Even today, Filipinos remain traditional – sometimes, to a fault. While some traditions are good, some may not be financially healthy. For instance, we take pride in our culture of close family ties but which could sometimes, lead to unrealistic expectations. A perfect example is the idea that once children graduate from their studies, they are obligated to send money to their parents. This is part of our “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) culture. But while this is a must when the children still live under the same roof, it should not be an obligation, especially if the children are starting to build separate lives, which would have its own financial goals and demands. However, this is also understandable considering children’s education can be quite expensive, and many parents get buried in debt because of it. Ergo, once the children graduate, they help their parents pay their debts. Nevertheless, although the Bible says: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)”, it does not say children are bound to help their parents with their finances. In fact, the Bible also says: “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22).” To the layman’s mind, it means parents should not only have enough for themselves but must also leave an inheritance not just for their children but also for their children’s children!
Although I am no bible scholar, it seems that the proverb calls on parents to take care of their children and not to see them as their retirement fund. Soon their children will take care of their children too and so on. While I emphasize that it is not a must that children help their parents in their retirement, I am also not discouraging it. If the children are already financially stable, it would only be prudent and generous of them to help their parents if needed.
On the other side of the coin, children should also not see their parents as an emergency fund. As an adult, it is only fitting to support one’s own needs and family. Your parents may have been responsible for your studies and your needs while you were growing up, but once you start working, you should be able to stand on your own.
Here are two starter tips for those who are raring to be financially independent in the New Year:
- Start small. Begin saving as soon as you can when you can and while you can. Start small and start with what you can. Foregoing that daily cup of espresso at your coffee shop haunt could add up to thousands monthly. Although starting from scratch, living on your own, paying for your own food, accommodations, and other bills can be quite challenging, it is not impossible to beef up your savings by making small lifestyle changes.
- Build an emergency fund. Instead of draining your bank savings when the unexpected happens like sickness, accidents or other unforeseen events, have an emergency fund set aside that is separate from your savings. Ideally, an emergency fund is at least 3 months’ worth of your income.
Once you have enough savings, start to invest. Find out from credible sources how you can invest your savings in the best financial vehicles, depending also on your financial goals. Invest for your future, so you won’t have to depend on your children once you retire. As Filipinos, we can never let go of our close family ties, but remember your children are not your retirement fund and your parents are not your emergency fund.