Back when I was younger, I was known to be extremely careful with my money. I did not spend unnecessarily and was careful with my daily purchases. My weekly allowance would last me for the week with some to spare. This continued on until I was in college where I would live off P12,000 a month. Granted, it was double or triple what most of my fellow college classmates received but with this, I was expected to take care of my utilities, transportation, food, shopping and school expenses. It was like I was given the responsibility of an adult, sans the rent. And it was more than enough. I lived comfortably and could afford night outs every now and then, plus a little vacation over the break. I even managed to pay one semester of my school out of my savings due to the current financial problems my family was facing at the time.
One thing I learnt from this – if I stay home, I save. If I go out, I spend. I still follow the same mantra up until today.
However, things became vastly different when I hit the job market. I was in Real Estate sales, where the allowance was low and you were expected to make money off the commissions you receive from selling property. Objectively speaking, it was a good experience. It’s a step below entrepreneurship, which is what I’ve wanted to do, by relying on your sales skills to ideally make an infinite amount of money. You meet with moneyed people in different walks of life and you learn from them. You set goals and you meet them. You make commissions and live off comfortably.
Better said than done.
One of the main problems this 22-year fresh out of college kid faced is that the company was so bent upon milking their sales force to sell for them that they dangle extravagance in front of you – Don’t you want the BMW Mr. Vice President drives? How about the Rolex in his hand? Did you know that we used to shop in Armani and buy shoes from Lacoste? Don’t you want that?
Needless to say, our first goal for our commission has been to buy a Rolex or a brand new car. But there was never a long term plan. Everything was based on instant gratification. So, when the money runs out (it doesn’t take long) after numerous visits to Rustans, you are forced to look for another sale to set yourself up for another shopping binge. Some at their early 20s were more aware of their finances and held more control. But for the most of us, this was the vicious cycle that we were living. So, it’s not impossible that for a person who just make half a million pesos 2 months ago go completely broke and would borrow money from a peer.
I was told by someone who I considered a mentor that companies who dabble in sales do this to force their people to need them. This unnamed Real Estate company is no different. If they taught people how to save and to invest properly, they won’t need them in the long run because they’d have their own income stream. It’s sad but I don’t blame them for encouraging a strategy that benefits their bottom line. I just wished they found a middle ground to help them halt this unhealthy cycle.
I quit after 3 years but stayed in the industry. At this time, my family was doing better but my handle on money still wasn’t good enough. There came a point when I became complacent and began spending without really noting down the expenses. I just had to make sure there was enough in my bank account but no long term plan on how to make the money grown to sustain my lifestyle.
Then, another turning point came. When my dad resigned from his job and decided to place most of our savings in a fish farm that failed, I scrambled for money to help out. My savings, the one that I expected to help sustain me for a couple of months in case anything happened vanished into thin air. I was forced to double up my work efforts and be extremely careful with money. And prayer became my haven. Granted, it was difficult but it was from this experience that I began to understand the concept of making money, saving money and most importantly, investing money.
Things a much better now and I’d like to believe that my prayers and efforts helped. The best thing that came out of this was that I realized that working for money is not enough. If it is directly proportional to your physical or mental effort that when you finally receive compensation, you justify spending that you deserve it anyway. When I began investing properly, I realize that every money I saw can be placed in an investment that would give me a good return in the future. That trip to Bangkok? I can double the money in a year. That Chanel bag? I can buy a condominium in 2 years if I choose to invest it instead. And it is through this tradeoffs that I learnt to be frugal.
I still have a long way to go but I get it now. You learn of cost vs. opportunity. You learn of delayed gratification. And you know what, when it pays off, it is worth the wait.