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?
Living in the PH is half off stress, living like the locals budgeting will go a long ways. Health wise, discipline self by exercising, eat organic, keep stronger faith.
Randy J. Pelc says
I will be retiring in the PH in about 3 – 4 years and my biggest concern is boredom. I know, how can that be in Paradise? So far the longest that I have stayed is 4 weeks and I found myself looking for things to do. Right now we do not have a car which won’t be the case when I retire and that will help. Being mobile will allow us to do more and that alone will help. I love to look at the water but I am not much on actually going in the water. Maybe a small boat to do some fishing? I do need to exercise more so that is an option. Medical also concerns me since m=our home is located in Bolinao Pangasinan which has small medical facilities but that is about it. We’ll see. Only time will tell…
I recently married (in the Philippines) and now live with my wife in the provinces. There is a lot written on the web to say how good things are here but little to say the opposite so, for that reason, it was an interesting article.
You spoke of boredom but please be honest with yourself, no matter where you live you can feel bored sometimes. Boredom was the main reason I emigrated to the Philippines (marriage kept me here) and now I have settled in I see no reason to move (and I live in Mindanao).
I have been a resident here for about 6 months now and at no time can I say I was bored; there is always something to do and I am not talking about living the high life either. With 100 php in your pocket you could travel to the local markets, roam the local shops and return home again. You could still have over 80 php in your pocket to spend tomorrow.
Shopping, discovering your area, mixing with people and understanding how to live here all takes time. Probably the second hardest thing to master (the language is the hardest) is their culture, as I am discovering, it’s very different from that of my own.
I am retired now and have a small but sufficient pension which provides for our needs as I don’t have expensive tastes.
I did spend a lot of money settling in and providing for the required visa’s and so forth but now that is all sorted I am happy here now and accepted by the community.
How much does one actually need to live in the provinces? An open question but I allow 50,000 php a month, which covers for everything including eating out more often than not.
Settling in fees can be anything but 1.25 million php covered things like accommodation furniture, visas and so forth but then you can do it on a ¼ of that with ease.
I would strongly suggest that you have a nest egg for the unexpected (1/2 ~ 1 million php as a suggestion); other than that, just sit back and enjoy the Philippines.
You may find things are easier to cope with as the pace of life here is so slow but their bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed. Don’t mock it though as it keeps many much wanted work.
All children here are really polite and cleanly dressed; it is a real joy to see them. Poverty is rife but then this is the provinces. Shopping is best kept to the Mauls unless accompanied by a local as (not unlike most places around the globe), foreigners are easy targets.
The Philippine life is not for everyone but if it is for you then come and enjoy it. One thing I feel you should be aware of is that the electricity is expensive here.
Well I hope this was of some use?
Due to unexpected circumstances, I find myself probably less than 30 days from moving to the Philippines from the US. My fiancé awaits, also out in the province, south of Cebu City. I will arrive with far less than your suggested amount. However, we are in slightly unique position. Her small piggery is already successful, and put’s money in the bank. She currently pays all the household bills, including food from her little sari sari store, and has for numerous years. The house and property is fully paid for, so having no rent/mortgage to pay is HUGE bonus for us.
We will be able to expand the piggery slightly as the very first project when I arrive. We’ll realize sales from that in about 6 months, and 2nd phase of expansion will kick in about 6 months later. Again, still small, but efficient and profitable. There have been many backyard piggery failures written about all over the Philippines. Our leg up, is that she’s already successful, and we’re doing it the right way. We’ve been fortunate to get educated on the subject from a Brit-Pinoy couple that started from scratch and spent a lot of money to get educated, and they are now licensed for 600+ head. We will be well under the 80 head license requirements.
I am 57, she’s 47, and I have a bit over 4 yrs to go till Social Security kicks in. So for now, the plan is to manage the piggery in a way that it nets just 30,000php per month profit for year 1, Then through 2nd phase of expansion, it should net between 40,000 -50,000 php per month. At this point we’re totally satisfied and can feel comfortable being able to not worry too much. No living high on the hog (pun intended), just a nice comfortable living.
It’s going to be interesting the next 60 days to 6 months as I/we go through this change in our lives.!
Kevin, I appreciate you taking the time to write about your experience. Life there as an expat is certainly different for each of us so it’s great to hear that you never experience boredom. I am sure that when I actually start living there things will be different. We do not have a car at this time but we will buy one at retirement. That alone will allow for exploring and traveling longer distances to shop. We are looking to buy a little farm land so that too will require our time.
I have considered the differences between life in the Philippines and what retirement might be like in the US but it’s a apples and orange comparison. I’m sure that the favorable climate in the Philippines will bring much joy too. So, we’ll see.
You are certainly one of the lucky ones arriving in 2017. We wrapped up building and finishing our new home in February, 2020. Departed the country immediately before the lockdown. Wife was set to retire in July 2021. As of April 28, 2021, however, we are locked out with no hope of a return of the balikbayan privilege any time soon. Risking cancelled flights and delinquent refunds over and over is not for us. Word has it it will likely be 2023 or so bef0re matters improve to any degree. At 72 with health problems I doubt if I’ll be around for that to materialize.
Boredom is a big problem in P.I. I had plenty of Navy friends who were bored and opened bars, in Subic and Angelas City. Only to become there own best customer.Nearly all of them, drank themselves to death at young ages, after only retiring for 5 or 6 years.
Doc – Your Navy friends obviously didn’t do much but drink. So being bored in the Philppines is probably not a big problem. It’s your alcoholic friends that wouldn’t or could care less to find fun activities outside of their bars. There’s so much more to life than sitting in a bar and drinking. Especially in the Philippines where there’s so much beautiful country and ocean!
Mark Bruckner says
My wife is filipina and we built a house in the province in Cebu. It troubles me how many Ex-pats drink to much and seem to have little direction in life. It is fun to hear their stories the first and second time, but not the sixth or seventh time. Somehow I think it is possible to avoid this? Personally I have a one beer a day limit on drinking and have been able to maintain this for the eleven years that I have visited the Philippines. We usually stay for 5-6 weeks a year. But when I live there I want a better life than the guys I see there.
Gav, thank you for your helpful article. It is a sure thing that anyone moving to the Philippines must do his/her homework before moving there. Some people think they can get a job anywhere, but if the locals have a difficult time finding employment, foreigners would have an even more difficult time of it. From what you said, it seems that the best age group of people moving to the Philippines would be the retired segment, which has Social Security and a pension–unless a young person happens to be independently wealthy. I have thought about retiring in the Philippines, and if I do, the only thing which would make me leave is if my or my wife’s personal security was threatened.
Olivier MERTENS says
Thank you for telling us your experience, I fully understand and agree. Actually, the blog is ‘RETIRING to the Philippines’ … I can imagine that looking for a job on your own here, with a reasonable income, must be a challenge. In our case, we came in the Philippines because our daughter married a Philippino. Very nice guy, excellent education and manager of a growing company, I appreciate him and his family very much. So I decided to retire a bit earlier, we live in the same condo (but a different apartment) than my daughter and we are close to our grandchildren. From time to time, we take a break and discover one of the beautiful place of this country. We enjoy very much our life here. We slowly start meeting other foreigners. I can confirm that if you settle in a nice place and aim at a good lifestyle, life is not that cheap! In our case, the rent of the apartment takes a large part of our pension, but indeed even without it, I confirm that it comes to USD 1500 monthly. Our grandchildren are still young but finding a good school for them will be expensive. We will see what my daughter and her husband will decide at that time. In the meantime, we enjoy the present moment and I wish that you will soon be able to do the same here.
Whilst I understand the reasoning behind your decision to leave, it begs the question why did you move there in the first place?
Of course not having adequate income stream or savings is a problem, but surely that is the case anywhere you choose to live. This site is about Retiring to The Philippines. By definition that means being in a position of not having to work in order to survive.
Understand that your sons education is important, but is that not something that you should have considered before moving there?
Sorry that it didn’t work out for you and I wish you well in Spain or wherever you choose to live.
Randy J. Pelc says
David, thanks for encouragement. Our house is near the family and fishing is what part of the family did for many years so I can get support there. I do love the people and the culture. Having grown up in the Northern Midwest of the US this is quite a change. I do hope to find a hobby that helps me to fill the day and like I said having a vehicle will make all the difference. I would like to explore taking short 2 – 3 days trips and learning more about the country. I could not be more blessed with my Filipino family. They are wonderful people. I do have some concern about healthcare but I’m sure I’ll figure that out. Again, thank you for your thoughts.
Nicholas De guzman says
Nice article.really true.philippines is for retirement.not to start a family.unless you go there with money.
Steve Fleming says
Nicholas – Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you liked the article. I agree that you need money or a way to make money when moving to the Philippines. I would question whether that has to necessarily mean one needs to be ‘retired’, in the conventional sense of the word. There are many people who live over here and don’t claim a pension. The Internet has opened up many doors that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
I agree employment in the Philippines is challenging at best, and you would really have to study the culture before going into a business endeavor. Also, you just can’t make any money here, unless you have your own business, and it has to be very well thought out.. As far as the boredom, I find that the easy pace is the positive. I didn’t like swimming in the waters either, but now enjoy it because I have the time. Retirement is the way to go, don’t know how a younger family would survive, unless off of savings. $1500 would be cutting it close, but then again it depends on the lifestyle, but that is doable. You can get a little used boat for maybe $500 US, and there are just a lot of natural hobbies you can enjoy and they cost little to nothing. Explore the mountains, the beaches, eat local, and do as the locals, and you can live very comfortably on that $1500/mo. When choosing a business, you have to keep it simple, very simple.
It really depends on where you want to live in the Philippines and how you want to live, for me I wanted or needed to live in Makati for business reasons and I wanted a lifestyle similar to what I had in the uk which was not bad. So having decided that how much did it costs, well lets just say living in the northwest of the uk as I did before I came was much much cheaper than what it costs to live now. If you are happy to live out in the Provinces which can be nice and you are happy to eat the food locals do then you can live here cheaply although expect the locals to tap you up for a loan or money but that’s how it is. There is also the type of person you are, if you like organization and structure in general you will hate it here, the traffic and driving is insane and not for the faint heart (I do drive) the systems to get things done is not organized and very corrupt. The weather can be great and it never does get cold so if you like the warm its nice. You should definatley look to have n income in local currency as if you earn abroad the currency rates can hit you and have hit many here badly when the pound tanked in value, so try an have a way to make some money that pays you based on Pesos. The other thing is find something to do with your time siting in a bar does get old quickly and you do find the guys who do that either become alcoholics or very board. Its a great place but expect to be very frustrated often and be bale to just laugh it off and move on even when it seems stupid.
Is that US$1,500 per month to live on for a single person or a family?
Steve Fleming says
Mark – If you’re a single guy and have $1500, you can live pretty comfortably but if that’s for a family then you would either need to lower your standards or have more money. Even if you’re single I wouldn’t say $1500 will give you an extravagant lifestyle so it all depends on what you want.
I’m frankly amazed that having lived 8yrs in Asia you have the nativity, stupidity or sheer cheek first of all to try and make money in a third world economy and then complain you can’t have s first world lifestyle at their expense!
I have no sympathy with expats who expect the Filipinos to subsidise them.
JOHNNY BROWN says
I would like to know if medicare is accepted in Philippines , also cost of health insurance
John H says
American Medicare is not usable outside the United States. If you are retired military you can use Tricare but in some countries, like the Philippines, you have to pay up front and then file with Tricare to get reimbursed.
Steve Fleming says
Thanks for the information John!
How you can enjoy returning to the broken shell of a country (formally known as UK) beggars belief. The Philippines is both an exciting and frustrating place to live. And yes – you do need sufficient income to live here. If you think you can live on pennies, then think again. I would argue that you need a minimum £1000 or $1300 per month to live comfortably in one of the bigger cities. And of course consideration about medical care must be taken into account. But as Trump in the US seems hell bent on dismantling Obamacare and likewise in the UK, the Tory government wants to privatise the NHS, you have to factor in the cost of funding medical expenses yourself. Paradise never comes cheap.
Frederick Scott says
You can not use “Obamacare” or Medicare in the Philippines. If you are not retured US Military, as far as I know, you have to pay the bill yourself. However, most medical care is many times cheaper than in the US. If you need major surgery, heart transplant and the like, I suggest you stay in the US.
But the state pension is roughly £165 per week £660 per month would not support a single retiree then ? I’m coming out in May to check the Philippines out I don’t retire for another 6 years but when I sell my house here in the uk should give me £200,000 I would like to stay there and wait for my pension to kick in
Peter Clark says
Neil. the state pension will support you in the Philippines but it also requires a carefull budget and not to buy imported foods etc. We retired here and let our house in Croydon until the state pension arrived. If you are seeking a partner be warned that it is a minefield so don’t burn your bridges until you finally choose your lady……..and when you do NEVER tell her what your income is.
Daniel. Granado says
Thank u Gav Lucas.
As a hard working crafttsman,,
I will experience soon much of what u described.
Sure appreciate that honest report. I’m 60 & on disability…
I might go a little nuts down there but I’m going for my fiance…
GARY L LAFFERTY says
Your right I never move Philippines have children or care for a wife least witout 1500$ a month in retirement income
Peter Clark says
Its important to be able to chat with your own species whatever the topic because without contact in isolation you can feel isolated and moody with pointless arguments that never occurred in the early years. Luckily I have hobbies and interests that are for the outdors and here in the PI each day is possible but in the UK I’d only be able to be outside for 6 months of the year…….yuk! Yes boredom is the problem here and I feel sorry for expats who come here, buy a good car, build a nice house then twiddle their thumbs until the depression kicks in when Alcohol seems the answer. There are some delightful single parents looking for partners and a second chance at bringing up a family may appeal to some? I’ve set up 2 expat groups that have lasted only for 3 years or so and primarily because of differences in backgrounds. If I’d kept it to just the blokes we’d be ok but the ladies sit together and as my old mum in law used to say “dish the dirt”. Lifestyles and wealth are discussed that cause politics to fester amongst the girls where the chaps would be able to avoid the gossip and enjoy the meetings.
Evangeline Adams says
It is hard to retire without savings in the Philippines. My brother in Canada, 60 yo, his youngest daughter is only 8 yo. He told me he has to stay working till he’s 75 yo at least. When his daughter finished her college. He is just worried if his company would let him working until that age. Age discrimination is against the law, but the company can replace older workers with younger workers discreetly or his company might set up a case against him that will force him to retired or be laid off. He would like to retire in the Philippines because of affordability of living there. He just doesn’t know how much will be his monthly when he retires.
jay r curtis says
Moved from the US to Cebu 12 years ago.$ Got the SRRV Visa and would recommend it.$ Bought an old rental house in the province$, worked on it for 3 years.$ Had to put it in the lawyers name, foreigners can’t own property. I was lucky , it all worked out fine. Went to stores in the province and in Cebu city alone many times never, had any problems. Broke my leg in the province, had to go to Hospital in Cebu City,$ No X-ray machine at the Hospital in the province,
.Had my first kid in the province, got tricked. $ I was into the sport , not baby making. Spent much time in court obtaining sole legal custody of the child. $ Laws are not the same in the PI. Moved to Angeles after 5 years in Cebu.$ .Angeles was much higher class living. I had friends, swimming pool, movies, department stores, many foreign restaurants, hospitals and better schools for the kid. All at a cost.$ The province is much cheaper. I bought another house, put it in a girlfriends name. $ There was a birth control mishap had another kid.$ The older kid and the mother beat me in to submission and I married the girlfriend. life was good for me In AC, they even have a VFW. The Embassy has an outreach program.. I no longer had to drive 3 hours to Cebu city to get something I needed. As she grew older, I became more concern about the children’s education, opportunities and future, The wife and the oldest kid wanted to move to USA. So after 10 years with a wife, 2 kids and 8 suitcases in tow we move to the USA.$ We have been here over 2 years now and I am much more bored than I ever was in the Philippines. People would talk to me there, here everyone has to work all the time. I came here for the wife and kids, not for me. They seem happy, so I am happy. If they were all gone I would go back to the PI. If you have any questions, just ask. To live like an American, with Aircon, TV, western food, trips, quality dental and medical visits, quality schools for kids, and decent vehicles, It cost money, any where in the world. Cell phone service, TV cable., internet. car maintenance and such are cheaper in the Philippines, I went without car and house insurance in the PI. What it cost depends on how you live. Any questions just email me,
herbert anthony gautier says
I support my adopted daughter and her mother in Talisay, Cebu. We bought 2 houses that I will renovate. My adopted daughter, 10 years old, in La Union uses my family name. Her mother and grandmother had her birth certificate changed 3 years ago.
I am advised that I can buy property under my 1st daughter’s name because I am on her birth certificate. I will complete the US adoption of my second daughter. My 1st daughter does not want to leave the Philippines at the present time. I am making plans for when she changes her mind.
I must complete a legal US adoption because I have a VA dependent scholarship because I am 100% disabled.
It sounds like you weren’t retired when you moved to the Philippines. If so, the main concern is making money. Do you have any tips? Also, it might not matter now but the risk of placing property in someone else’s name is that you lose it.
Vic Bernsdorff says
How reliable is you Internet connection? We are planning to move to Dumaguete City. I live in Stockton, CA right now.
Having any kind of connection to the outside world or for business reasons really needs a good Internet connection.
Charlie Bamford says
I live near Tacloban & worked remotely for a UK company for 8 years. Despite what PLDT & others will tell you internet connectivity hasn’t improved. Also, there are frequently whole days without power so a generator is a good idea. In addition to a PLDT fiber connection I have a pocket wi-fi made by tp-lonk. The PLDT connection isn’t very reliable. Updated models are constantly being released. It is a life saver for working & general internet access. If you move to the Philippines you will very quickly learn to never believe an advert…especially regarding broadband speeds!
Good luck whatever you do. I may be in Dumaguete on 4th February 2023 for an Audax cycling event!
Ledesma 99 says
Many US military veterans can live great lives overseas because most of us have already spent years abroad already. But like all things related to military life, the homesick need not apply. In fact, to the homesick at heart, years abroad could be their life’s unending.