In this post, allow me to wear my “guru” hat for a few minutes as I try to impart some of my so-called “millennial” wisdom on personal finance and traveling to none other than… my fellow FILIPINO MILLENNIALS, of course! Hahaha! Beware, though, this is going to be a WORDY one!!! 😛
But first, let me share why I decided to do this post in the first place. It’s not just because I want to teach (“guro” pala at hindi “guru” noh?! haha) fellow millennials that it’s totally possible to TRAVEL even if you have a 9-to-5 job, it’s also because — and forgive me if this may sound very off topic —it’s because I want to write something in remembrance of my green tartan scarf, which I lost while traveling! Huhu! 😥
It all started while walking the cobblestoned streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, my sisters and I were headed to the castle just a few walks away from our hotel, when we suddenly saw some stores that sold all kinds of tartan-printed stuff — including my scarf! In a gist, I fell in love with that scarf so much, I bought it and wore it everywhere from Scotland to Ireland:
I wore it at Dublin, Ireland — which was where I lost it! To be exact, I lost my beloved scarf at Dublin Airport while undergoing security checks (I blame the X-ray machines!!! haha). I tried to inquire again with the airport staff manning those damn machines, but it was negative. They said they couldn’t locate my scarf. And just like that, 7 pounds (the GBP kind) went down the drain (if only we were talking about losing the LBS kind!). THE END. Well, almost. You’ll find out later! Hahaha! 😉
So yeah, I loved that scarf so much that I don’t want to forget about it, even if it’s just here on my blog. Mababaw na kung mababaw, but that scarf gave me the idea to write THIS. Why? Well simply because it made me remember the fictional “The Girl in the Green Scarf” personal finance columnist, which appeared in the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic (starring Isla Fisher as Becky Bloomwood). O diba, konek-konek?! Mwahahahahaha!And I thought to myself, WHY NOT?! 😀
The Girl with the (Lost) Green Tartan Scarf… It could work! Okay, so my scarf wasn’t pure green (it’s tartan after all), but the base color was green, so bear with me! Wahahahaha!
Let’s start then. I specifically mentioned “Filipino Millennials” in the title because although the latter word’s a universal term (millennial = people born from 1982 to the late 1990’s? YOU TELL ME.), Filipino Millennials may slightly differ in some aspects.
First, the age when we enter the workforce. Filipino Millennials start working, at least the average, at age 19 (there are some exceptions, like me, since I graduated college at age 18). This is not to say that we’re forced to start working at an early age (though I’m not dismissing the fact that that may be the case for some). That’s just the way the Philippine school system works (or worked, at least pre-K12). In other countries, our counterparts probably start working at age 22 (on average). Also, “gap years” are not really our culture’s thing (even if we wish it were!).
Next, the “power” of our passports. Did you know that Filipinos can travel to only 61 countries visa-free? That alone makes a lot of difference because unlike our counterparts, say millennials from first-world countries, Filipino Millennials need to factor in visa fees and whatnot when traveling. (Fact: My visas to the UK and Ireland already cost me almost US$250 combined. Visas palang yun! So better be prepared, really.)
Another thing is although traveling is now more affordable to people of all walks (and ages) of life, Filipino Millennials travel because most of the people we know, especially fellow millennials, do it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be overseas, but just like the mobile phone, traveling is slowly becoming a “necessity” rather than a luxury. Never mind that we get broke sometimes because of traveling — which is what other Filipinos (those that belong to an older generation, a.k.a. our parents, older siblings, etc.) don’t really approve of. Hahaha! I’m pretty sure our counterparts (and their parents, etc.) have been planning gap years and travels for generations, that going to one continent to another isn’t such a big deal anymore. In the Philippines, if you get to travel outside Asia, that’s somewhat a big deal already. Even being approved for a visa is a big deal in itself! Hehehe!
But you see, I’m here to tell you that Filipino Millennials CAN travel. However, we have to change the way we think of travel as an “investment” comparable to stocks and whatnot. Sure, traveling is an investment in the sense that it helps the traveler grow emotionally and mentally, to some extent even physically (haha) and spiritually. But financially? Honestly, NO is the answer most of the time. I’m a millennial myself (T. Swift and I share the same birth year), and though there’s a point in time when it’s okay to “lose money” because we don’t have that many responsibilities yet or because we know our parents/guardians got our backs, it’s also time to grow up and be realistic. If you’re a Filipino Millennial in your mid-twenties and above, admit that it’s not okay to “lose money” over travel anymore (especially if you don’t share T. Swift‘s bank account).
So how exactly can Filipino Millennials still go on a travel spree without going broke? Well…
- WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK, WORK. Sorry, I just had to. Haha. But before you get LSS (last song syndrome) over this, it’s true. You gotta work, whether you like it or not! Most millennials aspire to “travel for a living,” or better yet, quit their jobs just to travel the world. And although that’s possible for some, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that IT’S NOT FOR EVERYBODY! It definitely ain’t for me. Travel for me is still a form of “reward” (though a constant one), and if I became a “digital nomad” (or just marry traveling with my work) as most millennials aspire to be, I think I would lose the reason why I love traveling in the first place: it’s something that doesn’t happen every day, so it’s “special” and not just “ordinary”! I’m very much happy with my 9-to-5 (yes, I’m lucky I can say that!) and I still get to travel, so if you think that you need to quit your office job or need to be a freelancer (when you’re not really one) so you can have a flexible schedule to travel, THINK AGAIN.
- SAVE NO MATTER HOW HARD. Uh-oh. Probably the number one thing most Filipino Millennials fail at: SAVING for their SAVINGS. Look, I’m not saying that you should starve and deprive yourself of the many “things” life has to offer, but at least allot some amount for your savings account. Most finance experts recommend saving at least 20% of your monthly salary, but if that’s just not possible, start lower, even at 1%. Then work your way until you can already manage to save 20% or higher. Just don’t be so used to saving 0%. You wouldn’t want to be 40 years old and still depend on your parents/guardians/spouse for travel money, or any money for that matter! Even if you get lucky and marry a rich spouse, there’s still a sense of accomplishment in not just depending on your conjugal whatnot. Think of “saving” when you’re still a millennial as your “payment” for your future self.
- INVEST FOR THE LONG TERM (TRY THE STOCK MARKET!). Experts say that your savings goal should be AT LEAST 6-8 months’ worth of your monthly GROSS salary. Once you reach your savings goal (a.k.a. your liquid money), whether you did it through inheritance or pure hard work, it’s time to step up and INVEST. And we’re not just talking about traveling! (But you can think of it as more resources for traveling! Hehe!). I’m not saying that you should stop putting money in your savings account, but you can lower the amount you’re putting there when you already have enough for rainy days, just so your money can already start working for you (as opposed to you working for the money). The thing with a savings account, your number one enemy there would be INFLATION. Do you know how much is the interest your savings account earns? You don’t need to, I can tell you it’s not that much. If so, how can you beat inflation? By INVESTing. There are many kinds of investments out there — business, property, stocks —- it’s up to you to decide which one you’ll prioritize. Yes, it’s okay to not have all kinds FOR NOW. But eventually, you have to aim higher again and try to have all kinds of investments. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (even with your savings). Personally, I can recommend trying your hand at the stock market. Just be sure you don’t do it ALONE. Find a mentor who can help you, just like Bo Sanchez‘s Truly Rich Club. Why the stock market? Well, read my post about it.
- SPEND ACCORDING TO PRIORITY. If there’s a saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think that splurging is in the hands of the splurger! Hahaha! Seriously, though, our spending habits come down to this: to each his own. Example, I’d willingly spend US$65 on a Pandora charm than spend the same amount on clothes or shoes (for others, that wouldn’t be the case). Another is I’d rather spend $20 on a one-hour relaxing massage than buy a bag (I’m not a bag person; I use the same bag every single day and change it only when necessary). The key is NOT to spend $65 EVERY PAY DAY on a Pandora charm or the like. You can still spend and splurge from time to time, as long as you make sure you’ve already set aside some for your SAVINGS and INVESTMENTS. It can’t be the other way around. (P.S: Notice why my photos are not that great? (But they’ll do!) I use only my iPhone 5c, which I’ve been using since 2013 — and no, as long as it’s still working perfectly, it’s not my priority to upgrade to the latest Apple gadget!).
- PACE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Haha. Ask yourself, how many times have you been to Hong Kong or Singapore (the favorites of Filipinos)? Or, how many times do you travel every year? My answers to these: though I don’t have anything against the two aforementioned travel destinations, I’ve been there enough times that I think it’s time to save up for other destinations. I’m going back to those two countries ONLY if it’s work-related, or if there’s a promise of a “new experience” (maybe with new travel buddies or something? haha). I’m not going back to familiar destinations just because there’s a promo fare (with the exception of the UK!!!). As for the frequency of my travels, I have a so-called “travel year” which happens every four years only. My travel year (just like this year) is the time I “splurge” on travel and try to go to more countries than the last three years. In those three years, though, I try to limit my travels or just go local. That’s also the time for “saving.”
- MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THE LONG WEEKENDS. I spent half a month in the UK&I, which ate up ALMOST all my annual leaves. I still have more travels this year. How on earth am I still going to travel without LWOP-ing? Probably my not-so-secret this year — LONG WEEKENDS! I’m lucky that my employer follows extra holidays, so I get to travel more without the need to file for leaves. But even with Philippine holidays alone, travel is still doable! If it’s just a few hours from Manila (after all, it’s really the airport/travel time that’s really exhausting!), the typical 3D/2N will do! Try leaving on a Friday night after work, then go back on a Sunday night or even Monday — it’s all about making the most of your HOLIDAYS! Enough said.
Once you’ve got that all covered, especially the SAVINGS and INVESTMENTS parts, you can easily go on a travel spree guilt free! I’m proud to say that all my personal travels since 2012 (with the exception of the UK&I, which I was lucky enough to fund only 50% — still, I paid, which is the most expensive but most worth it, too, so far), I paid for with my own hard-earned money (from airfare to hotel to pocket money and all that jazz). I’m not bragging or anything, I’m just saying that it’s possible for a Filipino Millennial who has a 9-to-5 job with limited annual leaves to still travel more frequently without going completely broke and still not using those LWOPs (leaves without pay). If I did it, YOU CAN TOO!!!
After all, we may be dealt with different cards in life, but you can always make the most out of them if you educate yourself. If you think that you can’t travel as often as your friends do, then don’t. If they’re your true friends, they won’t judge you for not traveling that much. But yes, still TRAVEL, no matter how short the distance is from home. Tagaytay up to sawa is your thing? Why not?! 😉
AND make sure that when you travel, you don’t lose anything irreplaceable (like yourself and more important relationships back home! haha). You may lose as many green tartan scarves as you can (I replaced mine with a Slytherin scarf when I went to the Harry Potter studio simply because Slytherin = green. Pero maka-Gryffindor talaga ako! Wahahahaha!), but make sure you don’t “lose money” for the sake of traveling #ATM (at the moment). You WILL need that for the future. And us MILLENNIALS? Our futures may be as bright as the sun, but let’s admit it, we all still have a looong waaay to gooo! 😀
Do you have other tips on how millennials can travel guilt free?
Let me know! 🙂