There are lots of articles out there about how retirement in the Philippines is amazing, and how, after a long and diligent life of hard work, expats find their little slice of paradise in the tropics, where they can live it up drinking cocktails and visiting tropical beaches until they shuffle off this mortal coil.
There aren’t too many articles detailing the cases in which it doesn’t work out. In this article, I’m going to explain why I left the Philippines, and hopefully, by reading it, you will gain a more realistic understanding of what is needed to make your dream life in the Philippines a success.
Why I Came to the Philippines
I came to the Philippines for the same reason most people do – because I visited and I loved it. I also had a wife from the Philippines, although we had met in another country and hadn’t lived there together yet.
So, I arrived in search of the exact dream most do – the sunshine, tropical getaways, and a carefree life. I found all of them, but I quickly came up against reality, too, and ultimately decided to head back to the UK.
Why I Left the Philippines
I left the Philippines for one main, overarching reason – lack of financial opportunity.
I know, I know, there’s opportunity everywhere, and it’s a digital world. The web connects us all, and it’s possible to make money online from anywhere. BUT, it takes time, often many years, for those digital seeds to bear fruit, and since I had a young family to support, I couldn’t afford to wait.
The Philippines is truly a third world country. Yes, it’s stunning, yes, it costs little to live in when compared to Western nations, and yes, it's paradise. It is also not a place you want to find yourself without much cash, and before moving here, you would need to have either substantial savings or a steady income stream.
I had the latter when I moved there, but changes in the economy meant I quickly found that drying up (oil crash). If you don’t have a steady income, things will be tough in the Philippines, and you’re best to wait until you have that sorted before moving or retiring there.
I was also concerned for my son’s future. What would he do when he grows up? What decent jobs would there be for him? I knew his Pinoy family would take good care of him, but what could he do if he wanted to chart his own course in life? This concern began weighing on my mind more heavily as time passed, and I felt I owed it to him to bring him back to the UK. If he decides to return, he will have my full support, but it will be his own choice, and I will have done what I can for him as a parent.
Life in the Philippines can be inexpensive, but honestly speaking, if you want to live a decent quality of life, it’s not. If you want good medical care, a solid education for your children, and a lifestyle you can enjoy, you need a fair amount of money coming in every month – not anything under $1500 USD in my experience. Again, that is if you want a lifestyle you can enjoy (eating out, a sense of security, regular travel).
So, I left because I needed to take care of my family, and I felt ill-equipped to do so in the Philippines. You might face the same problems if you’re not prepared. It’s easy to underestimate what you need to move here and make it work.
I Plan to Return to the Philippines
All of the above said I do plan to come back to the Philippines to retire. It is beautiful, and you really can live the type of life you dream of but do not underestimate the amount of money you will need to enjoy it thoroughly. It’s not for young families struggling to establish themselves, but will be better suited to those who have either steady income streams from investments, established digital businesses, or who are financially independent through pensions or other means.
Someday my wife and I plan to come back and live the good life in the Philippines. It will just be to retire when life’s work is behind us.
What are your thoughts? What has or would cause you to leave the Philippines? What do you think is a minimum amount a small family would need to live a comfortable life in the Philippines?