Suze Orman speaks fondly of Filipinos. For many years, she has had Filipinos working for her back home in the US, and she only has praises for their diligence and dedication.
Having Filipinos in her household has made the Emmy-winning TV host, best-selling author, and straight-talking motivational speaker familiar with Filipino cultural idiosyncrasies, one of which she has come to frown upon as a personal finance expert: They send all the money they make to the Philippines.
Orman, who was just in the country as guest of BPI, told the Inquirer of one employee who, after a decade or so of taking a month off each year without fail to visit her family back home in Cebu, suddenly no longer wanted to make the trip.
“So I asked why. And she said, ‘Because when I go home, all they want is money. And I’m getting older, Suze, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to work.’” The Filipino employee said she now wanted to save up for her old age.
Hearing this deeply saddened the TV host, as she knew how hard her household staff worked.
“That had a profound effect on me,” she said. “This is a woman who didn’t see her child from the age of 5 until the age of 15, because she couldn’t go home until she got her green card, and it took 10 years. She cared enough for her family to not see her child for 10 years! And now she voluntarily doesn’t want to go home.”
Orman acknowledged that people—parents, in particular—have a propensity to express their love materially, and to quickly bail out their children when they have money issues, and this is not unique to Filipinos.
“What’s unique to the Philippines is this built-in culture that one person could take care of a lot of people, a built-in culture that if you leave the Philippines and you go abroad to make money, it’s absolutely your obligation to send home that money, whether you can afford to or not,” she said.
Orman doesn’t see this as a good thing. “You know, I have a saying, ‘When is helping hurting, and when is hurting helping?’ Sometimes when you give and you give, people never have the ability to rise and see what they can do on their own. In a very strange way it keeps people down. It keeps them thinking that they can’t do something unless someone sends them money.”
If a family pins all its hopes on that one member working overseas, it puts the entire household in a precarious situation, Orman pointed out. “If something happens to that person, say, they lose their job, that one person has now affected the lives of four, five people that he or she has been sending money home to. And they don’t even have money saved because they sent all that money home.”
She added, “But I understand that it’s a cultural event, that it’s an obligatory event. I’m just not sure that helping people who can take care of themselves is really helping the country, the family and the people.”
Filipinos working overseas, Orman said, shouldn’t have to send all their money home. They must learn to withhold, since doing so could mean helping their loved ones in the long run. In short, Orman suggests dispensing some tough love, which is exactly her trademark manner of giving financial advice on her top-rated CNBC show.
Parents should teach their children financial responsibility at an early age, she said. Parents should never tell a young child that they hate having to leave the child because they have to work. When you do that, “You just taught your kid to hate work and to hate money,” she said. “What you should say is that, ‘I’m so lucky that I get to go to work and I’m able to make money so I can help support the family. I’m gonna miss you but I’m so lucky that I get to go to work.’”
Orman also said there’s nothing wrong in asking adult children who live with their parents to pay for rent or living expenses—even if the parents can afford to shoulder all household expenses.
“I do think it’s important that children learn the responsibility of what it takes to pay for something, what it takes to eat,” she noted. “You start to train them so that when they do leave the house, they understand that, ‘Oh it’s gonna cost me money to buy food, it’s gonna cost me to have water and electricity,’ the realities in life. You’re helping them rather than just taking care of them…”
Take the money, she said, and save it for when the child leaves the coop. “You now have a lump sum of money that you can give them that they themselves created, so that they can see how that works.”
Instead of indulging their children’s whims, she said, parents must also think of saving for their old age. They should not automatically expect their children to care for them.
For other money tips and financial advice, read Inquirer Lifestyle’s full Q&A with Suze Orman on www.lifestyle.inquirer.net. Orman spoke about financial wellness to BPI clients on Feb. 25 at the NBC Tent.