By Gil Tenorio
Because I’m an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW ) and there are many Filipinos working abroad, I would like to take this time to give some tips and advice to them especially for new OFW s. In my family, we are three OFWs – first is my father who worked in Saudi for more than 10 years and my sister who worked in Syria for three years. I would say it is really hard to work in a foreign land particularly if your job is a difficult one like if you’re a house helper, construction worker or a seaman.
There are lots of reasons why Filipinos want to work abroad but it boils to one major goal: to get a higher salary or income. I believe it is the greatest factor why anyone would go in a foreign land to work without knowing what will happen to him or her in that place. Some people considered OFWs as the new heroes because they help boost the Philippine economy through the billions of dollars of remittances they send to our country every year. Personally, I don’t think I’m a hero because of only that. Being a hero is on a different level for me; it involves sacrifices and unselfish interest for the sake of the country.
For new OFWs, I would like to give you some tips on how to take care of your finances before and after working abroad. I’ve been working in South Korea for more than four years and I’m thankful I learned about personal finance and investing through reading books, blogs and discussions with my co-Filipino workers. I would say there is a very small percentage of OFWs who are financially educated.
I would like to give an example to back up my assumption here. First and foremost, I’ve been receiving many emails and comments from this blog how to open a savings account among OFWs around the world. What’s the problem about this situation? You are working abroad but you don’t have a bank account in the Philippines?
First Tip: Before leaving the Philippines, open a savings account in a reputable bank and enroll that account to Internet banking.
Personally, I recommend Bank of the Philippine Islands or BPI because they have one of the best products and services among the banks in our country. I also do have other bank accounts like ChinaBank and Metrobank. It is very important to have your own savings account because it is where you should put your hard-earned money or use when sending money to the Philippines. You should select a popular and established bank so that you can have a guarantee that it will not bankrupt easily.
Your savings account should be enrolled to Internet banking the moment you open a new bank account so that you can monitor your balance and remittances through the Internet and anywhere you are. It will give you much comfort when you can view your account even though you are outside the Philippines.
Second Tip: Arrange a way on how you can give money to your family with out giving them your ATM or bank account.
There are many OFWs that ask questions to me about how to open an account from abroad. Sadly, our banking system does not allow that kind of situation so it is very important to open one before leaving the country. When you are there working for quite some time, there will come a time when you need to send money to Philippines especially if you have a family that is depending on you. In this case, you should send money to your own savings account in the Philippines and not to other people’s accounts.
Since you have online banking, you will know the result of your remittance if it is already credited to your account. I used BPI Express Cash as a way to give money to my parents and siblings during emergency and regular giving even though I have my own family. You can apply Express Cash in their own name or to any person you want. The application cost is only P100.
After I received my remittance to my own account, I will just transfer a certain balance to Express Cash and then the beneficiary can withdraw it anytime after I successfully transferred the money.
Third Tip: If you possibly can, learn how to save and invest.
Since you have your own savings account, it is easier now for you to save money from your salary. Normally, if you are working in a company, you will be given a local bank account in your current country and use it for your banking needs in that place. You can schedule the frequency of sending money to your Philippine bank so that you could save money on remittance fees. In that way, you can start saving money in your savings account in the Philippines.
While working abroad, you could start investing so your money will also work for you. You may begin investing in low-risk or high-risk investments such as UITFs, mutual funds, stocks, apartments, online and other types of business.
Gil Tenorio is an OFW and the blogger behind Financial Management Blog (FMB) at learnfinancialeducation.com, a free source of information on financial education that is focused on saving, investing and making money.