There is no doubt teachers are some of the most influential people in the world. However, a large number of Filipino teachers is often leaving the country to seek a better job opportunities abroad. For Fatima Acuña, there is a brighter future of being an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).
Fatima is a license teacher and had taught in a government school for almost five years before she joined with her husband to work in Singapore.
She believes that OFWs should not go home defeated, old, weak and financially broke. Because OFWs are modern heroes, they deserve to finish strong and come home as winners. RBT Community is so privileged to feature a former OFW and Truly-Rich-Club member Fatima Acuña as our resource person.
RBT: Please tell us your financial journey with your husband while working in Singapore?
Fatima: My husband and I were a typical young couple whose dream is to live a good life and go home for good soon with our families. But this dream took us ten long years to realize because we were buried in debt. Its really hard as we can’t get out of the debt quicksand.
We reached to a point where we almost lost our marriage because of financial distress. But Bro. Bo Sanchez helped me to get back on track. I learned how to manage my money through the Truly-Rich-Club. I helped my husband devise a debt repayment method for two years. We were surprised that we were able to pay them in just fifteen months.
It was such a sweet surprise for my family. And just as we overcome this burden, we have planned and prepared to go home for good.
RBT: You wrote a book “Finish Strong: Go Home for Good, OFW.” What is your motivation to write a book?
Fatima: My experience as an OFW is in itself a big motivation for me to write a book. The book is a great opportunity to share my own story including the stories from other OFWs. Many OFW families experience financial and emotional struggles, too. It pains me to realize that many families where broken because they cannot overcome financial struggles.
I want them to know that its possible to go home, not feeling defeated because they are already old and weak after working many years abroad. I want them to know that they can go home young and strong so that they can still enjoy quality time with their families.
RBT: What are the typical challenges why many OFWs are not financially literate and not ready to go home yet?
Fatima: As an OFW, receiving a big amount of money is quite overwhelming. Not knowing what to do with such huge amount can give them the entitlement of enjoying a good life without realizing the dangers that may happen in the future. They fail to prepare for the unknown future.
What they only see is the happiness in the present brought by this privilege. When problems or emergencies come, they are left with no choice but to borrow money thinking that they can pay anyway because they still have a job. Problems come after another until they see themselves buried in so many financial obligations. They find themselves too far from going home for good.
RBT: Emergency fund is no doubt an important aspect of financial education. Do you have any practical tips or doable strategies in terms of saving an emergency fund?
Fatima: They should set a target date and a target amount of money to set aside for emergency fund. They should put it in a bank account which is not easy to access like having it in a passbook account instead of ATM account. In this way, they will not be tempted to use it.
RBT: Money is one of the major cause of marriage problems aside from third party and lack of communication. What is the first thing married couple should learn about money?
Fatima: They should learn to be honest with one another. Trust is the most important thing in a relationship. They should work together in managing their finances.
RBT: When an OFW gets old and has no capacity to work it means he will stop earning. But the problem is he still continues on spending. Any tips about retirement planning for OFWs?
Fatima: Invest as much as you can while you still can. Carefully calculate what you will be needing for retirement including the effects of inflation and other factors. Do not settle for one source of retirement fund.
Learn to generate passive income that can sustain and replace your income even after you stop working.
RBT: You and your husband were able to zero out debt within 15 months only and now back in the Philippines. Any practical advise for many OFWs about getting out of debt?
Fatima: My practical advise are: Leave below your means. Do not spend on something you cannot afford. Aim for a positive net worth. Stop borrowing. Generate multiple sources of passive income. Invest on yourself and learn about financial literacy.
When you know how to manage money, even if you lose all your money you can still bounce back because the greatest asset is yourself.
RBT: Thank you so much Fatima for your time.
Fatima: You’re welcome.
JUN AMPARO is the author of OMG! OFW’s Money is Gone: Practical Tips on How to Be Wise with Your Hard-earned Money which was featured at GMA News Online. Being an OFW for over a decade, he’s aware about the common financial challenges of many Overseas Filipino Workers.
Jun is investing in mutual funds and stock market for over three- years and conducts financial literacy seminar.