Monday, May 6, 2019

Investing in Yourself

Mel Bochner's "Right On!" from Basel 2015

This year, I was looking to learn new skills. It's not totally off track and I'm not exactly a total newbie. I want to think that this is a logical tangent or branch I can explore. So it’s not like I’m starting from scratch. 

I heard about this program that takes place annually overseas. It was something that I would have gladly spent for, because it meant exposure and networking in this (newish) path. I applied for and got into a training seminar last March-April. Instead of having to buy tickets and being a mere spectator, the training program allowed for all access, and came with in-depth, really extensive training from the best in the field. I got lucky in a way. 

Now the downside to investing in oneself is, of course, one has to spend for it. It’s not just an investment of time —two weeks in this case. It was good timing that I was able to take off from my day job. But since it was relatively late notice, I wasn’t able to apply for funding and had to spend for airfare, accommodations, daily expenses. I’m supposed to have some kind of subsidy for accommodations but I have yet to hear about a refund. But all in all, even if I don’t get the subsidy, I still feel that it was worth it. Especially since we don’t have that kind of training here. 

When I got home, and hoping to apply these new skills, I invested in a key piece of equipment I could use. 

What this foray into new skills cost me: way less than $1k. Some people spend this much for a holiday abroad. 

What it gives me: two weeks of training and a new network of experts. It will afford me new directions career-wise. This is important to me. Since the industry I’m in is saturated, fluctuating, and I wanted to have some other skill that would differentiate me from others. 

It’s still early days, and there’s still a lot to learn. But already, I got some people interested and partnered with. So I’m hopeful about this. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Update: Emergency Fund Edition

Emergency Pig is from the Economic Times of India. 

Despite my new year's resolution of posting more consistently, I haven't really written any updates for February and it's the last day! 

So here I am sliding into your feed on the last day of the month. I'm tempted to just post bullets of what happened to me since my last post. I might as well call this update the Emergency Fund Edition because I've had unexpected spendings of all sorts. 
  1. I have managed to log my expenses for 2 straight months. Last January, I had to fund my mother's travel expenses. Although her friend shouldered most of it (ticket, hotel), I still had to shell out for spending money and other expenses. Add other day to day and regular expenses, this resulted in me using up to 95% of the month's pay overall. 
  2. This month, regular expenses tallied up to 65% of my net pay. There's still some pending expenses coming up (like airfare and accommodations) for a professional opportunity that came up. The upcoming training's accommodations will be reimbursed up to a certain amount, so I really looked for places that fit the bill. At the moment, I'm hoping that some upcoming seat sales will allow me to buy tickets that won't break the bank. 
  3. Earlier this month, I tried to update my laptop's operating system but something happened and it won't boot properly anymore. I tried to troubleshoot it on my own, but with a deadline and tons of work stuff coming up, I really had to have it fixed. There were places recommended but they were closed for the duration of the holidays--it was Chinese New Year--so I had to go to Greenhills. While the guys who fixed my laptop were okay, I still can't help but feel that I would have gotten the job done for lower if it wasn't an emergency and if the other places were open. Well, tough luck. The repair cost me ~13% of the month's expenses. 
  4. Last week, I got bitten by a small animal and had to go to the emergency room to get anti-rabies and anti-tetanus shots. It's a good thing I have a health card. The shots were covered by the HMO. From the ER, I was instructed to go to the Company Billing Window, filled out some forms, waited around to have it approved. Once approved, they sent me to the Pharmacy where I got the meds. I didn't see the exact figure but it was a sliver shy of 3k pesos. Earlier this week, I had to return for the next set of shots. Same process, but this time instead of the ER, I had to go through the regular window. It took some time, but not that long. All in all it was a smooth process. Charge was still less than 3k. But still, I would have preferred not to have to go through it. 
  5. I have qualified for substituted filing this year since I really only have one  main source of income now. It's really much simpler to just sign the papers and hand them over to the finance people and have them process it. That's one less errand that's taken care of. 
  6. There's still some raket/freelancing money that I can round up. I'm sure the cheques have gone stale, so I will need to request them to reissue it. And it involves going to three different places to collect them. But it sure gives me comfort that there are still some hustle money floating around that can fund the next adventures. 
So I've had three things come up that were unscheduled: ER trip and shots, computer repair, travel expenses. They all cost serious money. It's not so bad. Things happen, and I am looking forward to the trip next month. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

2019 Financial Goals

Image from  InspireCast. 

Not gonna lie: 2018 was an annus horribilis for me. 

Recognized that things were bad and spent early 2018 asking for help, and the rest of the year trying to get better. Partly explains why I’ve been AWOL from blogging for the latter quarter of 2018. It’s been a very busy couple of months at work. I went away for a vacation in mid- to late- December. New work schedule started. Everyone’s complaining that they haven’t even finished work from the last term and yet here we are. 

On money matters: I usually list my expenses down. I even made a Google Sheets Template dedicated to this. When I opened it to tally how much I have spent for 2018, that’s when I realized that I have stopped updating the sheet in August. August! Yikes! That actually coincides with when I upped my medication. (Still haven’t posted about this. It’s an ordeal but I’m getting better. But also, health care is expensive and my meds are ~200 a pop per day. No joke). I think I got disheartened with the amount and subconsciously stopped updating my list. 

My investment portfolio briefly touched 7 digits. Then I didn't sell anything and it got wiped out by nearly 40%. Remember kids: Never leave money on the table. That's a hard lesson learned. But also: don't panic. The stock market is bound to go back up, you just have to be really patient. 

I'm still going to be on medication for ~5-6 more months. It takes a whole chunk of change that should be going on a retirement or investment account, but if smaller savings means that I'll get better, I'll take it. 

I don’t really want to do resolutions this year, mostly because I sucked at it. My goal this year mostly the same as last year’s: save for retirement and get a clear picture of expenses/where my money goes. 

I did not invest in PERA last year, despite my January 2018 resolution. Most of what would have been my savings went to doctor fees and meds. Would love to remedy this soon, what with PERA investing via BDO is now apparently easier as an online banking option. 

Started updating my excel list of expenses as well. Will probably try to tally 1H2018 and approximate for the latter half given my half-assed list. 

The only new addition is probably this: be consistent. Not just with the money stuff but with all other kinds of behavior. I was talking with a friend who said she read somewhere that forming new habits take 21 to 28 days. It’s now January 20 and I have so far listed my day to day expenses. I know where I’m at—expenses are bigger than pay, boo! But that is due to a parent going on a trip and I had to fund the expenses. But I do plan to discuss it and ease up on other spending categories. Plus, it’s not all lost as I have some still uncashed paychecks coming my way. 

Perhaps an additional finance goal: Get busy with a side hustle opportunity that came my way last year. I haven’t maximized it yet and will hopefully get to do that this year. 

When you think about it, it wasn't really all *that* bad. Sure there were times I felt I was at an an all time low. But I spent most of 2018 trying to climb out of it. There were some successes: My strategy was to keep pitching things out into the universe. I managed to do a few things. Applied for and did not get in some other things. That's still a bummer but there will be other opportunities out there. 

That’s it. Hopefully will be more consistent with the blog posting this year. How was your financial 2018? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Part Time Suweldo

May sweldo na! 

It's been a busy couple of months. Today we return to the daily grind with three bits of news: 

  1. Metro Manila workers get a Php25 pay hike.  The Department of Labor secretary said that the hike will take effect "15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation." The amount is ~3.48% of the Metro Manila minimum wage. That percentage is usually the same amount of annual increases we get in the Part Time Hourly Wage. I'm just not sure that we will get an additional increase as mandated by this bit of news. I guess we will see in two weeks time. 
  2. May suweldo na today!* We will get our 4th paycheck of the term. I checked with the bank app and there is an amount credited to the payroll account. Suweldo now is ~the same amount I used to get pre-TRAIN. It seems like the deductions made for voluntarily signing up with the HMO, the whole amount of which used to be deducted within the first term, has been spread maybe through out the year? Maybe some people felt the burden of paying for healthcare in one term as too heavy and requested it to be parceled out more evenly.
  3. Load for next term. I'm actually surprised that Part Timers will still be getting more or less a consisted full load for the coming term despite the prediction that the K-12 effect will result in lesser teaching load. Although not all schools are like this and I still don't want to count on this being consistent. Heard the news from Sir W that in CoRK, they're expecting only one subject load or maybe none at all. So this full load is still a blessing in the sky, I guess. 
*This is a message that's always greeted with a thumbs up or smileys in the Part Time Group Chat. You can feel the anxiety when people start to ask when payday is coming. But usually I get an alert that some money is coming in because it seems people are always on alert for this. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tinola is now a luxury

This tinola pic from Kaukau Time! blog

Nearly a week or so after the scandalous Php1k/kilo of sili, the Agriculture Secretary Manny PiƱol himself tells the public that they should plant sili for self-sufficiency. I mean, sure. But where will the ordinary office bound Pinoy worker find the time to plant bahay kubo vegetables if they're still stuck in traffic? 

This article by the Inquirer looks at those in the informal sector who are hardest hit by the inflation: an ambulant vendor and a tricycle driver with a family to feed. They can no longer afford tinola--something that I had encountered when trying to buy ingredients the last time I went to the market--and have to set aside half of the hotdog and tilapia they had for lunch and have it for dinner. 

The prevailing minimum wage in the National Capital Region is Php512, and if it wasn't enough before, it certainly isn't enough to catch up with the 19.2% and 12% rise in price for vegetables and fish. There are groups that want to raise the minimum wage to Php750 and to provide discounts for basic commodities. 

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines also lobbies the government to curb the rise of inflation and its effects on the poor. “The unemployed are obviously scraping what’s left at rock bottom in order to survive. Workers in the informal economy — since they do not have a fixed income — also feel very insecure.” 

Vendor Rose says that the government should shift its priorities away from illegal drugs. If the ordinary Pinoy is working as hard as she can but can no longer afford even simple meals, what is left to do? Rose feels lucky that she's single and doesn't have a family and therefore only has to fend for herself. But she can't get sick. There is no safety net. She insists that they don't need subsidies either. “What we need are permanent solutions that would really have an impact on our lives.” 

The question is how to get there. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

How to Fight Inflation

Price for bird's eye chilis just increased threefold.

Price roundups feature frequently in news and morning shows to give the public an idea how much they need to spend at the markets. Lately, the news have one thing to say about prices: it just keeps on going up. 

The weekend report that's making the social media rounds has to do with the price of siling labuyo, the extremely hot but small chili one finds in sawsawan or dipping sauces. A few days ago, I had to go out and buy some dahong sili for tinola. A small bundle of chili leaves cost five pesos. Malunggay leaves were going for ten pesos. 

Someone looking for siling haba (the kind you use for sinigang and Bicol express) was surprised to find that a piece as long as your pinky finger was three pesos. 

"Dati, libre lang ilang piraso n'yan pag bumili ka ng gata." (This used to be free, just thrown in if you buy coconut milk.) 

Another manong chimed in, "Yung dahong sili nga, hinihingi lang sa kapitbahay eh." (One used to get this from your neighbor for free." 

There was no siling labuyo to be had. Labuyo is usually sold in small piles in halved coconut shells or plastic sauces for five or ten pesos. Or as one of the manongs noted, you just ask your suki to throw a few pieces in for free. 

Nothing is free these days. 

What passes for labuyo now, slightly bigger, imported from China,  cost five pieces for ten pesos. Or two pesos each. 
Twitter version of the weekend news report. 

It's not the first time that the lack of supply of labuyo pushed prices higher. A quick search revealed that back in 2015, the price of siling labuyo surged to Php 400 to Php 700 per kilogram because of a deficit of supply coming from the Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon areas. What was being produced in Nueva Ecija was only enough for local consumption. 

Who can imagine a Pinoy table without sawsawan? On days when prices for labuyo or calamansi are outrageously high, even your neighborhood karinderia would be stingy with these. But now it seems like this would be the default. 

And there's news still that inflation for August might have hit as high as 6% and breaching the 9 year high. This was something that predicted as early as May.  

One way you know how hard regular people are being hit by inflation by how they react with the increasing prices of household goods. That overheard conversation among market goers was one thing. 
Fight inflation by planting your own sili plant.

Someone else in an internet forum posted in reaction to the sili crisis: Why don't we go back to planting vegetables in our backyards again? Free sili for days. Assuming the birds don't get to it first. 

This is well and good if you have an actual yard to plant it in. Also, if you can get a plant to live. I've only successfully killed plants with my black thumb. 

Because of this sili crisis, I learned that the growing period for siling labuyo is September to October and harvest season is from February to March. I actually sowed a few seeds but of the bell pepper kind. Here's hoping that it lives and gives us free sili to fight inflation. 

How about you? One really needs to think how to stretch those hard-earned pesos. What do you guys plan to do to fight inflation? 

EDIT: Okay, it's official. The Philippines has the highest rate of inflation in the ASEAN. Wow. Much wow. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Hidden Charges of Beep Card Reloading

Loaded P100, only got 97. Automatic 3% charge!

After 3 years in existence, the Beep card has been sold 5 million times, logs in 1 billion transactions. Consider me triggered. Reading this piece of news made me remember a bad commuting experience recently. Not entirely horrible, but made me more aware that transportation is not a public service in this country. 

I needed to go to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) a week or so ago. Took the train to Ayala Station and  then went to where the shuttle buses to BGC were. BGC is alien land to me. The last time I was here I needed to check which route passed by my destination. After consulting the maps, I remembered that I had to top up by Beep card after several trips to QC the week before. 

Now usually I reload my Beep card at the ticket vending machines in the LRT/MRT stations. I also choose which stations to reload in—obviously, the less crowded the better. It’s a relatively hassle free experience:  place card on scanner to find out your remaining load, put in Php50 or 100 as I don’t commute as often or as far as before, then check the balance and you’re good to go. 

In my experience, the Beep card is a better choice than the old thin magnetic cards. Load up Php100, but don’t use it all up within 3 months? Expired. Sayang load. 

Avoid long lines, pay the premium. Capitalism gives you choices!

So when I was at the BGC shuttle terminal, I saw this machine near the entrance to top up. I assumed it was similar to the reloading machines in the train stations. Well, nope.  Now it turns out that this particular machine charges you for using the service. I put in Php100 and the screen said that there would be a 3 peso charge. It was too late to back up since the transaction was already done. 

It was then that I noticed there was a counter where more people were lining up to top up their cards, similar to LRT/MRT stations. I’m guessing that way you don’t get charged. 

I know some people would just shrug and say, “Eh, it’s just 3 pesos. Don’t be a cheapskate.” I don’t use retail or “tingi” mobile reloading after I noticed that the amount I topped up would frequently be used up faster than my regular use. For the same reason I find it absurd that a reloading machine would charge you basically 3% just because. I understand now that this machine might be an outsourced company. I haven’t tried loading up my card at a 7-11 or anything so for all I know, that one also has a charge. 

But really, the commuting public is already paying for really bad service. Then you charge them more just for using it. At least now, I know. And my katangahan or just sheer lack of knowledge cost me 3% of commuting money. 

More on ignorance tax: the BGC shuttle does not announce stops or destinations. I really missed that “Ang susunod na istasyon ay V. Mapa.” Also those maps that show you the stations/stops. That way you don’t get lost. Lesson learned. Look around. Don’t be lazy. Take the 10 steps or less to the counter and top up your Beep card there with no hidden charges.