Financial Planning for OFWs


This article was written by Kyle Kam, Digital Marketing Specialist,

Working abroad opens you up to all kinds of experiences. Many Filipinos dream of working abroad. Those who do find employment there do so in order to be able to provide for their families back here.

To date, the number of Filipinos leaving the country to work abroad numbers around 2.5 Million, with more leaving every day.

Remittances as of February this year already exceed $2.11 Billion, already on the heels of the $26 Billion remitted in 2015 – according to the BSP. In a 2011 study by Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Inc., however, it showed that one in ten respondents would return to the Philippines financially despondent. This is in spite of higher financial capabilities – in which OFWs are more than able to save for retirement or to gain more financial assets.

In the game of working and earning, it’s really not how large your paycheck is – it’s about how much you can save. Financial planning isn’t about just increasing your income. It’s also about making sure that you are armed with the knowledge to manage your finances.

Here’s how you can get started.


Contrary to popular belief, your time working abroad is as much for you as it is for the family you are supporting. You’re allowed to have a little fun, to be a tourist on occasion and see as much of your adoptive city as you can. Just remember that you have goals and a set amount of money to work with every month.

Set aside a portion of your budget – after you’ve deducted savings, bills, groceries, and remittances – as a fund to let you explore the city and have a little fun. Ask friends who may have been there longer to show you around, take a walk around your neighborhood if safety permits it.


The saying goes “nasilaw sa pera.” The amount you’re earning every month is a bounty when you convert it to pesos, but will lack to fit the cost of living in the country you’re working in. The rent for a small apartment outside of the city center in Hong Kong can cost upwards of Php 50,000 per month.

Wages in more developed countries are higher to compensate for the cost of living. Knowing how much will go towards rent, utilities, groceries, and commuting is necessary to know if you’re being properly compensated.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate for higher pay, especially when you’re a high-performing worker. If your contract and time permit this, look up a freelance job to boost your income.


This deserves its own section because it can be a reason why you eventually end up with zero savings after a decade of working abroad. Some OFWs will send half or more of their total paychecks back home, hoping to provide a better life for their families. It’s a noble goal, but one easily sullied by people who’ll get it in their heads that you owe them everything.

A conversation with your family before you leave should lay down the rules. Make it clear that you are setting an amount that will not be exceeded outside of major emergencies. When remitting money, look at all the remittance centers in your area to find the one with the best rates.


You should save while abroad, apart from sending money back home to turn into more assets for you and your family. If you’re single with no responsibilities, it’s easier to spend constantly. Don’t do this because of your future.

Figure out your goals and steps to reach it. Download expense tracking apps like Expense Manager, You Need a Budget, or Mint. Track daily spending so you know where your money is going. Open a savings account and deposit your savings in it as soon as you get your paycheck. Automate your savings for better results.


You might not be thinking too much about this at the start, especially if you’re young. If one of your goals is to purchase a home in the Philippines, that’s already an investment. Real estate is a popular investment for OFWs – whether it’s through flipping, or using the area as a commercial space. Research and the right real estate agent is the key to making this work, but it isn’t the only way you can invest.

Before you invest in stocks, real estates, or anything else, it’s important to do your research. Investing is risky when you have no idea what you’re doing. Educate yourself with books, or seminars if available in your adoptive city.


This often gets overlooked, it’s easy to say that you’re outside of the country to earn money for yourself and your family – not to pay for health insurance that you won’t use. But having insurance serves as a secondary barrier of protection for your finances. The cost of living in developed countries is high, and so is the out-of-pocket cost of health care. You’ll end up damaging your finances more without it than if you did have it.

It’s important to check whether your employer offers medical insurance. You’ll need to get one for yourself if they don’t. If you have dependents, you should’ve already applied for life insurance before you left. OFWs are mostly the breadwinners of their families, so it’s best to provide for them in the event that something happens. If you’ve got a car and a house abroad, you should also have insurance for these assets.

Final thoughts

Those who leave the country to work abroad are heroes, especially to their families. They sacrifice time with loved ones to give them a better life. It’s easy to say that they look like they’re living the high life based on social media posts. The truth is that it’s not easy. Many OFWs struggle with adjusting to a different culture, and a lack of the close support system they have here.

The struggle is offset by earning enough and doing more to maximize their ability to earn. This means saving and investing what they earn so that their financial futures are secure regardless of whether they eventually retire to the Philippines.