I think it’s safe to say that almost all OFWs try their luck abroad because they want to support their family. In the Philippines, it is common, even expected, to care for aging parents even after having our own families. Sometimes, this extends to siblings or other relatives. If you find yourself in this situation, then you are part of the “Sandwich Generation.”
Coined in the 80s, Sandwich Generation refers to breadwinners who support at least two sets of dependents. Usually they are already raising their own family while tending to the needs of immediate and even extended family members.
With the amount of support they are expected to provide, the financial concerns of Sandwich Generation OFWs are unique and challenging. After all, how can they manage to support those who raised them while also taking care of their own future?
As an OFW who used to be ‘sandwiched’ between earning for my mother AND my younger brother, I know the plight of my fellow kababayans in a similar situation. So I want to share some financial tips that I hope can help them balance between familial duty and fulfilling their own dreams:
- Think of yourself as well.
The selflessness of OFWs to help their families is undeniable, many without hesitation or regret to the sacrifices they are making. The problem is, they tend to neglect themselves when they take this responsibility too much by heart. You need to save for yourself as well.
- Develop a financial plan and stick with it.
Most OFWs say that they only plan to leave for a couple of years, save, and then return home. This is a great mindset to have - but make sure you have a plan for it.
- Compute your expected earnings.
- Balance your pay with your expenses, including the remittance you send back home
- Treat what is left as savings
This exercise will give you a general idea of the amount you hope to bring back home after your stint abroad. One OFW friend said this was the best advice she received because it forced her to develop the habit of tracking her spending. She can adjust her budget based on needs while avoiding splurging or getting excited for padalas or pasalubongs. It also served as a great motivator; the closer she gets to her goal, the sooner she can come home for good.
- Be transparent with your family.
It is best that your dependents are aware of your financial situation. Tell them how much you earn, your cost of living abroad, and the reason why you can only contribute this much. This way, they can also unburden you of financial responsibilities.
If you have doubts on their money management skills, find ways to help them be better at it. Introduce them to financial products like insurance and investment, which can help protect and grow your remittance. For instance, The Charo’s Parents of OFW Starter Pack is perfect for OFWs as a starter plan, geared to help you take care of your parent’s health and/or your children’s future.
Through the said starter pack composed of the SUN Senior Care and Sun Life Prosperity Money Market Fund, one can give health support for their parents while saving for their priorities starting at P7,000 per month. The plan can provide a Critical Illness Benefit for the insured parent and would give the OFW breadwinner some money for emergencies with the mutual fund’s potential earnings.
- Don’t be naïve - always grow and learn.
There have been many unfortunate stories of OFWs who fall prey to quick-to-earn scams. In the hopes of gaining extra for nanay’s medications or bunso’s new shoes, one can be enticed with the prospect of “easy money.” A veteran OFW I know, who now owns a small company in the Middle-east, said it best, “If it sounds too easy, it must be a scam.”
Sadly, many OFWs are unaware that there are legitimate and trustworthy options to grow their income. It starts by looking for the right sources of information. There is nothing wrong with seeking advice and guidance on how to invest your kita. In fact, there are professionals you can count on – like a Financial Advisor. Finding one is now easy and convenient. Check out this page to be referred to a Sun Life advisor who is ready to help.
- Plan for your retirement
Now that you have a plan and hopefully a trusted Financial Advisor, your retirement goals become more attainable. When you set money for your golden years, you are helping break the cycle that creates the Sandwich Generation. While our culture values giving back to those who took care of us, we are doing the next generation a great disservice if we treat them as our retirement plan. This way, whatever happens, not only will you have a nest to fall back on, you will also be free from potentially being a burden in the future.
- Reinvent the Sandwich Cycle
As a final tip, I just want to emphasize that caring for our elders while raising our own family is not entirely bad. An aunt who lives in Australia explained that this tradition can be a positive thing. Because while she had to work abroad and leave her kids, their lolo and lola cared for them and instilled good and positive values. Something she would be unable to do as a working mother, even if she chose to stay in the country.
What becomes wrong with being the metaphorical palaman, squeezed between filial duty and parental responsibilities, is when we find ourselves taking on too much financial responsibility. After all, even the Bagong Bayani is still human, and can only do so much.
So how can we reinvent the Sandwich Generation Cycle? Educate those who are next in line, be a responsible breadwinner, and start making smart and informed financial decisions.