Property. It’s a rich man’s game. Risky. That’s not my thing. Security. Think again!
These are common initial thoughts shared by Filipino expatriates when it comes to investing in the Philippines. But you can’t blame a majority of Filipinos having pessimistic views about putting money in a market marred by extreme corruption, red tapes, monopoly, overlaps of national law and local ordinances among others. The Philippines, however, has now emerged as one of the economic darlings for investment by many large multinational firms, including Goldman Sachs (which named the Philippines as one of its Eleven-Next or N-11 economies). But just because there’s a mention of Goldman Sachs doesn’t mean that Filipinos on the grassroots level can’t play the game.
Simply defined, to invest means to purchase an asset or accumulate physical entities to gain financial return. So for you, it could mean investing in stocks, mutual funds, bonds, real estate, or starting up your own business. It all depends on what type of investment vehicle interests you most. Whether you’re a high or a low risk taker, or one with a big or small investment, what investing really means is finding ways to increase your income other than your regular job. But why bother investing your money or savings in the Philippines when your life abroad is better off? Why not? The more better off your life is, the more you should consider investing, if not for yourself, then for your family or community back home. For who else is at an advantage point when investing in the Philippines other than you, a SMART overseas Filipino investor?
Look for Sustainable solutions
Not everyone who left the Philippines for work abroad ends up marrying a local, settling down abroad indefinitely, and/or changing citizenship. Being an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) or a migrant in a foreign land is usually temporary. So is the job that you are holding onto. Someday you’ll have to return home, and once you do, how sustainable your life will be when you’re out of job and can no longer compete in the Philippine job market? How great it would be when you can reunite with family and friends without having the need to struggle for a better life (the very reason you left the country in the first place)? Fortunately, that quality of reunification is possible if you start re-assessing yourself and your long-term goals, allocating your (financial) resources wisely, saving a percentage of your income on a regular basis, and allowing your money to work for you! Needless to say, there is just a high demand of solutions to copious (social) problems in the Philippines, making the country a huge potential market for growth especially for social businesses. Hence, wouldn’t it be great to put your money in investment vehicles that would bring you, your family and the Filipino community a lasting benefit?
Invest in Meaningful projects
Nearly 30% of the Filipino population is living below the poverty line and about 2% is wealthy, ranking investment the very least priority on majority of Filipinos’ budgeting plans (if there’s any). But the fact that you made it abroad qualifies you to that 70% of Filipinos who can make a difference in the society with your choices. Those choices include selecting the type of investment vehicle that brings you more financial return, social responsibility, and life’s fulfillment. Few examples are as follows: (1) Invest in the Philippine stock market but only after conducting due diligence on the company you’re investing into; make sure it’s a healthy firm with a balance cash flow and operating profit, among few other considerations. (2) If real estate is your thing, you can buy condominiums, house and lot, or beach resorts and rent them out to foreign or Filipino businessmen, expats, or travelers to put your money at work. (3) Start your own business with a person you trust and someone equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for your business to succeed- be it a sari-sari store, livelihood projects for the community, a for-profit organization, or something else that you’re most passionate about and that solves a problem.
Protect your investment with Achievable plans
When you find promising investment vehicles presented by say financial advisors or real estate agents, you’re one step ahead but don’t fall into the trap of quick decision- making (i.e. signing a contract or transferring your money) without due diligence and planning. Take some time to educate yourself about investing in the Philippines, do some research on relevant policies, gather and understand all available information about your investment(s), make a sound business plan when starting up your own business, and more importantly learn about financial literacy and entrepreneurship (courses that weren’t really highlighted in the Philippine educational system). Having a thorough understanding of what you’re doing and where you’re operating enables you to make achievable plans because with your enhanced knowledge and skills, you can effectively assess risks, estimate costs, plan alternatives, and project outcomes. With due diligence and planning, you can protect yourself and your savings from frauds and huge losses, among some other investment disasters.
Be aware of Relevant policies and support
From the government side alone, there’s the Livelihood Development Program for OFWs, a joint undertaking of the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) and the National Livelihood Support Fund (OWWA-NSLF LDPO). This program for OFWs, OFW-family members and organizations provides entrepreneurial development services (in trading, services, manufacturing, and agri-business sectors) plus a maximum loan of PHP200,000 (for individual borrower) or PHP1 million (for legally organized group of at least 5 members). Similarly, there’s also the OFW Reintegration Program that offers a minimum business loan of PHP300,000 to returning OFWs. When it comes to investing in stocks, the Philippines Stock Exchange (PSE) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have already established safeguards to protect your rights as an investor such as the Securities Investors Protection Fund, Risk Based Capital Adequacy, the Market Integrity Board, and few others. Keep searching for more information about policies and support relevant to your investment(s). With Internet and information everywhere, you can find almost everything you want to know- from professional Filipino bloggers (like Zigfred Diaz, Richard Macalintal, or Bo Sanchez) to numerous data and resources available on government websites.
List Tangible benefits of your investment plans
One great thing about having achievable plans is that you can project outcomes and see tangible results of your investments. You can see your money in stock market providing you extra income, while working on your regular job or unwinding on a holiday. With your startup or funded livelihood project(s), you see the number of jobs you’ve created for skillful but unemployed women and/or men in your local community. Can you also see how your well-planned and executed business plan is bringing you or your family a stable source of income, from which you’ll be saving more or less 10% of it on a regular basis for other future investments? List down as many tangible benefits as you can from your investment(s), including the fact that you’re already making a valuable contribution in helping alleviate poverty and fostering economic development in the Philippines. Inevitably, you’ll come across difficult times that can force you to give up and withdraw from your commitments, but such a list can constantly remind you that it’s worth finishing what you have started. For that’s the true spirit of a SMART overseas Filipino investor!
About the author
Myra Colis is a Filipino entrepreneur who believes in the power of data in driving businesses to success. She provides consumer market research, communications/marketing, and skills training support to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Europe via her own startup company, E3 Data Intelligence Services. Her fields of expertise and professional experiences are in mass media communications, education, and business management.