What it was like managing a Million Pesos

I was 24 years old when I realized that I managed a million pesos. No, it wasn’t my money. It belonged to the United Methodist Youth Fellowship in the Philippines, of which I was the National President from 2006-2008. 

That was a lot of money! My fellow officers and I joked that we could have gone to Jollibee for months and months! 

But then again, it wasn’t our money. 

We received several grants for projects that we wrote grant requests for. So for two years, we held meetings, we planned for events and programs, we wrote materials, we published guide books.

We even produced an album composed of 10 songs composed by young people. One was written by a pillar of Filipino Christian music, but the song was still for the youth of our organization.

I may have handled PhP 250,000 in cash. I withdrew the money from the organization’s bank account in Manila, put it in the deepest pocket of my backpack, and traveled 9 hours by bus to the venue of our conference. It probably helped that I didn’t look “rich” by any stretch. I probably looked like an ordinary, skinny young guy, who doesn’t have much to eat! Ha!

Looking back, a million pesos was a large sum of money for my younger self. The people around me were as passionate about the work we did. And we held each other accountable for how we managed ourselves and the money entrusted to our care.

To manage reporting, I kept careful track of expenses and receipts. I’m not exactly a spreadsheet ninja, but I’m still using the skills I learned from managing that million-peso budget.

I have managed bigger budgets since then. But as scriptures remind us: if we are faithful with the small things, we can be faithful in the bigger things.

Moving to a New Apartment in Nashville

I am no stranger to moving to a different house. While I was growing, my father, who was an itinerant preacher, moved from one church to another every 1-3 years.

The longest time we spent at a parsonage (a house assigned to a church’s pastor) was six years. By the time I turned twenty, we have stayed at about 10 houses.

In 2015, my wife and I reduced our belongings, packed the essentials, and moved from Manila, Philippines to Nashville, TN USA as I started a new job.

So I do know about moving and packing things.

We’re saying goodbye to this house in a couple of weeks!
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Bank of the Philippine Islands Just Made It Significantly More Difficult for Overseas Filipinos (OFWs) to Use their BPI Online Banking System

UPDATE: BPI finally added my US phone number to their system and I can use their online banking system now without any problems. It took several weeks of waiting.

I’ve been a loyal BPI customer since I first opened a savings account with them in 2005. I love their service and their online banking system. It’s easy to pay bills online and connect your savings, checking, and credit card accounts together.

Although I’ve been in the US for the past 4 years, I continue to use my BPI account for remittances–sending money to family, funding my investment accounts, saving some money, and paying online bills and subscriptions. I also use my BPI credit card every now and then for transactions in the US and when I travel around the world.

Towards the end of 2018, they announced the transition from BPIExpressOnline.com to Online.BPI.com.ph. The new website features a sleek new design and a more minimalist, elegant design.

Right now, that’s all the good I could say about this new service. You see, BPI just made it significantly more difficult for Overseas Filipinos to use their online banking system. Here’s why.

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How to Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Disclaimer: The article that follows tells the story of how my wife and son applied for their Individual Tax Identification Number (TIN)s. It is not meant to be taken as financial or tax advice. This is only for educational and informational purposes. The reader is encouraged to do their due diligence.

After my first year of working in the United States, I had to file my income tax return. I had my Social Security Number, our HR Department withheld my tax every payday. All I had to do was to file my income tax. I decided to do it online through TurboTax. It was easy–all I had to do was upload my form W-2, which our HR provided.

There was a catch, though. I was taxed as a single person because I could not claim my wife and my son as my dependents. They did not have Social Security numbers and they couldn’t get it either. They are considered as dependents of a non-immigration alien. What that meant is that my wife cannot work at all.

I, on the other hand, was being treated as a resident-for-tax purposes.

Good thing, I got in touch with a few Filipinos who had been in the same situation as we were. They told us to explore the possibility of getting an ITIN for my wife and son. That’s exactly what we did in November 2016.

If you have family members who are dependents, but you want to claim them as dependents in your tax returns, then this information may help you.

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How to Save Money on Your Child’s Haircut

Kids haircut in America costs at least $12, plus tip, it would be around $15-$18. Our son gets a haircut probably 8-10 times in a year. That would be about $120 to $180 yearly.

When I was a small boy, my father cut my hair. I know that I looked pretty good as a kid. But I don’t really remember what my haircuts then were like. As I progressed through my elementary years and my father got busier, I started going to a barber. I usually got a “flat top” or a “barber’s cut.”

When I felt like I had haircut problems in America, I started looking for the right barber. At about the same time, my wife and I decided that I could cut our son’s hair in the comforts of our home. That’s important tip for y’all out there. Always consult your wife in all important matters such as your child’s hair!

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The Best Ways to Send Money to the Philippines: Transferwise

Like any good Overseas Filipino, I need a fast and reliable way to send money to the Philippines. For the past three years, the main way for me to send money to the Philippines is Xoom.com. I have reviewed this remittance website in the past. You can read that review here: http://amightylife.com/the-best-ways-to-send-money-to-the-philippines-from-the-usa-xoom

My main problem with Xoom, however, is their terrible, terrible exchange rate. They charge an upfront fee of $4.99 for USD to PHP transfers or $7.99 for USD to USD transfers from your US bank account to your recipient in the Philippines.

However, they also make additional money on the backend through their exchange rate. It’s the same criticism that has always dogged Paypal.com.

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The best ways to send money to the Philippines from the USA: Xoom

Filipinos abroad need to know the best ways to send money to the Philippines. Same is true for Filipinos in the USA. We continue supporting our parents, siblings, and other family members in the Philippines.

The US dollars we earn can go a long way in the Philippines. A hundred US dollars can be converted anywhere between PhP 4,500 to 5,300. That would be helpful for a family in the Philippines.

That is why remittance services are important in America. You want fast and less expensive service. We live in Tennessee where there are fewer Filipinos. That is why we don’t have a lot of Filipino-oriented services compared to cities in California and Illinois.

I consider myself with a bit of tech savvy, so naturally I want online solutions that won’t require me to leave the comforts of home.

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How to Build Your Credit History When You are a Newly Arrived Immigrant (or Non-Resident Alien)

When you live in America, you definitely need a credit history, unless you are filthy rich or you can save for pretty much anything that you can pay for them in cash.

Most ordinary folks, though, will need a good credit history to avail of personal loans, credit cards, and other financial products that make life go round and round in the land of milk and honey.

So if you are a bagong salta, a newcomer, newly arrived immigrant or non-resident alien in America, you will need to build your credit history. Here’s a few tips and tricks to get you going.

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How to Use Credit Karma to Build and Monitor Your Credit Reports

Your Credit report is a very important part of your financial life in the USA. I have written about this here. One of the services I recommended there is CreditKarma.com. It is a free service that lets you monitor your credit report every week.

Here’s a good explanation of how your credit score is built: https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-scores.

Here’s how to use credit Karma to build and monitor your credit report:

Sign up at CreditKarma.com

It’s easy to sign up at CreditKarma. You just need your email address and create a password to use. You will also need to provide your Social Security Number because that is the information they need to start building your credit reports and send it to you. The awesome thing is that this service is free!

If you decide to sign up with any of their recommended credit cards or personal loan providers, then they make some commission from your business.

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5 Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Free

America runs on credit. Most people use credit cards to buy the things they need and want. To apply for a credit card, a car loan, or any type of loan, for that matter, you will need a good credit score. The credit system in the USA is a well-developed, complex system.

Prior to moving to the USA, I had two credit cards with a combined credit limit of PhP 35,000. I don’t think there is a similar system of credit reporting in the Philippines.

Quick Disclaimer: The content of this post and this website is NOT financial advice but only provided for informational and educational purposes. Please do your due diligence in all matters related to your finances.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is an index, a three-digit number that potentially represents your ability to repay debts. Banks and other lenders consult your credit score to make a decision if they will let you open a credit card or a loan.

A lower credit score means that you are less likely to be able to pay debts. A higher credit score means that you are good at managing your credit and that you are a trustworthy borrower.

Three main credit bureaus in the US create credit reports: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They use different systems of creating your credit report but it is usually based on several factors such as the number of accounts you have open, timely payments, and a few others.

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