In the Philippines, there is a saying that has the exact same meaning as the words of Forrest Gump in the movie. ‘Tanga is as tanga does!” Yes, stupid is as stupid does. Over the years, I have listened to a number of expats complaining about their number one mistake in the Philippines. When I asked them if they would have done the same thing back home, the answer was always “No!” I listened to all the reasons why they did what they did in the Philippines and one thing remains at the forefront! They were not thinking clearly or rationally at the time.
Yes, we all make mistakes and we will all make mistakes again, however, the magnitude of some of these crazy acts are major life-changing events for the expat. If you are over age 60, there is just no way you are going to replace a 6 figure savings at this point in life!
I Wanted To Be A Real Estate King!
So, what did the expat do? He had a fiance in the Philippines who he only met once he made the move here full-time, yet he entrusted her with more than $300,000 USD to buy a number of properties for rental purposes. All in her name! Lots, houses, a small boarding house and apartments. Sounded like a great investment and it may well have been! Only once the deals were completed, the Filipina fiance kicked her American fiance to the curb and he lost it all!
When I first met this American expat several years back, he was recovering. No, he was not an alcoholic but he was slowly trying to recover from financial ruin. He knew he would never have that kind of money again in his lifetime but thanks to saving some of his Social Security pension each month, he was eventually able to put together a fairly decent size poultry farm. He raised the 45 day Sasso Chickens and he had a nice egg business. He met a lovely Filipina nearer his own age, they were married and their life was not that bad. The expat was lucky that he had something to at least fall back on and was able start anew, although on a much smaller scale. I admire him because many expats would have packed it up and gone home but he was resilient. He was even able to build a simple Filipino style two story concrete house on their small farm. The American expat told me he never once thought about blowing his brains out but he said he is haunted by his bonehead mistake everyday of his life! And he probably always will be.
No Happy Ending
As the old saying goes, “3 strikes and you are out”, are words that can also be true in business! Another expat in our area decided to also raise the 45 day chickens, so he hired one of his wife's relatives to assist him. Wrong move! I am not against giving a relative a job but if they are going to be involved in a business being counted upon to produce a steady, viable income, the relative should be an expert in the field. Di ba? Why would you invest thousands of dollars in a poultry farm and hire someone who knows nothing about the venture? Because he is a relative. Wrong answer! The poultry farm was doomed from the beginning and the expat lost all in that investment.
The relative said he knew more about farming! Venture number two got cranked up in short order. A vegetable plantation. The relative did not know any more about farming than he did about raising chickens! The vegetables were poor quality and the profits very slim from selling the vegetables by the kilo in the market. Most of the vegetables spoiled before even being sold. What's up next? By this time, the expat's investment money was dwindling on down the tubes! Every Filipino knows how to raise pigs, right? What could go wrong this time? Plenty! The hogs were not taken care of very well, some became sickly, they were not gaining weight quickly enough, which resulted in the buying of more hog feed. This is a profit killer! If you spend too much on hog feed, you can never recoup that money during sales of the hogs. All this was just too much for the expat and he passed away after having a massive heart attack.
Not Everyone's Experience
These two sad stories I shared are true. Due to jumping in business blindly, throwing money around wildly and trusting the wrong people, these moves wiped out the lifetime savings of the two expats. It didn't take long at all! Just a few weeks for the Real Estate King and less than one year for the wanna be Gentleman Farmer.
By having honest, loyal, trustworthy people to help with the businesses, both could have been highly successful! I know from personal experience during the last 5 years of living in the Philippines. My wife's youngest brother and two wonderful Filipino friends help establish my wife's businesses from Day One and all the businesses are successful! Without them, this would not have happened. No way, Jose! However, my wife had all in place before the first centavo was invested. That was the game changer! Being a winner instead of a loser!