Lessons in Financial Wisdom and Cultural Challenges



Growing up, I often heard the mantra that education is the key to a better life. With dreams of escaping poverty, I pursued my education, believing that good grades would unlock doors to a prosperous future. Although I wasn’t a top student, my competitive spirit and perseverance guided me through finishing my college course. Little did I know, life after college would be far from what I imagined.

The Harsh Reality of Post-Graduation

After obtaining my degree, the harsh reality hit me – the job market didn’t align with my expectations. Underpaid and financially illiterate, I found myself trapped in a cycle of spending more than I earned. The transition from academia to the real world was an eye-opener, revealing the absence of essential life skills, especially in financial management.

Seeking Purpose in the Dark

Feeling lost and without a clear goal, I questioned the meaning of life. I observed others, realizing that academic success didn’t guarantee financial stability. This led me to explore the deeper issues ingrained in Filipino culture that hinder personal and financial growth.

Cultural Barriers

In my quest for answers, I uncovered several cultural challenges:

Dependency Mindset: In the Philippines, there exists a cultural phenomenon that can be termed as “Filipino Toxic Culture.” This refers to the belief held by some parents that bringing more children into the world will secure a better future, potentially improving the family’s living conditions. Despite financial constraints, some parents continue to have more children, viewing them as investments for a brighter tomorrow. This perspective is often deeply ingrained, as these parents were taught the same by their own parents, creating a cyclical pattern of a well-intentioned but economically challenging mindset.

Another significant aspect of Filipino family dynamics involves relying heavily on one individual, often the breadwinner or the eldest child, to carry the financial burden for the entire family. This mindset is perpetuated by parents who believe it is normal for one family member to make significant sacrifices for the collective good. Unfortunately, this can lead to a life of hardship and sacrifice for the chosen provider, who may have to compromise personal aspirations and even relationships to meet the family’s financial needs. This ingrained pattern of dependency can be challenging to break, perpetuating a cycle of financial strain within the family.

Pride and Status Symbol Syndrome: A prevalent aspect of Filipino culture involves a sense of pride, which, unfortunately, manifests in the form of extravagant displays of wealth. Some individuals, even if they can barely afford it, engage in conspicuous consumption, showcasing luxurious items such as cars, houses, and high-end gadgets. This behavior is rooted in a desire to maintain a particular image, to impress and compete socially. The fear of appearing vulnerable or unsuccessful leads to financial strain as individuals may prioritize appearances over financial stability, creating a facade that masks the underlying economic challenges they face.

Love for Freebies:Filipinos have a strong inclination towards seeking free things, be it complimentary items from a store, a treat from a friend, or a no-cost service from a friend’s business. This behavior often starts early in life, as parents inadvertently instill it by teaching their children to ask for money as gifts on occasions like Christmas and birthdays, rather than waiting for voluntary gifts. This unintentional molding of dependency can have lasting effects, with individuals growing up relying heavily on seeking assistance rather than cultivating financial independence. Even when a friend starts a business, instead of offering support, there is a tendency to ask for free or discounted services. Similarly, when friends plan to hang out, it’s not uncommon for someone to jokingly ask for a treat. This cultural tendency to seek freebies extends to financial help from extended family members as well. Generous individuals often find themselves taken advantage of due to this prevailing mindset, where the expectation of receiving something for free is deeply ingrained.

Lessons from Mid-30s Reflection

In my mid-30s, life experiences taught me valuable lessons:

School Teaches Some Things You Might Not Use: In school, you learn many things, but not all of them are super useful in real life. I realized I spent a lot of time on subjects that I can’t really use. Instead, it would have been better to focus on learning how to make money, invest, and pick up practical skills. These are the things that are really helpful in day-to-day life.

Life is Tough, But You Need Three Tools to Survive:

  • Money: Spend your money wisely. There are people out there who might try to take advantage of your hard-earned money. They could be relatives, friends, or even strangers trying to sell you something that turns out to be a scam. This happens because everyone has their own money problems, and sometimes, the easiest way to deal with it is to get money from someone else. So, it’s a good idea to live a simple life and not show off too much.
  • People: Be careful about the people you get close to. Look for friends who truly support and uplift you, not those who take advantage of you. I believe that genuinely good people are rare, and some might pretend to be nice but have hidden intentions. Along the way, you’ll make mistakes in judging people, but those mistakes will help you figure out who’s right for you. Once you find the right people, cherish them because they’ll make your life journey better.
  • Wisdom: Wisdom comes from knowledge and experiences, both failures and successes. It helps you make good judgments about what’s right and wrong. A person with wisdom is someone who has learned a lot from life and can see things clearly. If you have wisdom, you will never go wrong, and it will always point you in the right direction in life..

Life’s Balance and Happiness

Life is all about finding the right balance. We often hear stories of wealthy and famous individuals who, despite their success, end up facing deep struggles, sometimes even leading to tragic outcomes like suicide. On the other hand, we’ve personally felt the challenges of life when resources are scarce. Striking a balance is crucial. If you’re too poor and lack resources, life can feel incredibly tough and miserable. Conversely, having immense wealth and everything at your disposal might lead to a sense of emptiness, as the excitement of overcoming challenges diminishes. Real happiness, it seems, lies in having just enough to meet your needs and not having everything. This way, there’s a continual sense of purpose and something to look forward to in life.

Embracing Life’s Short Journey

I believe we all have a purpose in this short life. Each of us is here for a reason, like having a unique job or role to play. Figuring out your purpose makes your brief time on Earth more meaningful. It’s like finding the right piece in a puzzle – everything fits better. Life is short, and realizing your purpose adds value to each moment. It’s about making every day count and turning ordinary things into something special. Discovering your purpose is like finding a map for your short journey, guiding you to a more meaningful and satisfying life.

Through the highs and lows, my journey has taught me that a balanced life, enriched with wisdom and surrounded by genuine relationships, is the true path to success and happiness. Life’s challenges, once embraced and understood, pave the way for a fulfilling and purpose-driven existence.


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