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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
One thing I am truly proud of as a Filipino is how we value education and parents go through great lengths to have their children finish a degree as we believe that it increases the probability of our children having a good future.
My story is no different. The conversation I had with my father that fateful night when I was in second year high school continues to be vivid in my mind until now. He came home and saw me crying because I was not yet enrolled as he was still sourcing the money. He sat me down and told me that no matter what happens, I will be enrolled and he promised that even if it takes selling all that he has, he will make sure he gets me through school. He passed away when I was in my junior year in College and indeed, he left provisions so I could finish my degree. His life insurance policy made sure I continue my studies despite the unstable income of my mother from her “sari-sari” store (a sari-sari store is a small neighbourhood store that sells common sundry items; sari-sari is a Filipino word for variety).
Thank you, Papang for fulfilling your promise.
When it was my turn to have a child of my own, setting up an education fund for our daughter was one of the first decisions we made as parents. Both my husband and I got separate policies three months apart. Last year, after 15 years, our education plans matured so we now have her college fund ready (she will be entering college in less than 2 years). Since both my husband and I are still earning, we have the choice to re-invest a portion of it which she can use later after graduation or if we need it for some education requirements, we can do that too. Our decision to set it up early gave us the options now plus the peace of mind that no matter what happens to our ability to earn, she can finish her chosen degree just like what my father did to me.
The key is to start early. As soon as your bundle of joy is born (or better still, before birth), start setting up his/her education fund because the more years you have to grow the fund, the less amount you need to start it.
Invest it in a fund that is not easy to access. Simply putting it in a savings account does not only put your money to sleep (as it hardly earns anything) but it also gives you easy access to it so the risk of diverting it to other things is high.
Make it grow. If you start it early, like ten years or more before you actually need it, you can be more aggressive in the funds you invest in. Aggressive funds like equity give more upside but may also be more volatile. However, the longer time horizon you have mitigates the risks. Do frequent top-ups so you catch the “downs” of the market and get higher returns. Don’t just invest one time. Invest frequently.
Having more children requires an even more deliberate approach to education funding especially that we have other needs to prepare for like our retirement. Considering the ever-increasing cost of education, it’s either you will compromise the comforts of your daily living now by cutting your expenses here and there or you compromise your ability to save for a comfortable retirement. Both require long-term planning.
So while you still can, start it now. Every delay has a price to pay.
“Nanay” is the Filipino word for mother. Although, many use “Mommy”, “Mama”or “Mamang, there’s still a lot who call their moms “Nanay.”This article is part of a published book entitled Nanay Knows Best which is a compilation of 35 beautiful stories curated by Ms. Janice Senorin-Dela Cruz which I am privileged to be part of.
“Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can.”
When I got married at 35, I prayed to God to bless me with even just one child. He answered my prayer and gave me just one (we actually we wanted two; that’s why you have to be careful what you ask for!). I gave birth to my daughter, Venezia Ysabelle or Venice after 30 hours of labor! Yes, 30 hours! But the pain I felt during those long hours of labor was erased instantly when I heard her first cry and saw her in my husband’s arms, who was in the delivery room to witness this amazing sight!
It’s been said that children arrive without a manual or guide on what to do. So, with a firstborn child, it can be daunting. I asked myself, how can I make sure that my child turns out to be a good person? I bought a good number of books and read up on how to raise a child, but it was never enough. Then, I remembered what I learned from my parents: “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) This was my parents’ way of bringing us up and I thought, I should do the same! Bringing her to Sunday School was such a big help in inculcating good values. Values Formation was one of our primary considerations in the choice of school for her early education.
I also remembered my pediatrician’s advice to observe my child closely to know what her interests are and then support these interests. With that in mind, I enrolled her in voice lessons, ballet classes and baking classes. I also supported her in her sports activities – never forcing her to do what she doesn’t want. Now, she is the Team Captain of her school’s Girl’s Basketball Varsity; she sings and dances very well and is a young entrepreneur baking cookies and earning quite well from it that she now has her own investment account.
I really believe that if we expose our kids to opportunities where they can develop their talents, we give them more choices in life. Venice also excels in academics as an honor student and I think, has a well-rounded personality. Looking at how she has turned out at 17 now, I feel blessed and grateful.
With my Psychology background, I know that modelling plays a key role in child development. As Venice was growing up, being a model to her was challenging but I did my best. I wanted her to learn proper time management as I believe that quality family time includes quantity as well. As a working mom, with a very hectic schedule and numerous targets to deliver, I needed to balance my day to ensure I get to spend quality time with my family. My work also required me to travel and be away a lot during the weekdays. I made a commitment that I will be at home during weekends and be present at her school activities. I will never compromise our family time.
“Me time” is also something I value, which I would like my child to learn. We also need to give time and attention to ourselves. We should know what recharges our energy. For me, reading a book at my favourite nook in the house, going to the salon on Sundays, and having a good massage are ways I recharge myself for another gruelling work week ahead. Taking care of ourselves lifts our spirits and when we feel good, it shows in how we relate with our family and other people.
I am a staunch advocate of healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and having regular exercise. I want to enjoy a quality retirement and I know that I cannot possibly have that if I do not keep myself healthy. I do yoga at home and I run long distances. I have also influenced my family to run so we would participate in runs both here and abroad like Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, which are good bonding times for us.
I find it amazing to have something that we enjoy doing together. When we travel every year, we explore the new place by running early in the morning when the neighbourhood is still quiet.
I was training to participate in the Boston Marathon this year, and though it got cancelled due to the pandemic, I am still looking forward to participating next year. I think what I find truly wonderful about running is the fact that it allows me to engage in social advocacies as well. For my participation in the Boston Marathon, for example, I was able to raise close to P800,000 Philippine Pesos (more than $17,000) for the construction of 15 houses for a homeless Muslim community in my hometown in Midsayap, Cotabato. (As of this writing, the village still needs 14 more houses and it is my prayer that these families in-waiting will have their homes soon.) https://m.facebook.com/glad1project/
My fundraising campaign for my supposed to-be participation in the Boston Marathon 2020 made possible the construction of 15 houses in Glad 1 Village located in Midsayap, North Cotabato.
As a parent, I fervently pray for Venice to learn the value of generosity. I always tell her that not everyone is given the comforts of life that we are enjoying. We should be a channel of blessings to others. When you are given the ability and opportunity to be generous, make sure you make the most out of it as not everyone has the chance to share their time and resources.
Financial Planning is also important to achieve a quality lifestyle. One of the best decisions we made as parents was to set-up a college education fund for Venice when she turned one year old . After 15 years, our policies have matured and provided available funds for her college education . It also gave us the ability to save and invest more for our retirement. I have been in the financial services sector for more than 30 years and I am a firm believer that financial literacy begins at home.
As a Filipino parent, I really hope that I am able to contribute to the plight of the Filipinos by helping improve the financial literacy of the next generations. I believe if we, as parents, teach money management at home, we will have future generations of families who are better prepared, more secure and can enjoy financial freedom.
Here are 5 tips that I would like to share to improve the money behaviour of our children:
1. Start them early – discuss investment or savings principles in simple terms; open a bank account with cash gifts they get during birthdays, etc.
2. Make them understand the difference between saving and investing.
3. Make them understand the difference between wants versus needs.
4. Make financial principles relevant – for example, take them to get groceries with you and make them compare prices to learn value of money; and
5. Lead by example – live the principles; discuss your plans and aspirations for the future and show them how you are saving up or investing to achieve them.
Motherhood is a wonderful blessing. Imagine being able to impact the next generations by doing our role in the best way we can. If we show and demonstrate to our children how much they are loved and how much they feel secure in our love, then they’ll grow up to be confident individuals ready to love and care for others.
“Let us remember always that the mother is a child’s first teacher and a mother’s heart is the child’s first classroom.”
We always hear this aspiration in life: “I want to be financially stable” and oftentimes when we probe what this exactly means, we hear answers like: I want to give my family more than what they need, my children will be able to finish the degree they want and live a comfortable life now and in the future.
In a study conducted by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to define the “Life Filipinos Want”, an overwhelming 79.8% said they want a simple and comfortable life and by that, the study revealed, we want to live in a house we own, have a car, being able to have our children finish school, have money for our daily needs and being able to travel occasionally. Filipinos’ aspirations are very family-centered which even includes the ability to take care of our ageing parents reflective of our close family ties (https://youtu.be/WT1mXV8TqN4)
Sad to say though, a lot of us, never get to do all that we aspire for. In the process, we either delay or downgrade our plans and most often than not, it is because we failed to prepare. The good news is the fact that more and more Filipinos are improving the amount of disposable income they have as we progress towards an upper middle-class society. However, we need to change our attitude towards financial planning to truly enjoy the kind of simple and comfortable life we aspire to have.
For a family with children, I include their education as part of the daily needs especially if they are already of school age now and I strongly suggest that a College education fund be set-up while they are young that goes side by side with setting-up your retirement fund. One big mistake that a lot of Filipino parents do is to set aside saving for retirement in favour of setting up our children’s education fund and run the risk of running out of time to build-up enough to become self-sufficient in our old age.
Most Filipinos keep just one account, whether in the bank or investment funds for these 3 requirements so the tendency is we spend for daily or emergency needs what could have been for retirement. To avoid this, we should have 3 different programs for each and make sure you invest or save in funds that match your needs. Short-term needs should be in easily accessible funds while long-term needs (10 years or more) in aggressive funds that offer better returns. A rule of thumb is to set aside 5% of your annual (or monthly) income for education fund (if your children are still very young) and 20% for your retirement fund (to give you more options on what to do and continue to be productive in your golden years); build an emergency fund equal to 6 months of your cost of living and do not touch it unless it is for emergency and full-proof your financial plan by having income protection coverage (ie life insurance and health insurance) ideally 10 times your annual income (there are many insurance products that can give you the security of a big coverage that is easy on your pockets and the younger you are, the lower will your premiums be).
Think about it as having 3 wallets – each serving a specific purpose. You can never over-save or over-invest. Include funding your financial plan in your priorities. You will thank yourself for this.