Friday, November 11

The Challenges of Having Financial Security When You Are Single and in Your 40s

People thought that being single means having freedom to do all the “happy” stuff unlike those who have their own family or already married. The thing is not all singles are enjoying the perks of living freely without the responsibilities towards their family. 

Yes, I am single and already accepted my ‘single blessedness’ status a long time ago. Things happened in the past and for whatever reasons I have to accept the challenges ahead of me as a single person. I am really not sure what the future holds for me (I try to be positive) but the most important thing is that at this point I should plan well for my financial security since I am living ‘solo’.

My Struggles at Being Single: Gaining Financial Security When You’re in Your 40s and Single
My Personal Story

Whether I like or not there is a stigma associated with being single in your 40s. The snares and stares are so real- it penetrate me deep within like an x-ray vision that can read my soul. People are tempted to judge you- why is she still single? Maganda naman siya..sayang.

It can be hurtful sometimes that you have to put off a brave face each time there is a family gathering or reunion of some sort. Relatives can’t help but ask- Why are you still single? What’s keeping you in getting married? These are the usual questions I get when meeting up with relatives or old friends. But my mom has a ready reply for these negative innuendos and this is her usual statement- “She has to be single so that she could take care of me and her pamangkins”. I just shrugged it off each time; I am not sure if her comment is good or bad or if she really means it in her heart that I will be her forever caregiver. There is a mixture of emotions brewing inside of I am doomed to forever of my singlehood.

Yes, I’ve been the designated family caregiver; in fact I took care of my grandma for more than 20 years. Twenty years of my life I stuck it out with her until her Parkinson’s disease slowly deteriorated her mind and body. It was very hard juggling school life, business and my “imposed” family obligation but I loved her that much and she was by my side all throughout my growing years since my mom was busy with her career as a bank executive. Among her seven “apos” no one devoted even a little time in taking care of her. But I have no regrets in doing this. This is the best testament of my unconditional love for her even if I (as perceived by some) sacrificed my own welfare and happiness.

I did it out of love for her and for God even if I was not appreciated or compensated for doing this- I’ve been okay and still feel blessed. It is my belief in kindness and goodness that keep me whole as person up to this day- as I often tell myself ‘this too shall pass’. Sadly, my grandma reached the end of her rope and succumbed to the complications of her Parkinson’s disease at the age of 84 last 2008.

I Have to Have an Income! Stupid things I did for money.

Luckily for me, my attitude towards money is helping me survive my day to day existence. I am not materialistic and my frugality allows me to save some. While my role in the family is an all-around caregiver and now provider, through the years I managed to have some income via direct-selling. I also tried my luck in operating a marketing and promotions firm but this was just too much since I need at least half a million to run this type of business. 

For a year the marketing and promotions business has been running through various loans that I acquired but in the end I was bankrupted and on a verge of losing my sanity dealing with my loans, payables and disgruntled employees that numbered to a hundred. I’ve got big time multi-national clients and dealing with them can be a pain in the ass (pardon my words). It’s hard to wait for payments that have to go through months of processing and the US recession came in which further delayed my incoming payments to almost 2 years. Yes, TWO YEARS of depression, of mental torture, of asking myself if I am still alive or dead! It was so dark and almost about to lose my mind. The people who talked me out in putting up this business left my side right away when they already knew that my boat is about to sink. I was all ALONE dealing with this situation. 

This was one of the biggest STUPID decisions I did in my entire life. I should have not jumped into something that I have no clear understanding. But going through this experience has thought me a lot.

Things I learned to end my financial misery while still single and broke:
1.    Find simple ways to have a source of income. This I’ve learned at a very young age of 10. During my elementary days I am not embarrassed to sell small items to my classmates. I even offer my own juice ‘baon’ which was in a large Coleman jug to my classmates at only fifty cents per cup. During my high school days I continue selling stuff. I know I may sound selfish since if someone asks for a piece of paper I will ask for one peso per 3 sheets. In college, my entrepreneurial spirit took me to direct selling opportunities. I am not ashamed to sell among friends and neighbors since I know everything has a value and by doing this I am able to have yearly savings that I get to spend and budget for the whole year. My friends would wonder how I am able to enjoy financial freedom especially during the holidays. What they did not know is how frugal I am when it comes to money and finding ways to have some income allowed me to save for the good times.

2.    Never act on impulse and jump into something you have no complete understanding. When it comes to money it is best to take some time and assess the situation first. Like in my case, my lifetime savings went into waste when I suddenly decided to venture into a business that I have no clear idea how that business will progress. I was so na├»ve and was easily talked into something without carefully studying the consequences. Yes, the possible monetary gain sounds good since we are talking hundreds of thousands here per project. I was blinded and was taken advantage of people I thought I can rely on. In the end, I am all alone facing the consequences of my being impulsive. After the depression and me being broke I needed time to grief and heal. During this time of recovery I got terribly physically ill afflicted by H-Fever and followed by a bad case of Typhoid which left me in and out of hospital for months. It was physically painful, mentally draining and emotionally exhausting. However, how dark that period was for me- I survived.

3.    Dream big and start small. Considering the frustrations I had to go through I realized that somehow I have to stand up and build my life again including restructuring my finances. I started from scratch, holding a big dream in my heart but I know it is best to start small like taking baby steps to avoid the pitfalls I had in the past. I managed to save money through my direct-selling and invest this money (20K) in a tiny sari-sari store. In a few months I am able to tell what the neighborhood needs so I only stock on items that are saleable. I don’t care if people tell me na “kakalog-kalog ang tindahan mo” that I should have more things to sell. This store is my source for our daily food expense, it may not be that much for some but it brings food to our table. In my over 16 years of running a small store I already have the formula to stay in this business- sell only stuff that are in demand, no to 5-6, no one gets an item for free (even me), ‘bawal utang’, don’t overstock to avoid poor quality and expired items, set your selling price accordingly by considering your overhead expenses and lastly replenish supplies daily. The last one needs dedication like going to the market everyday but I value my ‘suki’ and only offer things that are fresh and of good quality. Another thing, I don’t sell stuff that I don’t personally patronize since there are children buying and I could not sacrifice their health for a few centavo earnings. Glad to say, the store is still running even if there are competitions within a few meters away from it. A sari-sari store is a very small business but I value the things I am learning while running it.One of the best lessons I learned is how to deal with all types of people and this is priceless since it changed my perspective through daily social interactions and it has improved my character by tearing down a wall that separates me from the real world. In other words, the store made me more tolerable, understanding and accepting of people. And this experience is priceless.

4.    I reinvented myself and realized that I’ve got skills and talent that can help me financially. While tending to my tiny 3 x 10 sqm. store, I realized that the financial needs of my family are adding up. In just a few years my mom will be retiring and our family is growing with the addition of nieces and nephew. The thought that pretty soon the burden on my shoulders will be heavier, I somehow forecasted the fact that my mom will be expecting financial support like she will be imposing responsibilities on me and I was never wrong. So I tried recognizing my worth- what skills do I have that can help me acquire financial stability. Gone are the days that I will rely on my occasional income from direct-selling which is not enough to sustain a family of seven plus a dozen more rescued pets. I realized that I am good in research and writing and can work as a freelancer online. I prefer working at home (at store) since I am still able to personally manage my sari-sari store. My being meticulous and tedious is the key that I am able to land my first few projects online. Again, I started very small with merely $1.50 dollar pay per hour. I was very patient and had worked for over 6 months at this rate. Regardless that I am losing sleep and have no time to relax I must storm the weather. Aside from research and writing, I challenge myself to learn more about the online industry and to think I don’t have any training and no one taught me how to navigate myself through the web. Through self-learning my skills are upgraded which opened more opportunities for income. Little by little my projects are more valuable and up to now my online job is my bread and butter. I’ve been a freelancer now for 6 years. 

Being single and financially prepared

I know there are a lot of things that I have to consider to achieve financial security even now in my 40s and not to mention still single. With the responsibility of being the main provider of the family, at this point I don’t really worry that much since I am able to pay all our household bills, keep my family nourished and save some for the rainy days. 

How do I do all these? Every time I receive a payment for a certain project I set aside percentage of it that will go to savings, petty cash and regular budget for daily expenses and bills. I maintain 2 bank accounts one for force savings and one for accidental needs or purchasing necessary things. My formula is 15% for force savings, 10% for the accidental need funds, 25% petty cash and the 50% goes to monthly budget that takes care of all bills, groceries, food and kids’ needs. 

I could not say that I am financially well-off since I am the type who enjoys simple things in life nothing too extravagant but no way mediocre. The key is balancing my finances and prioritizing. 

I know I could do better and should have higher goals in life at this age but I am still in a process in doing all these. So now I am considering having investments like in stocks or mutual funds. I already got a Sun Life Prosperity Card that signals that this is the best time to invest for my own future. Aside from this I will get myself a health insurance since I am not getting any younger. Although I have my Philhealth card it is wiser to have a solid back-up in cases that I get ill or something- just being practical.  Lastly, I am thinking of getting a memorial plan too- to ease the burden of my loved ones if that big day would come. 

Living as a single lady in my 40s may seem easy for many but in reality the burden of being financially secured is there since I don’t have a better half and I don’t have children on my own that will take care of me. Sounds sad, but this is my reality and I have to be prepare d especially now that I am in what you call ‘mid-life’ crisis period where everything’s should be taken into proper perspective. I know I can do this!!!

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