Why Is It I’m Always Broke?

randell-tiongson-and-me

It’s been weeks since I attended Randell Tiongson’s “No Nonsense Seminar on Financial Planning,” more often referred to as a personal finance seminar. I met Randell after having e-mailed him a few times and asked if we could meet – I had a web project then that needed writers of his stature for enticing the North American market to come to the Philippines besides vacationing. This involved not only retiring in the country but more towards investing and hiring (or outsourcing), to name a few. The only thing we had in common was our high school alma mater.

Several months later, I attended his first free seminar and wrote about it. I probably jotted down more things about the event than the content of his free seminar. My inkling was to mark some role in the growing blogging community as “one of the guys,” so to speak. Still, months later, Randell came out with his first “not free” seminar but I wasn’t able to attend because of some pressing commitment I had to do. When he announced that he was going for a repeat, I made sure I’d attend.

Using Randell’s term for the one-afternoon session filled with alien jargon on finance, it was a “nosebleed!” However, it wasn’t much about the swirls of financial terminologies that silently drove me nuts – it was the realization that I should have done what Randell was telling me (and the others who attended) to do early on in my life, not in my mid-forties. During the session, my mind floated out to people I know who are still climbing into the prime of their lives and would love to convince them to attend Randell’s eye-opener seminar as young professionals, and not in their maturing years where the time to make mistakes isn’t anymore a luxury.

Here’s my “blinding glimpse of the obvious,” as a phrase I keep borrowing from the infamous book “Barbarian at the Gates”: all my life, someone took care of my personal finance. As a young professional, my parents were my personal finance advisers and accountants. Even if I would earn my keep at work, I would still end up losing my recent salary on useless spending sprees. Ever the generous parents of a middle-income household, they would oblige to continue giving me extra money, use their car, eat their food, live in their house, and have my clothes washed and cleaned – a practical dependent to parents who should have already started to think about their retirement. When I got married, my dear wife took care of our household expenses and, in that respect, my personal finance and accounting matters. When we hit some rough financial times, she managed our family expenses and balanced our personal financial needs until I came out swinging again – and she was good at it!

When I went back to the Philippines from Canada and ventured into entrepreneurship with friends, I relied on one of these people to take care of my personal finance. I had no personal accounting on revenue or expenses, even if I probably tried a hundred times. I could teach people how to create profit and loss presentations for businesses but I would fail doing one for myself.

My two-cents of practical advise to those in their mid-twenties to as late as the mid-thirties – start managing your personal finance today. The key word here is “personal.” It’s not about family finance, not company finance nor is it someone else’s personal finance. This is managing what you earn, what you spend and where to invest the extra money you save, the latter of which is something many Filipinos procrastinate about. It’s not being selfish – it’s being prudent. You can share information with your parents, spouse or life partner but you need to learn how to manage your money today. Randell’s seminar, though short as it was only an afternoon session, gave the attendees a glimpse at what one should start doing today. (The implicit pun is what you should have started doing a long time ago.) If you are already investing, is it a wise investment carefully planned, assessed and executed, or are you just like many of us being lured by the promise of extravagant rewards coming from friends and peers (worse, family members)? That’s the thing about personal finance – it’s a three-way street: income, expense and savings. A better word for the latter is “investments.”

Randell  is a Registered Financial Planner (RFP) in the Philippines and does his seminars out of the goodness of his heart. He’s an active parishioner of the Victory Christian Fellowship (VCF), an ardent advocate of personal finance management, a loving husband (you should read his Facebook dedications to his wife) and a good father (his daughter kept shooting photos during the seminar). After getting to know and talk to Randell more, we started tallying-up common friends. Randell went to the City of Smiles (that’s Bacolod City) to run the same seminar. However, I do hope he could conduct a three-peat in Manila as I’d love to invite people whose faces crossed my mind when it wandered while listening to Randell will attend the third event.

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