Personal Finance Apprentice

If We Help Ourselves We Can Help Others

If We Help Ourselves We Can Help Others

I was browsing through the PinoyMoneyTalk forum and encountered a thread talking about this news: Philippines’ elite swallow country’s new wealth.

Personally I have conflicting views over this: It’s true, it’s unfair; but it’s nothing new and, more importantly, should also not be that important to an individual.

Let’s start this way: Had we been born rich, and had our parents taught us the value of money and how to run a business, would we really expect ourselves to be poor before we die?

The rich either get richer, or stay rich at least, simply because they were born with the means to do so and the skills were taught to them.

At first glance this is grossly unfair. Millions of Filipinos were not born rich. At most, they are born into working class families. Should we be condemned to a life of mediocrity or poverty simply because we did not have rich parents?

But I see it this way: The Ayalas and Aboitiz were rich even dating back to spanish times. And sure enough they’re still one of the richest in the country. But they’ve been overtaken by Henry Sy and Lucio Tan. On the most recent survey of richest millionaires/billionaires, the list has been dominated by Chinese-Filiponos. Before, it used to be dominated by families with spanish surnames.

And the way Henry Sy and Lucio Tan did it, is the way most Filipinos can get out of poverty: work hard, save, have your own business – and keep repeating the process.

Filipinos already work hard. And we also save. But then we have fiestas, and other celebrations where we invite relatives we don’t even really talk to that often, because they aren’t really that close to us. There’s nothing wrong with that, except we traditionally break our piggy banks for those events. If only it were just for Christmas (once a year) or weddings and baptisms (one-time), it wouldn’t make a difference. But then comes the birth days, coming home from abroad, going back abroad, holy week, new year, long weekends, all saints day, barangay fiestas…

Don’t get me wrong, celebrations aren’t bad, and who wouldn’t want to celebrate their birth day? What I disagree with is stretching the budget and using our savings for big celebrations just to invite relatives who don’t even call or text us once a month – or worse, relatives’ friends we talked to a grand total of once our entire life.

And worse, the common knowledge passed down to future Filipinos is to work hard, get a job, retire. It helps you to not be poor, but it doesn’t make you rich either. In contrast, most immigrant families I know (Chinese, Indian) here in the Philippines have their own family business, and it is usually taught to the children.

Should the children choose to do something else with their life, so be it. But can you imagine already knowing about business while growing up? Sure they aren’t inheriting malls, hotels, and banks, but they’ve got a job (owner, or owner’s kid for the meantime) they’ll never get fired from. And they don’t need for it to fail to know how to start one without making all the wrong moves.

But Chinese (or any other nationality for that matter) aren’t better than Filipinos. It’s just that the culture they teach is conducive to enabling a person to get rich.

But with the wealthiest social classes already dominated by everyone not of strictly-Filipino descent, is it too late? No. After all, getting a job isn’t a wrong move – it’s just not enough. All we need to be is become entrepreneurs, or at least establish additional income streams. It’s going to be a very long and very difficult process. But it’s going to be very rewarding too.

If we just keep saving, investing, and keep our eyes open for a business opportunity, things will eventually change. 

Of course, the usual question is the extreme end: What about the very poor? They’ve got just enough for food.

Well, it does seem heartless to say they should just save a portion of their 100 peso a day budget (or even less than 50 pesos a day, accoring to the article) and wait long enough to accumulate 5,000 pesos and place it in a mutual fund.

So I’ll look at this way: Everyone who read that article online and found it unfair, unjust, uncharitable, or just plain sad is the key.

Try not to look at the very poor. Instead look at the rich and the middle class. They’ve got money they’re willing to part with because of the comfort it will bring them. Let’s find out how we can (legally:) separate them from their money and build a business around that.

When it works, we’ll be hiring one of the very poor to help us out. Maybe even two or three. And we’ll probably hire a maid too (or another one), because we’re too tired to do house chores. And if we keep repeating the process, pretty soon we’ll all be a one-person poverty-alleviation program. So just by helping ourselves, we can actually help others.

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photo credit: only alice via photopin cc

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