My Do-Over List

I'm pretty content with my life as a whole, because as someone who grew up feeling rich, there's not really much I would change about my upbringing. It was only when I first tried my hand at this adulting business that some things didn't turn out quite the way as I planned. Thus, if I could hop into Doc Brown's time traveling DeLorean, I would definitely stop my past self from doing the following:

1. Buying investment linked life insurance instead of term insurance- I started looking into life insurance about ten years ago because all my research showed that life insurance was important once you got married. Investing was also highly recommended by the personal finance bloggers I followed, so when I saw a life insurance product which had an investment component, I was sold. Take my money!

Buuuut.... some more digging showed that investment linked life insurance or variable unit-linked life (VUL) insurance was ridiculously more expensive than its term insurance counterpart, even if they offered essentially the same thing. As for the investment component, personal finance rockstars almost unanimously recommended a Buy Term Invest the Difference approach, which they guaranteed would yield higher returns than getting the insurance company to invest in your behalf.

By this time, I was already investing regularly in stocks using the peso cost averaging approach so I slapped myself silly and bemoaned all the money I wasted on excessive premium payments!

But as it turned out, buying VUL wasn't a completely bad decision because I stopped investing in stocks for a few years to focus on debt repayment. Because I had VUL, I was still invested in the equity market and was able to take advantage of the bull run a few years back. Another good thing I experienced about VUL which I didn't anticipate was that I was able to dip into the fund value to pay for a medical emergency.

Nonetheless, if I could have a chat with my younger self, I would still discourage past-Jill from buying VUL insurance, to buy term insurance instead and to continue buying stocks on a monthly basis. However, I would also tell younger me that if her sister, as a newly minted life insurance agent, approaches her for one of her first sales, then she should just go ahead and buy as much VUL insurance as she could afford.

(Recommended read: How Much Life Insurance Do You Really Need?)

2. Blogging as myself instead of anonymously- it never occurred to me to blog anonymously when I first started this blog because coming from my past blogs where I wrote with my heart on my sleeve, I didn't know any other way to blog. But as I became more personal about my finances, I found myself holding back and being deliberately vague on my numbers  (which is ironic as this is a personal finance blog after all!). 

As it turned out, I wasn't comfortable in fully revealing my net worth because of safety reasons. Which is not to say that I'm worth tens or hundreds of millions of pesos (because I'm not!), but I would rather not attract the attention of criminals and potential criminals thankyouverymuch.

So because this blog is associated with me and I'm associated with other things, certain topics are off-limits. Now imagine if I wrote anonymously from the start, oh the fun we could all be having right now!

3. Buying all sorts of junk instead of saving or investing my money- I had no choice but to embrace minimalism because my husband and I moved to a small apartment immediately after we got married, so most of the stuff I accumulated were left in my parents' house. We then moved to an even smaller space a year after we got married forcing us to discard even more stuff. When our first son was born, we had to make room for his stuff, so I had to fit my clothes into 3 dresser drawers instead of 5, leading to even more downsizing.

All that downsizing made me realize that I don't really need a lot of things. So when I look back now at how much I spent for fast fashion and other bits and bobs just because they were cute and only cost a few hundred bucks, I die a little inside at how profligate I was. For all we know, if I funneled all that cash into investments instead of clothes, accessories and eating out, I would be FIRE (financially independent retire early) by now. 

But for what it's worth, I have fully embraced my past mistakes and idiotic behavior so here's hoping that present-Jill will see past-Jill's misadventures as a learning experience so that future Jill-will soon be sitting pretty while sipping chilled rosé in some tastefully furnished and fully paid for beachhouse.

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J said…
Hello Ms. Jill! I blog anonymously over at I choose to be anonymous because I want to share my real numbers and it only occurred to me that you can share anonymously when I discovered the PH personal finance community in Instagram haha. I had VUL before i knew the phrase "buy term, invest the difference". I can see why people would go to this route instead but I honestly never regretted my VUL ever!
Jillsabs said…
Hi J! Nice to meet you :)

Ok naman ang VUL if you can afford the high premium and do not invest on your own. But if you're willing to DIY the investment part, then term insurance is a better option IMO.
Che said…
Thankful I read the fine print when I was almost talked into getting VUL. Almost everything I needed to know was there (in the sunlife proposal) for me to decide whether it was right for me (it wasn't). I decided not to get it because I was new at my job at the time and unsure if I would be consistent in payments. I also didn't have dependents so it didn't make sense. Still good that an agent approached me because it got me curious enough to google and I discover BTID. Which seemed more fit for my personality. I prefer to have the ability to adjust my investment strategy as I go along.
Triple P said…
Totally agree with the first one. Especially when you compute how much you can earn if you invested it. In the long run, the investments can be way higher than your coverage.

I would also tell my younger self that. But I was also happy that I was still invested in equities when my emergency funds and savings were depleted and I wasn't investing. I only prioritized my VULs because I had to pay my premiums. :)
Jillsabs said…
Good for you! I was taken in with the "two for one deal" and thought it was the smartest thing in the planet. But when I soon realized my mistake, pinandigan ko na lang since it did have some benefits and wasn't all bad. As it turned out, there came a point in time when it became the right choice for me.
Jillsabs said…
I'll be the first to admit that VUL isn't as bad as some PF pundits make it out to be. My main issue with it is that sales agents push it on their clients for the commissions even if the clients can barely afford the premium. And true enough, a lot of VUL policies end up lapsing because of non-payment but by then, the agents have received the bulk of their commissions so it's all good (for the agents).
Che said…
Sometimes I still wonder if it would've pushed me to 'invest' when I didn't have the motivation at all. It was 2008 at the time (the market was low, if I remember right, the timing would've been perfect). I don't think it's THAT bad the way they talk about it on reddit. I think there are people who might really be better suited for it. I just wish some agents are real financial planners who would still introduce the BTID concept, make sure the customer knows other options and make them empowered to decide for themselves if VUL is right for them.

This going back in time exercise is great. I had a brief moment of regretting my frivolous purchases in the past (mostly vanity-related ��). Pero thankful na rin that I went through that. I don't think things will happen any other way knowing who I am.
Jillsabs said…
That's my beef too with most financial planners in the country since they're really just insurance agents out to make a commission. I bet we only have a handful of real financial planners in the country (i.e. fiduciaries who put the interests of their clients above their commissions). But you can't really blame insurance agents since their compensation is commission-based and they're really pushed by their companies to reach quotas. So in the end, caveat emptor na lang. Be wary and internalize the fact that only you have your best interest at heart.
To your credit Jill, your blog was among my inspo to start my own! You're the only other lawyer (as far as I know) in the personal finance community here in PH. I thought it was so brave of you to share your financial journey and even missteps too.

While I blog anonymously, with time, it may be inevitable that people you know will stumble upon it, as some of my friends have. So "anonymous" becomes relative, really. Or maybe eventually I'll just start all over with a new anonymous blog! Hehe...

This New York biglaw partner at even contemplated just starting a new blog as with time he felt his identity may become apparent to others with the details that he was sharing which were relevant to his pf journey...
Jillsabs said…
Oh wow George! I never knew that I was part of your blog's genesis. I feel so honored :)

Isn't it great how there are more local personal finance bloggers now who don't have an ulterior motive in blogging? Even Instagram is full of local PF bloggers too (as I discovered through Mr Triple P). Let's normalize talking about money!
Katie Scarlett said…
I also have so many things I want to do over, financially. Not even that far back, I'm talking about this year, these past few months. For some reason, the way I'm adapting to everything that's going on in the world is chasing the high when I receive new things in the mail. AKA online shopping. I'm trying to detox from online shopping in the past few days.

Like you, I'm also scared of sharing too much in my blog. Even if there are people who'll think that I don't have that much, I'm scared of being targeted by criminals. Or at least by relatives looking for loans.
Jillsabs said…
Relatives asking for loans but don't pay you back = criminals

Cruzzzz said…
I so agree with you on number 1. I just realized it a few months ago while watching TWO CENTS on youtube. I regularly set aside money for stocks (i dont regularly buy though, i wait for my target stocks to be cheaper and more affordable). The insurance without the investment part would do.

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