Monday, April 27, 2015


If not for career growth, other Filipinos leave their families for financial reasons. And sadly, there are some OFWs who seem to be working overseas for the rest of their lives because of mistakes in handling their finances.  Read further to find out how to break free from money worries.

We are familiar with the following TV advertisement: like angels from heaven, uniformed ladies descended from an airship to solve the financial problems of two troubled young men. How? Simply by offering new loan to pay their old loans. Another commercial offers loan to help a young lady buried in credit card debts so that she could continue to buy all the things she wants. Other TV and newspaper advertisements constantly remind us that we could easily borrow using only our HKID and mobile phone. Like the common saying “borrowing from Peter to pay Paul”, it only delays but doesn’t solve the problem.

It is highly unlikely that these young people got into debt to finance their educational needs or help their parents. Uncontrolled spending and easy credit probably got them into the ever sinking debt trap. “The borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). People tends to forget the ancient Chinese admonition against “spending future income”.

The typical solution to free oneself from debt is to increase the inflow (income) and to reduce the outflow (expenditures). Under the present economic condition, increasing our income is not easy.  In fact, not a few tried short-cuts like speculating in stocks or other risky investments and gambling hoping for luck and fast money. Unfortunately, by taking inappropriate risks they often got themselves deeper into debts.
The most practical and immediate approach is in curbing our spending by cutting unnecessary and luxurious outlays. Switching to a simple and austere lifestyle can start a regular reduction in the accumulated debts.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in living simply. We can look to The Holy Family as a model.  In fact, Pope Francis sets an example with his simple living style in Rome and started reforming Vatican’s finances. Our patron St. Anthony and countless saints also lived a very plain life and so with Blessed Mother Teresa.

There was a couple, both executive, who packed sandwiches for lunch for over 15 years to save for their children studies aboard. Without being miserly, they avoided having branded attires, expensive holidays and other luxuries, yet living as their profession demanded. Instead of borrowing, they saved in anticipation for their needs.

Conversely, I know of an oversea foreign worker who borrowed heavily and got into financial troubles simply because she cannot say “no” to every whim and demand of her son and family back home. Our duty as parent is " bringing up their young children and providing for their physical and spiritual needs. (CCC#2228)” It emphasizes the word “needs” or life’s necessities for our family. We should remember the wisdom of “buying what we need and not what we want”.

Do not give in to temptation of the devil and of the world. We have to be prudent especially on our financial affairs.  Merriam-Webster defines prudence as “careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger or risks”.  One of the four cardinal virtues, our Church teaches: “Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going. (CCC#1806)". Spending and borrowing recklessly or impulsively are acts considered as vices contrary to this virtue.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) and spiritual direction help us in discovering our underlying weakness and we pray for strength. Invariably, these weaknesses usually arise from vices like greed, envy, pride, craving for luxury, etc. By truly knowing ourselves and recognizing our weaknesses, we can then seek help.

Don’t lose hope. It may take some time but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Seek help from non-profit institutions such as Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre, Debt Counseling Project; Tung Wah Group of Hospital- Healthy Budgeting Family Debt Counselling Centre and others.

Remember, our Father in Heaven loves and cares for us.