Can You Afford To Retire In The Philippines?

Can You Afford To Retire In The Philippines?

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Table Of Contents


Moving To The Philippines Won't Solve Money Problems

One important question that never stops popping up among those who are considering a move to the Philippines is “How can I make money in the Philippines?” 

There is no simple and easy answer. 

If you have money problems in the US, then your money problems will be compounded not solved by moving to the Philippines – that is the most likely truth. If you are already frugal and like a simple life, then possibly you can find a way to stretch a limited and or fixed income in the Philippines. 

It is true that the cost of living can be considerably less in the Philippines. Much of that can be accounted for by a change in lifestyle. Just getting out of the rat race mentality can help to place the brakes on spending. 

You really do not have to keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses don’t really know why they are spending all of their money on junk that they do not need...they just want you to be jealous.

You Won't Find A job In The Philippines

Unless you are being sent to the Philippines as an employee with a foreign company you will not have much luck in finding gainful employment here. There is stiff competition for jobs and plenty of aggressive young college grads to snap them up. Can you compete with that? Plus, as a foreigner, you will not be a preferred pick. And even then, wages are low by Western standards. 

According to a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, airline pilots earned an average salary equivalent to about $25,000 in 2016. In the US they earned about $125,000 on average. The same report pegged computer programmers’ yearly salary at about $12,000.

It is possible for a tiny minority of expats to find niche employment in teaching English, working in a call center or even in the Philippine TV and movie industry if you can act and fit the role.

The vast majority of expats will have no options for earning a living wage in the Philippines.

You Might Be Able To Start A Business In The Philippines

If you already have money, then perhaps you can make money. It’s a matter of your situation, how much risk you are comfortable with and how you might plan to mitigate that risk. It is very possible to lose a great deal of money in the Philippines. The Internet has no shortage of evidence to that extent. 

If your asawa is business savvy and knows how to navigate the business environment, then you just might have a fighting chance in starting your own business. But the business environment is daunting, and again, quite competitive.

You might think that you can make money online and perhaps you can. There are hundreds of thousands of expats in the Philippines. How many of them make a decent living online? I can name a handful, but most of them got their start stateside. I will probably never make a single peso online.

Coming To The Philippines With Big Dreams And No Plan = Big Trouble 

Before you come to the Philippines you must count the cost. There are a great many people who come to the Philippines and finding themselves desperate turn to unlawful means to secure an income. They end up deported, dead or rotting in some jail. Is that how you want to spend your retirement? 

You need to understand the total cost of living and how that your income will or will not be capable to cover it not just in the present, but far into the future. Will your income be able to cope with increasing costs?

Be very cautious about promises from other people and assurances of what you will find in the Philippines. Many times the promises evaporate not long after landing in Manila. Before you come to the Philippines you must first make certain that you can bear the cost and the risk. You need to factor in the return home, as it might become necessary. Do not burn your bridges if you can avoid it.

Will you be able to return to the US if you must? Will you be able to afford that move? What if you run out of resources after having been in the Philippines for many years? You may have grown too old to find gainful employment in the US or you may have fallen ill. After many years of nothing on your resume will anyone want to hire you?

The Philippines Might Still Be The Best Retirement Plan

All doom and gloom aside, living in the Philippines can be done and quite cheaply for those who are determined to find away. 

In the ten years that our three person family has lived here my total outlay for the entire venture to date has been under $200,000. That figure is all inclusive. It includes the trip over; all groceries, supplies and sundries; the complete building and furnishing of our house; the land the house sits upon; helping out with relatives’ college tuition; many helps to various relatives; everything!

The $200,000 figure works out to about $20,000 per year and it is front loaded due to the house, land and travel expenses. The cost per year now is about $10,000.

The low cost is the result of both being very fortunate and being very frugal. We have a modest but nice house and we live a good life by our own standards. We do not need designer clothing or the latest Apple device. We do not allow ourselves to be programmed by marketing culture. We do a lot of our own work, as we are still young and healthy enough to do it. That is how we have kept costs down. 

An equally important factor in our low cost of living is the fact that my asawa was already well versed in the processes of the local government bureaucracies. We were able to navigate residence (for me) and citizenship (for her and our daughter) with little problem. She had connections for the land and construction. She also had previous experience working with a construction company in Manila, so that helped. We bought all of our own materials and oversaw the construction of our home personally and we also procured all materials to cut out the middle man markup. 

Actual Cost Of Living In The Philippines

I have provided a detailed cost of living analysis in a post entitled How Much Does It Cost An Expat To Live In The Philippines

Of course, that just represents our little world. Your lifestyle may be more or less extravagant. 

I will also add that we have been a little smart, very careful and extremely blessed.

The Bottom Line

Retiring to the Philippines can be done and it can be done perhaps sooner and at lower cost than in the United States or some other Western country. Anyone considering the move needs to plan it out meticulously. You need to visit the Philippines a few times and figure out where and how you want to live. Take your time and be cautious. And always have a Plan B that does not involve felonies.

Do not overlook the two thieves that will loot your retirement plan:


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