If you’re a reader of this blog it should come as no surprise that I not only love my Filipina wife, Janet, but love the Philippines as well. Since I am approaching retirement and can almost taste it I am ready to announce that in a couple years Janet and I will be taking our talents, not to South Beach as LeBron once did, but to the Philippines. I’ll get into my reasons shortly, but first a bit of convoluted background.
Nine years ago, at age 53, I was divorcing. There was a nearly infinite list of things I had to pull off to survive the life change for myself and my two youngish kids. But a year later I popped my head out of the ground and looked around at a new life. I had obtained a nice job (I was a contract employee previously, and self-employed before that), had medical benefits (no Obamacare back then), a new house with a giant mortgage which I could pay (barely). The kids too had survived the trauma and were prospering. We had just taken our first vacation together as a threesome.
The only thing that seemed impossible was retirement. I always had mixed feelings about the classic American retirement scenario anyway. For one thing when I was young and nuts I was sure I would never live to retirement age. I worked a series of jobs which paid squat and then was self-employed, which paid squat + 1. I got married and had kids and drank the American koolaid which stated that anything above and beyond the bills had to go to the wife and kids.
But I did have a bit of fortuitous luck. My then wife, better known here as Ex Number Two, had a bit of money. In point of reality, her parents had a bit of money, which she knew (and told me constantly) would someday be hers. Therefore the attitude tended to be that whatever we saved would be supplemented by my inlaws impending demise.
Besides the inlaws cash, I told myself, I was smart, had talent and someday would strike it rich, either by selling a novel or screenplay, or if that didn’t work out, I was surely clever enough to rob a convenience store.
I actually had a screenplay with genuine Hollywood producers (a story for another day) but somehow didn’t exactly make Spielberg money.
So, I found myself at 54 on my own and finally doing OK. I did have a 401k and it actually had almost a thousand dollars in it. I began to do the right thing and started to save a small amount into my retirement fund. I did the math and found at my current pace I could successfully retire at 85. I resigned myself to working till I died.
At the same time I had decided to fulfill one of the biggest goals on my bucket list – an African safari. I went to Kenya, and after a life changing experience on safari, spent a week relaxing at a beach town named Malindi. I loved it there and met several European expats living on their pensions. Based on their encouragement it occurred to me that I could live in Kenya on my Social Security plus my 401k, that is if I started to save like a madman.
I came home excited, began to save more into my retirement funds and dreamed of the possibilities. The only thing I worried about was women. As a guy, I know that makes me unique.
I wondered, whether as an ancient retiree/expat there would be the opportunity to have romantic relationships with even semi-attractive women. After all, I’d have the vast Social Security windfall. And so I went to the Internet, where all good things are discovered, to find information about multi-cultural relationships between geriatric old farts and – well anyone.
My search led me to a forum, run by a complete nut job who exemplified the old adage “those who can’t do – teach.” The men there, of varied ages and mental illnesses, discussed the pros and cons of living and dating in a variety of foreign countries. Asia was a hot spot and the Philippines seemed to get more comments than any other country. Like most Americans, I knew virtually nothing about the Philippines, but was a quick study.
As I have documented before, I found my mentor Pete, one of the few non-nut jobs on the forum, joined Cherry Blossoms at his recommendation, and met my darling wife, Janet. And the rest as they say, is history.
Many men travel to the Philippines to find the love of their life (or sometimes a few dozen loves of their lives) but have nothing but complaints about the place. But for me, as a experienced traveler, I found that I loved not just Filipinas, but the Philippines itself and began to wonder whether this was the place to spend my dotage. I can now state that it is!
Most of our reasons for choosing the Philippines as a retirement destination are pretty ordinary and straightforward. So here goes the list in no order of importance:
The Family: Unlike some expats I am not looking to avoid Janet’s family. I like them. What’s more surprising is that it’s possible they like me. Of course, once we move there, they will get to know me better, so that might change.
Most importantly is that Janet will be close to her family. She can see them whenever any problem or bit of drama occurs. Since she has nine brothers and sisters, I expect that to be often.
Cost/Style of Living: This one’s obvious. The cost of living is much cheaper, especially if you are willing to avoid living like a rich kano. If you can’t avoid those things (Western foods and drink, luxuries, girls and more girls) your pension will be gone before you will be.
But even more important to me than the cost of living is the style of living. I have written about this before. In the West how much crap do we buy because we can, or to fill up a hole inside us, or because cash is burning a hole in our pocket, or because all our friends have the same crap? In the Philippines, while I have no desire to live in a Nipa hut, the pressure to buy all sorts of stuff is dwarfed compared to the pressure of going to the beach or hanging with friends and family, or chasing Janet.
I have already begun my simplification process. I’ve eliminated all sorts of things that I used to do and buy without thinking much about it. Therapy at $135/hour – gone, to be replaced by my sweet partner, the aforementioned relaxing beach, and a San Miguel or two. $50 haircuts – gone, along with my hair.
My criteria for eliminating things is – will I be doing/buying this in retirement? If the answer is no, I’ve dumped it. Amazing how much I have saved.
The People: I don’t want to rag on all Americans nor pretend that all Filipinos are wonderful, but in general I like the people in the Philippines or at the very least, I like the difference. I do not want to be one of those expats who only hangs out with other expats.
The Sun/Heat: Apparently this is a getting older thing, like retiring in Arizona or Florida. I hated the sun and heat when I was young. If it broke 80 I was unhappy. Now if it’s under 80 I am unhappy. Janet and I freeze in the fall and winter and dream of it getting warmer here. When it finally does and her bones warm up, she won’t let me turn on the aircon. I am sure saving electricity is her motivation 🙂
But I dream of a retirement where it is always warm and the ocean, pool or shower can cool me off if necessary.
Service: No, I’m not talking about customer service in the Philippines, which is legendary, though not necessarily great. I am talking about service oriented providers. Today we had a clogged drain and called the plumber. Including my frequent-plumber discount I paid $330. In the Philippines it might have cost 330 pesos.
Housekeepers, yayas, yard work, plumbers, mechanics, etc. all are inexpensive in the Philippines. Of course there is always the issue of finding a good person, but that hassle can be navigated, particularly since as a cheapass I will be thinking about the savings.
Adventure/Travel: I still love travel and adventure. With 7000+ islands I figure I’ll have to live to 150 to see them all. Sounds like a plan. That and visit all the Asian countries that are easy to get to from the Philippines.
I still have an adventuresome spirit and while I might not be interested in death defying stunts, I am interested in exploring a new world. And while Janet grew up in the Philippines, she’s really not seen much of it. I can’t wait to experience it together.
We might even do a bit of sleeping, as shown in the picture above.
Happiness: It sounds hopelessly sappy but Filipinos are fundamentally positive and happy people. Despite the poverty of many, they are happier than most Americans. I look forward to having some of that rub off on me. In point of fact, it already has.
Next Decision: Where? After all it’s a big country.