Pinoys’ Poor Money Habits

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I often say in my articles that Filipinos refuse to mend their ways. That includes not only their habits with Pinoy Pride, but also their habits with money. We attribute poverty in the country to many things.

But for me, one of the obvious things that people tend to gloss over is that Filipinos tend to keep themselves poor with poor money-managing habits. Filipinos tend to be careless with money, and often fail to use it in ways that generate wealth. They like to blame other reasons or other people for their poverty, but often, Filipinos refuse to admit their own mistakes.

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I believe the poor money habits of Filipinos can be blamed on these reasons:

1. Wasteful habits have been ingrained into Filipino Culture as tradition and custom.

Most obvious of this is the Fiesta tradition, wherein Filipinos seem compelled to come out with grand feasts, even to the point of driving themselves into debt. Some people will reason that because of the relative poverty of Filipinos, they deserve a momentary escape out of this misery. The problem is, this very means of escape not only brings false happiness, but it may also further drive them into that poverty, as the means by which they make this escape are expensive. In other words, Filipinos tend to shoot themselves twice in the foot with their traditions.

There is also this Filipino cultural meme of one person treating people out. I’ll call it the En grandeng painom sa kanto (grand drinkout at the street corner). This is reflected in one thing I hated about Filipino birthdays, that the celebrator is the one to treat people. Quite the opposite of the western tradition that other people pool together to give something to the celebrator. Sometimes, I think this tradition was created to keep people poor. Some people may say, this is to teach people to share their blessings. However, I think it has the side effect of making people expect these “blessings” nearly every time, encouraging mendicancy.

It also reflects an attitude of “one-for-all,” as in one person provides for several people. It seems to be a fixture in Philippine society, like in the family, where one provides for all. This is different from the attitude of other cultures saying that it is better for each person work for their own keep. Don’t depend on others, and teach others to work. Unfortunately, it seems Filipino culture deems this wrong and seems to make it normal that many should depend on one. Making them work is even considered evil. This attitude also contributes to mendicancy.

2. Sense of Entitlement

Consumerism is furthered by the notorious “sense of entitlement” that seems so common in Filipinos. Some Filipinos, when they want something they don’t need, will just say, “I deserve it,” with no valid explanation on why. Sometimes, this sense of entitlement is played upon by media and advertising, which Filipino consumers swallow hook, line and sinker. Filipinos can want things that they not only can do without, but may actually be harmful for them.

I have noticed, especially among old people (those who were young in the 50s and 60s), that some Filipinos value opulence. A display of wealth. For example, I noticed my mom, when we had our house reconstructed, she wanted designs that looked extravagant or expensive. She frowned on the simple, minimalist designs that tended to be cheaper. I’ve seen several people of the older generation who were like that. It supports my feeling that consumerism and opulence were ingrained in people in the 1950s, when American consumerism started taking the world by storm.

Columnist and artist Marivic Rufino wrote on this attitude of opulence in her article Flaunt It . Even just her intro sentences tell a lot: “The status seeker, the bored, spoiled dilettante and the arriviste share common characteristics. They live and spend extravagantly — sometimes, beyond their means. Making an impression and attracting attention matter to these shallow characters. The adrenaline high derived from an audience is addicting (KSP is the root of all evil, remember?)” And, in the end, like all those who are wise, she says it is all meaningless and vain.

3. Emotionalism

Filipino emotionalism seems to play a large role in the above attitudes. Filipinos like to feel more than they think. Thinking is a task, it means having to work your brain. Many Filipinos do not like to work their brain; they just want comfort without working for it, which for some means to do nothing and receive dole-outs from others. This causes them to want the easy way, as business columnist John Mangun wrote of the tricycle drivers victimized by the Aman Futures scandal.

They also tend to get into the dig of a highly emotional promotion easily, as Marivic Rufino notes. Emotional extremes seem more attractive to Pinoys. Spending can give an emotional high, and some commercial promotions tend to take advantage of that. Or perhaps spending, then showing something that other people might be jealous of (“inggit”) gives them an emotional high. As Ms. Rufino would agree, it is empty.

We always hear the slogan, “live within your means”. It however seems that Filipinos are among the first to disregard this advice. It seems that living within one’s means is an insult to Filipinos – especially if they are poor. Most Filipinos still dream of opulent lifestyles, and feel that they deserve them.

With all this, perhaps I can add a fourth reason why Filipinos can have poor money habits.

4. Pride.

Ego. When a person wants to be the the center of attention because of wealth, this is pride at work. Pride remains the center of all wrongdoing. It can be the cause of corruption, since after all, after embezzling the money, they go on to buy opulent stuff. It can also be seen as the cause of the shallowness of Filipinos which in turn leads to poor money-making habits. Yes, greed can be part of it, but that greed is often because people want to be proud of something. It makes them covets the things that they feel can make them proud, build their ego, but they sometimes hurt people while trying to get them.

Proper money management is still a key to a better future.

Business columnist John Mangun identifies wealth building attitudes in one of his very useful articles. In the article, he describes a certain experiment where a homeless man is given some money. The man, instead of investing, does exactly what the above describes: treats out friends, buys expensive but useless stuff. He didn’t even buy a house. In the end, Mangun mentions that the man never had the right attitude toward money.

While Mangun talks of a positive kind of greed, I think that it just a desire to be non-poor, or rich without pride. Practical richness. Perhaps that is the attitude the Filipinos should emulate.

Now that Christmas is around the corner, the Filipino’s consumerist habits will again be at their high. But it’s also the best time for Filipinos to take a good look at their culture, and their habits, and think, what should I change? Perhaps it should start with pride.

50 Replies to “Pinoys’ Poor Money Habits”

  1. In ref to the homeless guy and what he did, its very easy and very evident. He got the money for free, he didnt need to work for it. So he doesnt care. He only cares for getting through till the next day. People that work for their own money are more “conswervative” about spending their own money. Maybe you know people who got a big, huge inheritance. Maybe they saved it for a rainy day, maybe they spent it on luxury items for themselves. Same applies for people who win the jackpot/lottery. Most will spend it and not save it for a rainy day.

    Well, these are the “rules” that apply in my country.

  2. How does it work:
    your parents die and the house and their bonds, shares, put options are yours. You didnt have to do enough for it. If you have money enough yourself, you will sell your parents house; you will sell the shares, bonds etc. Maybe you may keep the shares, stock, but you will sell the house bec you already live in your own house which you think is much nicer and bigger and more comfortable. And what to do with 2 houses anyway? Does it have sentimental value, emotional value? Can you afford to have 2 houses?
    As for the Jackpot? You didnt do anything for it just buying a ticket. So the prize is easy money. So it will be spend most likely by most people.

    1. You have a point. People who learn to work for their keep and don’t receive any dole-outs have greater appreciation for money management. Like what Gogs says, if he never learned to work for it, or earn it, what achievement can you expect? If people had greater education on money management though, and they decide to resist the wasteful aspects of culture, that may help them become more financially responsible.

  3. Here’s a novel thought for those middle-of-the-road-middle-class Pinoys that exhibit this type of behavior.

    “The best thing you can do for poor people, especially your friends who are worse off than you?

    If doing what you’re doing is making you head down that path, then maybe you ought to rethink your plan.

  4. Amen to this! I now find somebody else who notices the opulence of the 50s and 60s generation. My parents belong to such a generation. Although financially struggling, I can’t really understand them when their opulent mindsets resurface.

    1. It could be the context of the time. The 50s was when all these high-tech gadgets first became commercially available. These included the television, and perhaps the camera and other consumer products. Advertising that follows the style of original ad man Edward Bernays filled the TV screens. Perhaps the end of World War 2 also gave a false sense of security, that everything was OK despite the Cold War going on. Thus, kids raised during this time tended to be spoiled, life was easy. So when things got realistic, such as in the the 80s, especially in the Philippines after 1986, the now-oldies began to complain, “oh life was so much better then,” “we didn’t have this in our time,” since they were not used to hardship. So some of them even try to live as if they were back in the old days, when things were easier. I however believe people should accept things as they are, and adjust to the current times.

    2. I also wonder if some of these parents support the move to make laws that compel children to provide for their parents in old age. I am against this since this is open to abuse. Some parents may just use this law to force their children to support their opulence. Perhaps these parents tell their children to save, be thrifty their money. But they show hypocrisy by showing the opposite attitude in their old age.

  5. It is unfortunate that most Pinoys have this mindset about money. They are shooting themselves on the foot without even knowing it. I think, similar to reproductive health, they should be taught more about money management through proper education.

    There is a tendency among Filipinos to think short-term instead of long-term even in business. In Chinese circles in the Philippines, it is a common observation that a lot of Pinoys in business want to “win” big as soon as possible.

    For example, a certain halo-halo store suddenly shot up in popularity because of their tasty delicacy. However, seeing his store sales improve, the owner of his store suddenly compromised the recipe and replaced milk with more water instead (to boost his profit margins quickly). This is contrary to what Chinoy businessmen would do, which is to capitalize on that recipe, expand his network of branches and use that good name to even open a full-fledged restaurant. So instead of taking off, this halo-halo store almost faded to oblivion. AND THIS IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE.

    1. Common indeed. The questions “masarap pa din ba?” or “ok pa din ba?” are frequently asked whenever someone suggests to eat somewhere or buy a product from a store they haven’t gone to for a time.

      Also, there’s something I like to call the “Jollibee effect”, the acquisition of a store chain by Jollibee, which effectively ruins said chain’s reputation and quality.
      I have to give it to Chic-boy’s owners though, they made another good venture after giving Mang Inasal to Jollibee

  6. Going down the other way, opposite that of the Filipino mindset, also brings about its own ruin. Even though we need to be more wary of our money, we shouldn’t be too frugal as to prioritize it above family and relationships, losing our compassion, and that is a problem in most first-world countries.

    It’s up to personal interpretation which is the better of the two differing philosophies, but keep in mind, a delicate balance of those two opposite monetary mindsets is what seems to be the most ideal.

  7. Based on most recent published study, Filipinos are the most emotional in the world. One proof, a Filipino movie is never complete without sampalan. A funeral is boring for spectators without loud cries and fainting. A wedding is bland without bubbles, confettis, doves, butterflies and the works.

    Filipino culture is very baroque. Baroque art was the in-thing during the 17th century. The world has moved past this period, but not the Philippines.

    1. LOL, so true.

      I saw an interview a female star regarding her soap opera and she said that they’re perfecting their art of sampal for their fans.

    2. That is not entirely true. You are forgetting the lifestyles of other third world countries. Look at India, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and many more countries. I take that this article is aimed for Filipinos but it is also biased because how the working-middle class/ rich/business minded/affluent Filipino’s lifestyle is far from that. This article speaks of the the mindset of the poor Filipinos only. Even the middle class working families are not entirely like this. I know many working class families keep their own money for themselves and they never ask from their families.

  8. One faulty point, there is no such thing as positive greed. Greed is but an attitude construct that leads to being ungenerous.

    I believe it would preferable that a person is “fiscally and financially adept” and being generous. I prefer a generous elite class who shares the EXCESSIVE fruits of labor while at the same time being a good manager in budgeting their finances.

    If we could emulate such to the ordinary Filipinos, it may yield better results. BTW, you should add envy on the list.

    1. “One faulty point, there is no such thing as positive greed.”

      Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film Wall Street would disagree:

      “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. (emphasis mine) And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much. “

  9. I don’t know if this has been taken up here, but the way I see it, the rich get richer because they essentially just tell the government what they’re going to pay in taxes.

    The rest of the salaried population have no choice but to pay as a large chunk of their paycheck goes to taxes whether they want to or not.

  10. hey author can you give me a nation or race that you would consider to have good money habits? so i can give you their credit card debts and see just how “good” they are? make an effort to answer now… because i think you’re singling out the pinoy for something that all peoples are guilty of:poor money habits

    1. You have information to people’s credit card debts? You risk violation of confidentiality and privacy. How unethical. 😉

      1. Fortunately for me, I do not have a credit card. 😛

        LOL sendonggirl I don’t believe you have all those accounts. Even if you do, you’re just proving to us what kind of sample of cancered society you are: thief, like those politicos and indolent Filipinos.

    2. Wow dumkopf you have their credit card debts? You know that is stealing someone’s private information. What’s your job woman? Hacking credit card accounts? I hope the cops will arrest you for that crime of yours.

    3. I agree, a lot of people from other ethnic groups and cultures are as guilty as we are.

      However, we don’t need to compare with others as long as bad habits are concerned.

      Conformity is not much of a factor if you want to change for the better.

      1. only johndoe understood my comment. everyone else got hung up on “credit card” hehehehehehehehe very amusing to observe these pseudo intellectuals

        you see jondoe, the author makes it as if we’re the only ones in the world who have bad financial habits. hogwash

        1. Oh wow. Just because someone agrees with your post, you’re now thinking yourself as a god tier and the author as a shit tier. What a “genius” you really are dumkopf. Here have a Best Showoff award trophy and stick it in your ass.

    4. A lot of people are guilty of poor money habits, but in this case, our society encourages lavish spending as a way to show our good will and not be considered “selfish”. Thus, this breeds entitled freeloaders and people pressured to spend money for them.

      Credit card debts from other countries is a completely different issue and misses the point entirely. Credit card debts does not necessarily reflect their spending habits as much as how credit card companies are scumbags themselves that prey on everyone they draw into their whole mafia-like finance schemes.

    5. author is concerned of your (as pinoy) spending habits and not of other countries.stop spending so you won’t be offended.

    1. And why do you need to find that out? To dampen this article’s effect? Would naming other nations change the author’s observation that many Pinoys have bad money habits?

    2. What’s your point? We’re dealing with our own money problems and why we have those problems. So long as there’s money, there’s going to be money problems anywhere, but there’s a bunch of reasons why our money problems kept our society as a whole stay in dogcrap tier compared to many other countries.

  11. I have hopes for Filipinos…..the much younger and better educated filipinos who are more exposed will be better than their forebears.

  12. I have good money habits. I live below my means. I save money and invest wisely. I worked hard. Being an engineer and an MBA grad, I should have been rich by now. But I’m not… Why? I was in the Philippines!!! …Right now, I’m a nurse in US and an American citizen. Sometimes you have to be in the right place to be productive, whatever belief or values you may have… Philippines will not change in my generation… a civil war or revolution should take place first.

  13. It gets bizarre in America. If I have to attend all the weekend birthday parties (I have at least 3 invitations per month), my yard work and my restroom cleaning schedule would be messed up. And $$$ adds up, if you know what I mean…so I keep it simple. When its my family’s special day, we’d go eat out, bother some of the kapuso and the kapamilya but not the whole neighborhood. I learned this weirdness when my Hispanic teacher, a single mom with three girls whined that she regretted throwing all those birthday parties and blowing a lot of money and later learned how expensive college education is. She should have put those nice bucks in her kids education savings, she said, so the dear girls will not be burdened with student loans they will repay for the rest of their lives. College diploma earned with some help from parents will be valued more by kids than pictures of grand birthday parties they had. I don’t only sound weird by saying this, I’m also kuripot, and that’s the truth. My fist is closed and it is covered by my other hand. I will hold my huge birthday party the day after I die.

  14. The difference between people from richer countries and Philippines spending on luxury goods is their income vs the prices of those goods. In Singapore, a mobile phone costs 20% an average monthly salary. Same thing costs 5 months of an average pinoy’s salary. Having said that, however, life is not easy for Singaporeans, as cost of living is also equally high. However, what we do best here is our ability to prioritize our purchases. Most people here will invest in a dwelling place first before getting married. They make sure that they can feed their family before committing to establish one.

    1. To be fair, I think that’s a great idea that Singaporeans have. It’s common sense to spend on the bare necessities of life first (shelter, sustenance, sanitation and security) before splurging on other things.

      I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend here in the Philippines, wherever place it is: people in hovels, who would rather prioritize buying a TV AND a mobile phone over a secure shelter and running water.

  15. Hi Author! I agree and understand what’s your point in your article. The thing is, there’s always someone who disagree because only less people can really analyze, realize and admit why is our country suffering.(Don’t get me wrong I knew there are lots of other issues, but poor money habits are one of the reasons) I agree because I am saying with these by my experience and saw the difference between other countries when it comes to how people spend their money and of course I expose myself to different culture not only in Asia. There is no perfect country in the world. But why people can’t just accept that until now that our beloved country is still as categorized as 3rd world country or other Nation see to it as poor. Some people keep on denying and still having that Pinoy pride in wrong misconception it is so sad. Because they never or maybe experience or see Philippines far apart compare on how progressive the other countries are. We know how beautiful Philippines are but what you are pointing out here is about Poor Money Habits and it’s so bad that some can’t understand and accept what is reality. If someone points out what’s wrong and what is not helpful with our culture, I’m pretty sure things will be better if some Filipino citizens will be more willing to be educated and listen for the benefits of themselves and the country. I hope the next generation will be more educated about handling money for the sake of their future as well.

  16. I been there in 2007 and stayed there for 2 months. Obviously I’m still bugged and shocked by what I saw, heard and smelled there. If someone would tell me what I saw I think I would never believe it. The stupidity and disorganization is taking control. Don’t expect to meet someone there who will learn something really great. When talking with a Filipino you will never be like: HOLLY COW THAT’S A REVELATION!! Na forget it. I can’t even remember one smart thing a Filipino person told me. All I heard from them was a bunch of banalities, stupidities, superstitions and religious bullshit. Every times I talked with a Filipina she ALWAYS asked me the EXACT same questions in the EXACT same order: Where you from? how old are you? What’s your job? Are you married. Since when we ask people about their job as soon we meet them? Ask a Filipino.

    Guess why Filipino people are so addicted to facebook. Because they want to pretend they’re rich and that their lives are so much better then anyone else (the famous “me only” mentality that is everywhere in the Philippines). How many Filipinos took pictures of them in a “fancy” place like a mall, KFC or in front of an expensive car? You will never see a picture of a filipino scavenging for for food in a bario. You wont see their 4 years old kids totally naked playing in the middle of the street. A good Pinoy is a Pinoy who never miss any opportunity to take a picture of any junk he can put on facebook: A bar of toblerone (the classic), a new pair of sandals, his breakfast at McDo, the statue of General Douglas MacArthur… Just anything. Don’t ask me why but they tend to take pictures of themselves with their fingers touching the low part of their cheeks. Or the famous peace and love sing with their fingers (mostly females).

    Merry Christmas sir. Where is my gift? Just joking! (yeah right you’re just joking. Like we meet strangers on the street and right away offer them a set of Japanese cutlery) It’s the birthday of my son! He never had any
    RC car! We’re too poor to buy it to him. Expect to hear stuff many times a day.

    Your conclusion is very positive and generous. There is something that you forgot. Filipino people never learn from their mistakes. They are simply unable to recognize them. They will do everything they can deny their own mistakes. They will lie, tweak the truth (damn they’re good for this), accusing you, their government, the US, white people, Chinese,Satan, the Aswang, Robocop… You name it. That is the main reason I have absolutely no hope for this country. They’re happy living like this.

    1. This comment should be an article on its own as it captures the mentality so well.

      Reminds me of my landlady who ran up massive mortgage, electricity, water and other bills…while running 2 aircons seemingly all day every day with bills you can only imagine.

      Let’s also not forget that it’s so easy to get rich abroad, that’s why all foreigners are “rich” – they didn’t work for it, they were just born and everyone happened to them.
      This is why foreigners always have to tip service people, even if the said service people do their job poorly.

  17. Thanks for discussing this one admin!
    May I add?
    Here its is-
    1. Mostly, we Filipinos have small psychological wallet. We tend to feel uneasy when we received a sum of money which is beyond our money comfort zone. For example, if we received our 13th month pay or christmas bonus, we tend to splurge our money.

    2. Mostly, we Filipinos dont plan financially. We hate insurances, we hate investments. Maybe it can be rooted from fatalistic point of view ingrained to us by Spaniards. What insurance and investmentsare you talking about? Our insurance is Jesus and our investment is in heaven. So instead of securing their family in terms of finance…they splurge on birthdays of saints. Is bible tell us to celebrate the birthdays of saints? Of course no! The bible tell us to multiply our talents given to us by God so that we can tithe and help other brothers and sisters in need and develop our talents.

    I have more to discuss, and please add me in facebook
    And if you want to learn about stock investing in a simplest way, just email me here and Ill send you an ebook on investing in stock market for FREE. Ill wait for you.

  18. all the comments are by no means entertaining like in the case of FACEBOOK. wahahaha

    ….but given a basic salary of 10k a month, what can you expect from this filipinos. i think they use SNS to escape their miserable lives. Others still believe some heavenly being is giving them trials in life and they need to overcome it. WTF? The mentality that poor are good and rich are evil is something Filipinos would think.

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