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Thinking Ahead: What Not To Do for a Twenty-Something OFW By Anne Mitzi Lopez

Business Mentor Note:  Anne Mitzi Lopez, twenty-nine years old, was born on April 30, 1986. Graduating with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 2007, she worked as a volunteer nurse in Zamboanga City Medical Center. Later migrated and worked as Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) for a specialized hospital in Saudi Arabia for four years. Mitzi loves writing about things and events, which capture her mind. Her short story “The Five Directions” won 3rd runner up in Wattpad   AmbassadorPH’s opening line contest. Currently, reviewing for IELTS (International English Language Testing System) while setting up a tailoring business (A&M clothing) with in Taguig City

“Mahirap talagang mag-ipon. Forever na lang ata akong OFW kapag laging ganito. (It is so hard to save money. I might be an OFW forever if I keep this up),” says a young OFW friend over Skype, her head shaking from side to side as she enumerate me her reasons as to why it is so difficult for her to save for her future. I dutifully listen to her grumbling, bobbing my head up and down to convey a message of empathy. As an OFW myself, I can safely use the phrase “been there, done that,” and I can also attest to everyone that it is really hard to save money even for a nurse working abroad. But—yes, there is always a ‘but’ in mostly everything—there is a way. It will be difficult, sure. But if one is really determine not to end up broke when salary time comes, then one can exhaust all efforts to save up for the future.

Most of us dreams of going abroad in search of greener pasture, and like all young, naïve dreamers, that was one of my goals why I packed my bags and flew to Saudi Arabia. Being a young and single OFW is not that easy; you have to endure that gnawing pang of loneliness because you’re not with your family to spend the holidays. You couldn’t wait to get off from work, rush home and open your laptop, checking if your mom or dad, or your boyfriend, is online. You count and tick the days until your two-year contract would end so you could go back home and see your family. Most would declare in the end that “they don’t want to be an OFW forever.” Let me tell you this reality: going abroad is not for everyone—it is not for the faint-hearted. And if working overseas is the only means for you to earn living but you can’t endure the distance and the loneliness, then ask yourself this question as early as you can: what can I do so I won’t be an OFW forever? How will I end up not broke?

So what can we do? Is that even the right question? I mean, really, how many times have we told ourselves two weeks before salary day that we will keep a portion of our income in an attempt to save and use it as a means of escape from our current situation but ended up not doing it at all? Would it be more appropriate to ask ourselves “what NOT to DO to end up going broke?” Let’s see now.  Ah, yes. Here we go.

What NOT to DO #1: Do Not Equate the Word SALE with HAPPINESS.

Uy, girl! Good news! Sale daw sa Nine West! Up to 75% off din sa Mango. (Good news! They have a sale on Nine West! Mango also has up to 75% off on their items!).”

Oh, why do you always hear those during salary day? And why do you give in to the hype and frenzy? You check your e-payslip to confirm if salary just got in. You rush to the ATM, withdraw your earnings, and make mental notes as to how you will spend your money. Oh, sure. You had already planned that out ahead of time, made a list of where this part or that part of the money will go. But did you really stick to your plan? You go to the mall with your friends, shop till you drop, panicked-buying because that gorgeous blue Zara dress you had your eye on might not be there on the rack anymore by the next five minutes. You ended up buying two purses, two pairs of shoes, and several clothes that could hardly fit in your closet anymore. Then you ended up using your extra money you’d stashed away for your ‘savings’. By tomorrow, you will declare yourself as broke. But hey, at least you are happy with your new purse, boots and dress. And you got it on sale!

“This is my money!” you say, “I earned it. I deserved this bag because I worked for four night straight!”

Yes, yes, of course. We all deserve a pat in our back, to reward ourselves for of all the hard work we did. Being in our twenties, we all think we are still young, that we have all the time in the world. But really, we don’t. Remember Rebecca Bloomwood in Confessions of a Shopaholic? Remember what happened to her? We all have a Rebecca Bloomwood inside of us. We tend to rationalize our actions. We want to make ourselves happy, but ended up going broke. A few days later, that’s when misery sinks in. Before you let that shiny black boots seduce you into buying it, ask yourself: “Do I really need this? Will this help me in the future? Will I really be happy if I buy this?” Buy things you only need. Not because it’s on sale, you’re going to hoard everything your arms (or your basket) could carry. Think of what will make you happy in the future and not just basking on your temporary bliss at that moment.

What NOT to DO #2: Do Not Envy Thy Neighbors’ Gadgets

Just because your friend has a new phone does not mean you need a new one, too. Working in a country where the latest gadgets seemed to be so affordable compared to the ones back home will likely tempt you to buy one, even though your old phone is still in working condition. What is so popular now, the fad and new today, will be old news by tomorrow. If your salary permits, then go on, buy that new phablet everyone is so crazy about. But if you’re really serious about investing for your future, then DO think twice—make it thrice—before you let envy rule over you.

What Not to Do #3: Do Not Be Generous All the Time

 This seems to be a harsh, even rude for some. But we all need to learn how to say NO. Of course you worked abroad to help your family. You worked overtime shifts and during holidays to earn double. You even sell things to your friends and colleagues just to make extra income. But learn to say NO to your family and friends most especially if they ask things from you that doesn’t even belong in the most basic of their needs. A new Coach purse for Christmas for a relative you hardly even speak with? C’mon, you don’t even own one yourself! 

Instead of giving in to your family’s additional and unnecessary requests, try to explain to them in a nice way why you can’t give them everything, that you also have plans for your future that will benefit both you and your family.

 What Not to Do #4: Do Not Splurge On Your Vacation

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