Did I ever come across a gem of an article this morning. Wow. I really think you should read the whole thing and then come back here and chat some more. Yes, the central focus is about personal finance, but if I were an idea thief, I could just take the whole article and changed about 10or 15 words and it would be all about living in the Philippines … and the virtual agony so many seem to go through.
What Tyler is trying to say there in his article is the same thing I have said a thousand or more time to folks who write in here to PhilFAQS or leave comments here (thanks to all of you who do, by the way).
Living in the Philippines has many good things to offer for Americans (and other foreigners). It is also not suitable for many of you. The problem for many of you is, though, there is no ironclad, surefire way for you to get all the answers to be sure which way you ought to decide. And the longer you sit and wait, and flounder in your mind, the less chance there is you will get any benefit at all … might as well not even read about moving here or daydream about moving here … following (and especially playing) golf would be a lot more productive for you … that part I am sure about.
Here’s how I would translate Tyler’s excellent career and investing device to the particular idea about moving to the Philippines:
- Pick one thing and commit. If you’re uncertain which direction to head, it’s probably because you have too many choices. Usually it doesn’t matter which one you pick; it just matters that you do. Don’t waste time searching for the best option; choose a good option and commit to it. Set everything else aside and focus on that….
Philly’s Retire Philippine thoughts: A great example I hear about every day is the age-old question of “Where in the Philippines should I settle”? There are 7107 islands, give or take, and some of them, like Luzon or Mindanao are huge. You can not possibly evaluate all the choices before you make a decision, even if you plan to live 10 lifetimes. So pick one, now, and stick to it. I do not know of anywhere you could pick that will actually prove out to be wrong. It’s a bit like planning a move to the US and trying to decide on which of the fifty states and thousands and thousands of cites is “best”. The real answer is, there is no single best one. Pick a place that seems acceptable to you and then put this issue out of your mind. This is quite possibly the second or third most unproductive decision folks seem to be stuck on. (hint, a little know fact it seems … you can still move somewhere else after you move here in the first place … it’s not like your visa will require you to live in one certain place.)
- Ask yourself why it’s important. It’s easy to end up working on stuff that’s important to some talking head, but not to you. But it can be difficult to focus and make good decisions when you’re working on something you don’t care about it. If it’s not important to you, drop it immediately and work on something else. You’ll give a lot more (and better) effort to goals you care about, so find a way to make it personal…
Philly’s Best and Worst of the Philippines advice: Advice-givers (and I am certainly as guilty of this as anyone, have their personal preferences as well as the things that really tend to tick us off. Some things that bother me, may really bother you as well. If so, focus on that and figure how to deal with it. But if it’s something that “bothers Dave Starr” and really doesn’t bother you … move on. I’m not unhappy here at all … but unhappy about certain things? You bet. (Hint, if you make the move the same thing will happen to you … you be happy about some aspects off your life here, and certainly less happy about others. Figure that out for yourself now, rather than later).
- Accept that you’ll never have all the answers. The most successful people you know didn’t get there because they found a way to answer every question; they made it because they learned to accept that they had to make decisions based on imperfect information. I’m almost certain that you can never be 100% certain about anything. Set a deadline for a decision and act on the best information you have on that date.
Philly’s thoughts on details of living in the Philippines: You know how I define reaching adulthood? It has nothing to do with age or education or any particular life experiences. To me, adulthood is the day you suddenly realize the truth … you will never know all the answers. (hint, many people never reach this stage in life, even when they are quite advanced in years)
- Take baby steps. One sure-fire way to freeze in terror is to convince yourself that you have to figure out everything all at once….Take baby steps in the direction that feels right and soon enough you’ll find yourself sprinting towards your goals. If you want to start saving for retirement, pick an account and open it. Once that’s done, then you can figure out how to start getting more and more money into it.
Philly’s thoughts on breaking the Philippine move into small steps: I’m fond of making the statement that moving here is not rocket science, you know. But then again, maybe it should be. If you aren’t familiar with how complex but still everyday scientific events happen, perhaps a good prelude to moving to the Philippines would be learning the basics of how, say, a NASA Space Shuttle mission works. The launch and everything that goes into the flight are planned in pretty great detail, but once those motors star, the plans are to a great degree out the window.
A complex on-board guidance system steers the vehicle while it is still under power. Later, burns of thrusters and on-board engines are made to correct what the steering system wasn’t able to correct during the acceleration phase. When it’s time to return to earth, the retro rockets fire for varying lengths of time, because each orbit is not really the same as the last. Even at the very last minute, with all the complex computer calculations and guidance efforts, who actually lands the thing? The hands, eyes and brains of a human pilot … because every mission has differences and there is no substitute for human mid-course corrections. (hint: if you want to start some online earning venture to empower your retirement, just get it started … doesn’t matter if it is limping or lame looking or if it needs re-direction later … once you get something, anything at all started, making mid-course corrections is ever so much easier than waiting and worrying about getting it right the first time.).
- Stop planning and start adjusting. Set a course of action, but don’t be inflexible. If you force yourself to stick to it even if things go wrong, you’ll be in more trouble than when you started. Instead, develop a rough plan and make adjustments as needed. Remember that it’s only a guide, not a rule. If things go wrong, it’s your job to steer in a different direction. If things don’t look the way you think they should, change course and try again.
Philly’s thoughts on starting life in the Philippines before you are in the Philippines: A reader recently “cracked the code” about a simple, common issue like the getting your mail problem. He said to me, “You know, I could start now and do my best to get rid of all the paper mail that comes to my box everyday, even though I won’t move for 3 years or more”.
Guess what? He’s going to be miles ahead of you folks who just sit a research one possible way to deal with the mail problem and then jump to the next possible solution and then the next.
Start adjusting now. Do you watch the Filipino Channel on TV? Do you read one or more Philippine newspapers every day, online? Does your wife cook Filipino dishes? Are you raising fighting cocks in your back yard? (oh, maybe you better not try that one just yet … but you get the drift.
You know the smartest part of planning to live here that so many of you ask questions about? How about living on a budget, and making it as close to what you estimate you will spend here, with adjustments only for the things you have to (not just because you want to) spend more for in the US? (Hint: Put your money where you mouth is and as a hidden benefit, you’ll have a lot more money in the bank when the move comes.)
- Ask for help. This is important. Sometimes I get this idea that other people are too busy being awesome to have any time to help me, but in my experience, that hasn’t been the case. Don’t hesitate to send that email or make that call. You might be surprised by the results…
Philly’s thoughts on Finding What you Need to Know to Move to the Philippines: Do you have a written outline? Get a piece of paper right now and list all the steps you know you will have to complete in order to make the move. Then start taking one step at a time and make a sub-list of the steps you. yourself, will need to do to complete each major step. Some things will be easy. Some will seem complex. But guess what, if you start now reducing them all to wring, you’ll find that in a short time you’ll be able to answer all the questions you really need to know. A good place to start, if you haven’t taken the time to read it, is my series on my own move to the Philippines. (just keep following the related posts links under every installment) (Hint: I’m available via my contact form in the menu above, or you can call me at 1-719-966-4295)
- Throw away Plan B. Once you find something important to pursue, throw away your contingency plan. That doesn’t mean you stop making course corrections; it means that you decide from today forward that you are going to make it work.
Philly’s thoughts on no Philippine Plan B: You know where many people I have worked with make their biggest mistake? Devoting half or more of their efforts to a Plan B in case Plan A doesn’t work. I don’t even know one end of a football from another, but I do know that if the quarterback decides the play is going to be a long pass, he doesn’t deploy half the payers to the positions they cover when he plans to run the ball for short yardage… he does things like that for a game or two and he’s history. (Hint: All of us who moved here from anther country have a hidden “Plan B” in our back pocket. It’s our Blue passport. If I went suddenly, crazily broke tomorrow, my house burned down, my car got stolen my dog died, my wife left me, the Philippines passed a law against beer and my neighbors burned a cross on my lawn, I do know the way to the airport.
Other than that, I don’t waste time and energy on a Plan B. (Hint: Although they don’t advertise it, if you show up at the US embassy broke and penniless they will cut a voucher for a government-funded ticket to get you home … you’ll still have to pay for it as a debt to the US government, but you won’t have to swim … and since the streets are paved with gold back there in a “First World” country, I have nothing much to worry about )
Bonus question: “Do, or do not. There is no try.” So spake whom?