The Most Expensive Kind of Paper

I’m not sure precisely when it happened – probably it was during that night at the hotel room I shared with my mother, the day of my graduation spending spree; or perhaps it was after I spent my very first paycheck on that knife set (which we still own – yay me!) – but there came a time when I in fact, became good with money.

Yes, we can toot our own horns, because we have our own blogs, for crying out loud. That’s what they’re here for.

Anyway, years later (and after several failed attempts to keep a planner), here I am finally with enough cash to burn on wise investments. Took me long enough, definitely no longer ‘Money Under 30’ material, but I never bothered with other people’s timetables, so what the heck.

Talking about money, especially in my country, has somewhat been synonymous with admitting you’re a greedy little thief who wants to be buried with your stash of gold bars (if you have them).

Even independent, career women to some extent, avoid talking about exact numbers, solid investment tips, and so on. Unless I attend free seminars (which are not easy to come by where I live), I’m hard-pressed to find a good source for financial literacy.

No, the Web hardly counts. ‘Cause even my favorite YouTube channels fail me at a couple of key points. One, most advice isn’t directed for people living outside the U.S.. Second, they keep wanting me to take on three to four jobs (that a lot of us just don’t have the mental nor physical stamina for).

Is it wrong of me to want to have my quiet mornings without having to constantly juggle between answering emails or checking Facebook for leads? Is it wrong to want to eat lunch uninterrupted by your to-do list?

I feel like we live in a world that needs to be constantly on in order to earn more money, to fund lifestyles we usually can’t afford.


What’s Wrong with Hard Work?

If you’re like me (middle class and born in the Philippines), you’ve likely heard the same mantra – repeated not just by your parents, but by a relative, friend, spouse, or Heaven forbid, a successful business man – that one needs to ‘work hard to make their dreams come true’.

While I’m an advocate for hard work and resilience, I doubt that simply sweating off or working overtime will make ‘your dreams come true’. If that’s all it takes, we wouldn’t have more than 21 million people living below poverty line, now would we.

I came from the slums. You’d get your teeth knocked out if you even think that’s these people didn’t work their bottoms off day and night. They’re one of the most hard-working folks you’ll ever know.

If they toil more than Americans, then why are they still poor? Why can’t they even afford to live in a decent apartment away from the putrid smell of garbage? Why can’t they eat three meals a day? If they work so hard, one generation after another, why are they still where they are? Did any of their dreams even come true?

Just ‘working hard’ for me sounds a lot like ‘chase after money’. Why should I chase after money? Can’t money work for me? ‘Cause that seems to be the premise for rich people.

We see them dine at nice restaurants all the time; they buy expensive stuff; drive around in luxurious cars that aren’t on credit, too. Inflation hits and the economy teeter on the edge. But we still seem them dining at nice restaurants, buying expensive stuff, driving in luxurious cars – and yes, I bet none of that are on credit.

Maybe they think differently. Perhaps thinking and talking about money isn’t – shouldn’t – sound so evil. Chasing money couldn’t possibly be the only way to make your dreams come true. Maybe if we think differently, perhaps things could change. Maybe the entire system could change.


Is Money Even Real?

High School wasn’t exactly thrilling for me for many reasons. One of the biggest was that I went to an all-girls school where most of my classmates were worth more than my school.

They were nice, yes, but being a hormonal teenage who wants to fit in didn’t alleviate my insecurities; especially when they started talking about summer trips to Paris, or buying a pony for their younger sister’s soiree. I mean, who eats lunch in Hong Kong and comes back in time for last period?

However, the best part would be learning from them – and their parents. You could say they were my ‘free financial advisors’.

They taught me stuff they didn’t even know they were teaching me. I got to borrow books on investing, saving, and budgeting. I got to sit inside their car listening to businesses their families invested in at that moment. I found out about tiny, but helpful tricks can save you money (your choice of toothpaste, for instance).

Maybe it was during that time when my perception about money changed. Suddenly, it wasn’t this weird green thing that made people greedy.

It became just pieces of paper I needed to help make my dreams come true. I imagined what it would be like not to worry about money – to have enough so my family could live comfortably; to build my orphanage; to help old people not be forgotten; to have enough to probably start a small firm that would generate jobs…

Maybe money isn’t the enemy. It could be something else that made people greedy. Perhaps I won’t be like them. Whatever my justification, I felt a new world open up for me. A world where God won’t be angry at me for having money – because money was just a piece of paper. And nobody should really be going after pieces of paper.


A Tool Not a Prison

Humans have been using tools for as long as we’ve had opposable thumbs. From rudimentary hunting tools, to complex digital gadgets, there’s always a right tool for the job. A writer needs pen and paper; an engineer needs blueprints; an artist needs paint and brushes; a cook needs fire and a skillet.

But while our tools may differ based on our trade, most of us need ONE common tool to make it all work together (I’m saying ‘most’ because there are folks who live off-grid).

Most of us need to earn money in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter. Basic needs that the modern world have made difficult to come by for a lot of citizens. We need money to afford vacations to new places, classes for new skills, brunch with friends, or dinner dates with significant others.


Back to Basics

Ever since I can remember, I have this crazy vision of me in a white, button-down shirt, walking around a small office space, stirring coffee in my mug while working late nights. I imagine it as a tiny home office – preferably in one of those contemporary apartments somewhere in Frankfurt or Tokyo.

There’d be just a small table where my computer would be, a cute potted plant, and a kitchen island holding a coffee maker, some bread rolls, and a microwave. It’s probably 2AM, but I’m so happy to be working on whatever it is I’m working on that I don’t mind at all.

Right now, my ‘small office space’ is right inside my home, in one of the developing provinces in the Philippines. I’m not wearing white, button-down shirts. I’ve only been to Frankfurt twice for a layover of no more than two hours. And my kitchen never has bread rolls because ants would be all over it.

But I am working late nights – sometimes, even until 6AM. I do pace the floor while stirring coffee in my very own clear mug (that used to be the container of some delicious hazelnut spread). And yes – I am so happy to be working on whatever it is I’m working on that I don’t mind at all.

Am I earning a lot? Definitely no. But I don’t juggle between answering emails and checking Facebook for leads. I eat lunch uninterrupted by my to-do list. Unfortunately, I’m not ‘constantly on’ in order to earn more money to fund a lifestyle I can’t afford.

Definitely not a ‘Money Under 30’ material (because I just hit 31). I don’t have my orphanage yet. And I probably need to tag along with others for my advocacies before I can fully fund my own. But I have wise investments and I’m getting there.

Hey, you’re reading my blog so it’s definitely a start.


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