Being financially literate
For the past few months I’ve been thinking about completely different things. Previously, my brain was filled with thoughts of travel, family, career enhancement, and the progress of my nonexistent love life. In other words, I am a typical young single adult who is trying her best to live life as it happens, one day at a time. But recently, I’ve started thinking about money.
Sure, everyone thinks about money. When we think of going to a nice restaurant, normally we’ll first think about how much money we’ll be needing for that fancy meal. When we plan a weekend trip, shop for groceries, take extra classes, strive for a promotion, donate to a charity, and so forth, at some point we’ll think about money. Or, more appropriately, about how to use it to spend more for ourselves, our loved ones, or even the worthy causes we believe in.
We are all experts in the science of spending money, but rarely (at least in most of my generation) do we think of ways on how it could do more for us. Instead, we think of what we are willing to do for it. And why not? In his 1910 classic, “The Science of Getting Rich,” Wallace Wattles thoroughly explains that acquiring monetary riches is necessary for the enrichment of our body, mind and soul. It completely refutes the age-old belief that money, along with wanting more of it, is the root of all evil.
In my opinion, the real challenge, especially for us Filipinos, is how to keep the money. After all, if we knew, we would’ve been ranked among the top 50 richest nations in the world. That is not to say, of course, that the Philippines hasn’t done its part to rise up the ranks. According to financial analysts, our economic future seems pretty bright indeed. Nevertheless, I’ve started to think that we owe it to ourselves to learn how to be financially smart. And in this regard, I’ve started thinking about inflation.
Last September, the Philippines’ inflation rate was at 4.4 percent. On average, it goes up at 5 percent annually. Inflation, according to Webster, is a continual increase in the price of goods and services. I am in no way an expert in the field of economics, but I do recall from Econ 101 in my distant college days that its rise or fall is a reflection of our country’s growth, whether it be in agriculture, housing, business, etc. But for us normal people, it is a reality that we shrug off as we become preoccupied with our work, family and friends.
I remember clearly when I got my first job. With it came my first paycheck. And boy, did it feel good. It is the highlight of every neophyte employee—the joy of that first paycheck. And like every other normal young person, I immediately made a list of the different ways I could spend it. And spend it I did—in a span of one week.
Who cared about inflation? I was getting by just fine, thank you very much. I thought: I have a sufficient salary, enough for my needs and wants, so I can take that increase in commodity price.
Fast forward to five years later, and I realized, finally, that my salary was not enough. On top of that, I believed it was high time for career growth. And so I did the only logical thing to do as a professional registered nurse. I applied for a position abroad, and I got accepted. Still, I couldn’t care less about inflation. My thoughts were all directed to and focused on acquiring and spending more money, especially as I have all the time in the world as a single independent woman.
Fast forward again to one year later, I began looking at inflation squarely in the face. A series of fortunate events had led me to take quite an interest in it, because I realized that it is a phenomenon I should take seriously. It is one of the main reasons our country is a poor one, because we refuse to look at it for what it is and merely accept it as a way of life, instead of fighting tooth and nail to beat it. We concern ourselves with other issues. On top of the bills we have to pay, we are also too busy blaming—or, more appropriately, in my generation, bashing—the government for its corruption, enraged by politicians owning preposterously huge estates. We feel angry, violated, and hungry for prosecution. And why not? We regard that “pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap” slogan as gospel truth.
And maybe it is. Or maybe, just maybe, our economic welfare is in our own hands, not in the government’s. Maybe it is our responsibility to do whatever it takes, legally, to acquire wealth. Maybe it’s high time we thought about inflation and devised ways to overcome it ourselves.
But how? If inflation moves at an average rate of 5 percent a year, we need to start saving and investing our money in investment vehicles that give returns as high as 6 percent or more. We can start a small business, or invest our savings in mutual funds or even the stock market. As Warren Buffett puts it, not everyone is going to be entrepreneurs, but everyone should be financially literate.
Financial literacy means economic power. Economic power means knowing how to defeat inflation.
At present, I am a soon-to-be overseas Filipino worker looking forward to a fatter paycheck. But more than that, I am looking forward to more savings and investments that would allow me to become financially free at the soonest possible time. Aside from that, I feel lucky to also be involved in a part-time business which teaches people to become financially educated.
Of course, given my educational background, I cannot really call myself a certified financial adviser. But I have learned substantially in this new venture. I have learned that no matter where we come from in life, whether we hold a blue- or white-collar job, or whether we run our own business or work in a corporation, it is not a measure of how skilled we are in handling our finances. Inflation may have been taught in school, but money management sure wasn’t. Still, it is never too late—or, I guess in our case, too early—to start thinking, not casually but intentionally, about money.
It feels liberating somehow, knowing that I am working in my passion (as a nurse) and at the same time being able to plan ways to secure an even brighter future. And don’t get me wrong: I’m all for justice and truth, and supporting those noble and responsible people who make corrupt government officials weep as they go to jail. But to me, caring too much about these issues just won’t cut it if we want to see our country grow and prosper the way it rightfully should. To me, if we truly care about a more promising Philippines, the real work and focus of our attention should be how to become more empowered citizens of this country. And I believe it starts with caring where our money goes, and beating inflation.
Margaret Adelantar, 26, is a registered nurse bound for King’s College Hospital Inc. in the United Kingdom and a part-time financial literacy advocate at the International Marketing Group.