Is Financial Independence possible even if you live and work the in the Philippines? Entrepreneur and FIRE starter Kenneth Reyes-Lao (@kenreyeslao) realized that it is possible! The only thing is you must know the rules to play the Financial Independence game.
Ken’s pursuit of Financial Independence was influenced by a question from his father. “How could you help a drowning person, if you don’t know how to swim?” This thought experiment made him realize that helping will have more impact when you prioritize your needs and growth before supporting others.
In 2016 Ken and his wife, Sheila (@shielareyeslao), decided to leave Manila and move to Davao after working in the tech industry. This change was fueled by the desire to get away from a high cost of living area and to build a business with the values of improving people’s lives.
They founded Cacao Culture Philippines, a business grounded on the principles of helping farmers and their families, get ahead in life through decent work and sound financial literacy. Taking a personalized and non-assertive approach, they educate farmers and workers regularly on how to handle their finances wisely and warn them against despicable money scams in the Philippines.
Noticing the lack of financial margin in Cacao farmers and employees, Ken organized programs like “The Ipon Challenge” (Saving Challenge) within his company.
In a country where people struggle just to make ends meet, his employees had gained some amount of freedom in seeing their bank accounts grow. One used the savings to invest in the Modified Pag-IBIG II (MP2) and another had saved enough capital to start a small side business that will yield dividends and cash flow for them in the future.
In our conversation we found that financial freedom is within reach for most Filipinos earning a decent living because of institutions and programs like,
- Social Security System – members receive sickness, maternity, retirement, disability, and funeral benefits
- PhilHealth – gives a wide range of medical benefits to contributing members
- Modified Pag-IBIG II Savings (MP2) – provides government-guaranteed low minimum savings facility that earns tax-free dividends (6% compounded yearly in 2021) and can be withdrawn annually after maturity (5 years)
- Tonik Bank – yields 1 – 4% on Savings Accounts and up to 6% in time deposits
- Interactive Brokers – offers 0 to 0.18 PHP commission on U.S. stocks and ETFs.
Building and Accountability Community
Seeking to know more about the rules of the FI game, Ken founded the FIRE Movement Philippines Facebook group to engage other Filipinos in the Financial Independence sphere. People from different personal finance groups (savers, minimalist, financial advisors, and investors) had found common ground in which they could share their knowledge, ask for advice, and celebrate their FI wins.
Although the barriers to FI are being lowered considerably, we think that it is still difficult for most people to part with their hard-earned cash. We tend to want to wait and see if such vehicles and strategies are legitimate before starting. This is where meetings like the FIRE Movement PH group’s Accountability Sessions empower Filipinos pursuing FI through the learnings and experience of others.
Dive deeper into the origins of Cacao Culture Ph and the FIRE Movement Philippines group in our conversation with Ken!
We are a Pinoy Physical Therapist duo living somewhat unconventional but intentional lives. In this podcast we want to learn how Filipinos all over the world in different industries and walk of life earn, spend, save and invest money to achieve Financial Independence.
We are NOT certified financial advisors, analysts, or CPAs. Investing strategies shared in this article and the website are not financial advice, but our own opinions that are for educational purposes only. We want you to treat our content as a preview to do your own research so you can make smart financial decisions.