I've heard a lot of stories about OFWs and their financial difficulties when they come back to their families in the country. I did not work abroad to know how it feels and it really bothers me when a relative shares their stories. I am not an expert in money matters either but I am glad to have a husband who knows how to. But let me share the story of an OFW name, Christopher.
Christopher Cervantes was only twenty one years when he left his family to travel the world and work on an oil and chemical tanker ship. Later on after marrying and having kids with the woman of his dreams, he hoped to pay for the education of his children, and help his family live a comfortable life. He rose through the ship ranks, and soon became captain of the ship. As his salary began to increase, however, he noticed that the money he was sending home was not.
“I feel that OFWs, with most of us coming from a difficult financial background, aren’t used to handling large sums of cash. We’re overwhelmed by the sudden inflow of money,” Cervantes observed. “This is why we tend to buy the latest gadgets, go on outrageous shopping sprees, and splurge on leisure and recreation as if there were no tomorrow,” he further mused.
Eventually, Cervantes realized he had to take a more long-term and responsible approach to his finances. He began to read finance books such as “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, and started to talk to his crewmates about wealth management. In the midst of this newfound perspective, he arrived at one crucial realization: given the rising costs of education and living expenses, a high salary does not guarantee future security.
Despite all the studying Cervantes did on the ship, however, he still had no practical knowledge of how and where to begin investing. He was particularly interested in the stock market, but found it daunting. “At the time, I thought the stock market was only for wealthy businessmen in well-tailored suits. I was hesitant about investing my family’s money on a system I didn’t know much about,” he explained.
It seemed like divine intervention when Cervantes ran into a Philam Life financial advisor at a local fast food restaurant. The financial advisor then convinced the ship captain about the wisdom of life insurance and long-term financial planning, and soon Cervantes was passing on the same knowledge to his crewmates.
“I organized a regular group on the ship every Sunday,” Cervantes narrated. “My goal was to remind them of their original intentions for going abroad in the first place – to provide for their family. And I want to help them realize that the best way to do this is to think long-term, invest in stocks, equity funds, and life insurance plans to secure their family’s financial freedom,” he added.
Cervantes took this dedication for financial education even further by becoming a Registered Financial Planner. He noticed that although the majority of OFWs plan to retire by the age of 45, a good number end up working overseas even after becoming senior citizens, mainly due to poor financial planning. Chris on the other hand was able to retire at the age of 39.
“It really is my passion to teach people financial literacy. I believe that it is something we should all have, and to eliminate the misconceptions that only the rich can invest and be wise about their money.”
Nowadays, Cervantes holds regular financial literacy programs at his office in Philam Life Cubao. He is also the author of “Financial Planning in the Fast Changing World,”
“The Seed Money,” and the runner-up in Angat Pilipinas’s OFW Advocate of the Year award.
“My life would be very different if I were still on that boat,” said Cervantes. “Philam Life gave me such a big opportunity to turn my financial mind-set upside down, and it has changed my family’s life for the better. I encourage all my clients to do the same: invest in stocks, bonds and life insurance plans now.” he concluded.
To find out more about Philam Life’s Balikbayani Program, contact a Philam Life Kabalikat Financial Advisor or call 528-2000 or visit www.philamlife.com