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'Emotions preventing OFWs from financial success'

HONG KONG – What emotions are preventing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from achieving financial success? What needs to change?

For Analyn Regulacion, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for more than 5 years, it was guilt.

"My relatives would blackmail me emotionally, especially my siblings, to give them financial support. If I don't give them money, they would make me feel guilty. I would cry by myself because I couldn't help them," a teary-eyed Regulacion recalled. (READ: Changing mindsets: Teaching financial literacy to OFWs in HK)

She added: "I left the Philippines when my child was only 3 months old to work abroad. I was able to send all my siblings to school but I realized I was left behind. I wasn't saving for myself."

This is common for many OFWs, who usually send most of their earnings to their families back home. In March 2016 alone, OFW remittances hit a record-high $2.7 billion

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in 2012, the Philippine economy cannot do without cash remittances from its overseas workers. Cash sent to the country, the World Bank also noted, is a "key factor" for the Philippines' resilience.

Emotions blocking financial success

Aside from guilt, Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Inc (SEDPI) president and CEO Vince Rapisura said fear, anger, envy, and shame also prevent OFWs from being financially independent.

"Because of shame, for example, we tend to cover up reality with luxuries we cannot afford. We want to save our family name by tolerating bad financial habits and solving other members' financial problems," Rapisura said during a Financial Literacy, Leadership, and Social Entrepreneurship (FLSE) workshop for OFWs on Sunday, May 29.

Envy is another problem, according to Rapisura, as OFWs may feel discontent with their achievements and compare these with other OFWs' accomplishments.

"Focus on how people achieve things and not what they achieve. Take time to also recognize and congratulate yourself," he said. (READ: What you need to know about overseas Filipino workers)

To help counter bad financial habits, Rapisura encouraged OFWs to focus on positive emotions – courage, joy, and contentment. 

Financial stages

During the workshop, Rapisura showed OFWs a guide to help them monitor their resources – the so-called financial life stages.

"The financial life stages provide a guide for people to assess their financial health. It provides a framework for people to understand what to prepare financially to enjoy a full and meaningful life," he said. 

Based on the framework, workers are encouraged to start saving from 21 to 22 years old, when most people enter the workforce.

The financial independence stage, when passive income is expected to increase to up to 10%, comes at 23 to 25 years old.

The growth stage, from 26 to 45 years old, is when passive income is expected to grow from 11% to 50%.

The stabilization stage, when the highest income is enjoyed and expenses start to decrease, is from 46 to 60 years old. 

The ultimate goal is to achieve financial freedom at the age of retirement or 60 years old.

Many of the 60 OFWs who attended the workshop expressed disappointment over their savings while working abroad.

"I was able to help my relatives while I was the one feeling miserable away from them. I realized I should be helping myself [attain financial independence] first," Regulacion said.

Most important asset

Rapisura emphasized that while OFWs need to support their immediate families, they should, first and foremost, take care of themselves. 

"Remember that your most important asset is yourself. Build your courage and gain the confidence to be self-sufficient and self-reliant," Rapisura said. 

He added: "At our age, money management is a life skill that we should be able to master to gain financial freedom in the shortest possible time."

EYE-OPENER. Domestic helper Analyn Regulacion says learning financial literacy will help her end her stint as an OFW in Hong Kong.

Photo by David Lozada/Rappler

For OFWs like Regulacion, the workshop was an eye-opener.  

"There are so many things I should have been doing the past years. I did not have any financial plans before this session but now I know how much I should be saving. I now have a target of when I will end my work here in Hong Kong and go back home," she said.

The event was held in partnership with the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), Wimler Foundation, UGAT Foundation, and the Overseas Filipinos' Society for the Promotion of Economic Security (OFSPES). After completing tasks in other online courses and modules, OFW participants will be awarded a diploma on FLSE by ASoG. – 

There are jobs available for OFWs in the Philippines, too. Click here to apply for jobs on Kalibrr.