are helping your family, but they also need to learn how to help themselves. For instance, why not offer your assistance and suggest to them to put up a business at home? They could try putting up a business that interests them or consider franchising if starting from scratch intimidates them. That way, they wouldn’t have to rely on you all the time. They will also be able to save money for themselves, too.
These are common tips we oftentimes ignore. A family will always be family, but helping them the right way is what makes you a loving son/daughter.
For questions and more information, you may contact Armando "Butz" Bartolome by email: [email protected] or on Twitter https://twitter.com/philfranguru. His website is www.gmb.com.ph