Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

While still heady from the achievement of reaching half of my emergency funds goal, I suddenly found myself in a wanton spending spree that still leaves me a little guilt-ridden up to now.


I bought a pair of glasses early this year using a court subsidy and it's been serving me fine, but lately, I've been lemming for new glasses, more particularly, the emo-type of glasses. I know, I know, I'm too old to go Bieber on anyone and it's too late in the day to jump on the emo bandwagon. But what can I say, I've been thinking of buying a new pair of glasses for the last few months and so last Monday, I did just that.




Then that same night, we found out that Elton John was having a concert at the Araneta Center this December 8, and before you could say "Rocketman" I had charged two upper box tickets on my card.


The thing is, we've been quite responsible with our spending as a whole (although we could do with less of eating out to be perfectly honest) and we don't exactly live an extravagant lifestyle, so why am I beating myself up over these little luxuries?


Maybe it's because my now waning Catholic guilt is slowly being replaced by financial guilt. Where every expense has to be accounted for and must be devoid of frou-frou. And there's the fact that we need to save up for my planned maternity leave and Bean related things (strollers, car seats, immunizations Oh my!).


So I'm currently on damage control mode. Last night, I called my credit card and asked that my recent purchases be converted to 0% installment for 3 months and the hubby and I decided that the concert tickets will take the place of our Christmas gifts for each other. Of course, it also goes without saying that we won't be going on any out of town trips anytime soon.


Everything has been ironed out and new pledges have been made. So why do I still feel so guilty? It's tough to be a Type A personality Catholic on the path to financial independence. I sure hope I don't pass this slight neurosis to Bean :(

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

While still heady from the achievement of reaching half of my emergency funds goal, I suddenly found myself in a wanton spending spree that still leaves me a little guilt-ridden up to now.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thoughts on the Aman Futures Group Debacle


I've been following the Aman Futures fiasco for the simple reason that it hit close to home, both literally and figuratively.

Pagadian City, a sleepy city in Zamboanga Del Sur, has suddenly become a lead player in this year's biggest scam. My grandfather served as a fiscal in Pagadian for many years and I also spent time there when I was a toddler, as I'm a "laking lolo and lola."

I've been mentally composing my post on the Aman Futures scam for the past few days, and my thesis was that the investors simply didn't know any better. Most of the early investors were fishermen and market vendors who probably had no idea what the usual bank rates are, or the historical gains in money market placements. So when faced with a charismatic figure like Amalilio, the tacit approval of the LGUs (does anybody really believe Mayor Co's excuses?) and the unmistakable proof of wealth from their neighbors, the double your money offer seemed perfectly logical.


That's why I was disturbed when I read this article where an interviewee was quoted as saying: “From the start, I knew it was a scam and bound to burst like a bubble, but I took my chances,” and "“For those of us who have simple hopes and limited means, the idea of hitting [the big] time … is very attractive. It was just unfortunate that we came in late,”

Wow.

I was particularly struck by his statement that it was just unfortunate that he came in late in the game, because he seems to be implying that there was nothing wrong with jumping wide-eyed into a Ponzi scheme, just as long as you join early enough. And that's why  I believe that a similar pyramid scheme will reappear in about 5-10 years time and we'll be reading the same stories about life savings lost and relationships ripped to pieces. 

About a decade ago, my mom joined the Mateo Group with its 20% (or even higher pa nga yata) monthly interest rate promise. And for the next few months, my mom did earn money from her investment and several friends and family members even joined the Mateo Group because of my mom's experience.

An uncle was a little hesitant with placing money in Mateo Group because he knew that a 20% monthly interest rate was too good to be true, to which my mom responded that she had no choice because she desperately needed the money for my bro's tuition fee in pilot school, and she added that it's really just a matter of taking your money out after a few months and not letting greed get the best of you. 

I never did find out if my uncle invested with the Mateo Group, but my mom managed take out her capital a few months before the pyramid crashed. It would be nice if I ended this story by saying that my mom was wise enough to pull out because she didn't let greed get to her, but no. Her sister needed money that time, so without second thoughts, my mom took out her placement to lend it to her. So this story does have a happy ending after all, with love overcoming greed and my mom never investing in similar outfits ever again.

Sadly, the other stories don't have similar happy endings, but at least this should serve as a lesson learned to everyone who lost money and to everyone who read about the Aman Group scam. Because really, if it's too good to be true, run very, very far away.

Thoughts on the Aman Futures Group Debacle


I've been following the Aman Futures fiasco for the simple reason that it hit close to home, both literally and figuratively.

Pagadian City, a sleepy city in Zamboanga Del Sur, has suddenly become a lead player in this year's biggest scam. My grandfather served as a fiscal in Pagadian for many years and I also spent time there when I was a toddler, as I'm a "laking lolo and lola."

I've been mentally composing my post on the Aman Futures scam for the past few days, and my thesis was that the investors simply didn't know any better. Most of the early investors were fishermen and market vendors who probably had no idea what the usual bank rates are, or the historical gains in money market placements. So when faced with a charismatic figure like Amalilio, the tacit approval of the LGUs (does anybody really believe Mayor Co's excuses?) and the unmistakable proof of wealth from their neighbors, the double your money offer seemed perfectly logical.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Government Work

The good thing about working in the court is that we get all sorts of bonuses disguised in different names (same with our leaves), such as the Emergency Employment Assistance bonus (equal to 1 month pay) which we received just before the Halloween long weekend. The EEA is supposed to help out with tuition fee related expenses, with the other subsidy happening just before June. No wonder resignations are tendered between July to September, aka the lean months.


The Christmas bonus, or 13th month pay, is given in two tranches, with half handed out in May and the other half in November. There's also the grocery allowance to reckon with, which varies every year but is usually a sizable amount as well.  Then every month, there's the bonus from the judiciary funds, which is not a lot but can just about cover 1-2 weeks worth of groceries.


You would think that with all of these windfalls the court employees would be awash with cash, but the opposite happens. The cooperative is usually teeming with employees inquiring if their last loan has been paid up, so that they can take out another loan. A typical government employee would generally be well-versed with the different loans that he/she can take out on his/her salary (i.e. GSIS, Pag-ibig etc).


Government Work

The good thing about working in the court is that we get all sorts of bonuses disguised in different names (same with our leaves), such as the Emergency Employment Assistance bonus (equal to 1 month pay) which we received just before the Halloween long weekend. The EEA is supposed to help out with tuition fee related expenses, with the other subsidy happening just before June. No wonder resignations are tendered between July to September, aka the lean months.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Of Dubious Radio Commercials

There's this radio ad I hear on the AM channel and it never fails to annoy me. It goes something like this:

Matatapos na ang 2012, hard work pa rin ba ang solusyon mo para yumaman? Sumali na sa xxxx raffle bonanza at manalo ng limpak-limpak na salapi!!

(The year is about to end and are you still relying on hard work to get rich? Join xxx raffle to win millions of pesos!)

I think it's sad that that radio ad seems to be poking fun at working hard to earn your keep and plays on the typical Pinoy mentality of betting on odds to win an easy fortune. But really, that ad just mirrors how Pinoys think about finances.


Hard work is part of the strategy towards wealth, there's no question about that, however, it doesn't end there. There's also living within your means and making your money work for you, because if the radio ad sadly got anything right, it's that hard work is not enough. You have to work hard AND be smart with your lifestyle and asset planning at the same time.

But will anyone tell that to the dreamers who will join the contest? Nope.

For most of us Pinoys, retirement refers to our SSS or GSIS pensions and relying on our children to support us when we get old and sick. That's what seems to happens with the "study hard- get a good job- pray to God" upbringing that most of us were reared in.

I went to a good school but I was never taught about budgeting, how to balance a checkbook, open a savings account or use compound interest to my advantage. Honestly, I think learning skills like those would have served me better than the agonizing hours of trigonometry and physics.

So what's going to happen to us and the next generation? I actually am hopeful that things will turn out better, what with the prevalence of entrepreneurship and the accessibility of money market placements these days. For my part, I try to encourage my friends and family  members to at least invest in mutual funds, specially when I see their bonuses going towards building up their wardrobe or replacing their phones. While I know Lyn-Lyn also regularly conducts mini lectures on wealth building among her fellow OFWs in the UK. Come to think of it, maybe I should come up with my own presentation as well, seeing that my friends are becoming more and more interested in financial planning as well. Hmmmm....

As for that contest, it involves consuming x number of liquor to get the bottle caps in order to come up with a qualified entry. At least somebody's going to get rich with this contest, and that's the liquor company.

Of Dubious Radio Commercials

There's this radio ad I hear on the AM channel and it never fails to annoy me. It goes something like this:

Matatapos na ang 2012, hard work pa rin ba ang solusyon mo para yumaman? Sumali na sa xxxx raffle bonanza at manalo ng limpak-limpak na salapi!!

(The year is about to end and are you still relying on hard work to get rich? Join xxx raffle to win millions of pesos!)

I think it's sad that that radio ad seems to be poking fun at working hard to earn your keep and plays on the typical Pinoy mentality of betting on odds to win an easy fortune. But really, that ad just mirrors how Pinoys think about finances.