My Biggest OFW Mistake and 10 Ways to Not Fall for It

Till this day, I still can’t figure out why I made my biggest OFW mistake in my first year in Canada.

At that time I thought I was doing the right thing for my family back home and for myself because I’m following a tradition.

Follow the herd. I thought. A year later I snapped out of the bad habit consuming my savings, time, and energy.

So what was my biggest OFW mistake? I sent balikbayan boxes in the Philippines.

I have good reasons why I claimed it was the biggest mistake I made as an OFW . . . so far. Here me out. We can agree to disagree. Can’t we?

There’s nothing wrong in sending balikbayan boxes. I love receiving chocolates as a kid and sending groceries and stuff as an adult.

Related Post: Term Insurance in the Philippines

So Why the Change of Hearts

Biggest OFW MistakeMy heart says I still want to show I care for my family but my mind says there are other ways to do so.

What happened was that I was giving way too much beyond I can afford: balikbayan boxes and remittance.

I neither accumulated debt nor way go beyond my spending budget for myself. OK, so what went wrong with being kind?

I wasn’t being kind to myself.

I wasn’t saving and investing for my future.

Every month, I managed to save a hundred on TFSA, but when the going gets tough my saving went missing.

It’s an endless cycle.

The Crucial Conversation

When I decided to change the habit of sending boxes and remittance, I knew I have to talk to my family back home with honesty and humility.

I don’t have a high salary nor personal expenses. (I wasn’t paying any car and dental insurance at that time except life insurance.)

The solution: My family has to choose whether I send a balikbayan box or send money to the Philippines.

I settled for monthly remittance for my parents. It is something I want to do out of love and NOT obligation.

My family understand my situation. It was just me all along following the OFW tradition of sending balikbayan boxes without moderation.

Now I only send two boxes a year. My family and I look forward to it like Christmas. I am excited to pack the essential items while they anticipate the arrival of their gifts and letter (not in the tone of Maalaala Mo Kaya.)

The best part is that I don’t have any guilt that I’m turning into Ebenezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted miser in the story A Christmas Carol.

My story has a happy ending afterall. I wish that you’ll do better.

10 Ways to Avoid My Biggest OFW Mistake

You can both a happy investor and giver who expects nothing in return other than investment return (dividends, capital gains, etc.)

To make it happen, let’s focus on what are the RIGHT ways to do to become a responsible OFW.

As an INVESTOR use your time, energy, and money to:

#1: Read personal finance books. It doesn’t have to be about technical analysis. You can start with Financial Planning For the Fast Changing World by Christopher G. Cervantes. I think by far, this is the best book recommendation I can give to newbie investor. This book went back and forth from Philippines to Canada. My friend is already having fun reading it because I highlighted the important notes.

#2: Read blogs/magazine about personal finance. In the Canadian setting, I can recommend Canadian Couch Potato by Dan Bortolotti. Because of this guy, I am now a huge fan of index investing. You can also subscribe for notification if there’s something new on Moneysense and Globe and Mail on which you shouldn’t miss the article by Rob Carrick.

#3: Watch YouTube videos. It’s nice to watch and laugh at dogs trying to get away with their mischief of strategically snatching treats or human food. But make sure you’ll only spend a few minutes and devote most of your time watching Preet Banerjee on Money School. Learning is easier while watching.

#4: Attend a seminar offered by banks and libraries. Here in Calgary, the Calgary Public Library gives free seminars to newcomers about saving, budgetting, and investing. Visit your local library and find out any finance-related events.

#5: Apply what you learn. Use all the knowledge that you learn to share it to others and apply to YOUR situation and goal. Start small. Open up an RRSP or TFSA. Avoid paying high fees. Try online banking for free chequing account.

As a dedicated OFW, show your love and support in different ways:

#6: Keep an open communication. By this I mean both sides are listening and respecting each others opinion especially if it’s about money matter. Money can do great things for people to a certain degree. Make sure that you become transparent with your expenses and goals and encourage your family to do the same.

#7: Create something personal for a love one. You don’t always have to buy gifts for your family. Why not write a letter and share your experiences overseas. It’s easy to buy a Christmas card that sings “Jingle Bells” every time it is opened but nothing is better than a heartfelt written words.

Draw something or make a bracelet. DIY stores in Canada are everywhere. You can find something that is worth spending time to create for a family back home.

#8: Save money for vacation. Everyone needs a break. With the money that you can save by not sending too many balikbayan boxes, you can go to any country or Philippines. If you’re homeward bound, make sure to set a budget. Don’t go overboard. Refer to #6 if you feel the pressure to spend more.

#9: Prepare a retirement plan. On your trip in the Philippines, you can open a bank account for saving and investing through online discount brokerage like COL Financial.

Become a member of Pag-IBIG (and the Modified Pag-IBIG Program) if you plan to buy a house in the Philippines. The premium also serves as retirement savings. There’s also the SSS and PhilHealth.

No matter how long an OFW has worked overseas, at one point, Philippines is still the final destination. (Don’t you agree?) Avail all the benefits of government programs for OFW so you can comfortably retire while sharing the blessings of hard work and knowledge.

#10: Love yourself. I’m not a huge fan of Justin Bieber but I love singing his song Love Yourself whenever no one is around especially when I’m driving. After or before the hard work, don’t forget to take care of yourself. In fact it should be your priority. How can anyone accomplish anything if you’re taking medicine every 4 to 6 hours and sleeping for the rest of the day.

With the 10 remedies, I hope you can take the prosperous path and inspire others working overseas or in the Philippines.

Out of the recommendations, which one are you doing right now? Can you add some more tips.

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About Pwede Padala Gal

Pwede Padala Gal loves to share tips on how to save in Canada and the Philippines. Someday she'll finally teach her Aspin at least one dog trick and keep a cactus alive. Chat with her on Facebook and reddit.

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