Musings of a boomer on retiring in the Philippines
The topic comes up casually with my wife in a lot of different ways.
Sometimes, we discuss it over dinner, pushing a cart down a supermarket aisle, or while driving looking for yard sales in the backroads of Rahway, New Jersey. Edison, Colonia, Woodbridge, Clark, and Scotch Plains.
The issue is retiring and it gets batted around quite a lot, especially now that we are near 60 and have begun counting off the modest options we still have.
Like scores of Filipino-Americans who have worked for years outside the country, we think of what it would be like to return and retire in the city where everything got started for us.
We left more than 20 years ago in May 1996 for an assignment in Singapore, and then in February 1998 for the New York area. Except for a brief stint in Hong Kong, the townships of New Jersey have been home for us the last two decades.
The numbers are fairly straightforward.
We have earned enough points to qualify for social security. Rounding it off, it is nearly US$2,000 per month if we both retire at 62.
Given the expenses living in a pricey New York metropolitan area, would it make more sense to retire in the Philippines? If the peso is trading at 50 to 1 dollar by then, that would be P100,000.
If we can find some part-time work in Manila, we can live comfortably in a condo or an apartment somewhere in the city.
I can watch my nieces grow up, which would be a treat. Most of my friends would be around. I can probably go back to teaching, which is something I love to do.
We can probably do some travelling all around Asia. Hong Kong is less than two hours away; Singapore, Bangkok, and Vietnam are about 3 hours off.
The downside to all that is we are both concerned, deeply worried, about personal safety. It may take a while getting used to living in Manila and again being on guard just walking around the National Press Club.
People tell us it has become safer after the brutal anti-drug crackdown launched by the government.
But there is a reason why "akyat-bahay" is so well known. Outlaw cops would also be bothersome, especially if they can just burst into your house and gun you down while claiming self-defense.
The problem, of course, is that our money won’t go so far here in New York if we have to live on a fixed income from Social Security. While $2,000 may sound a lot, the expenses quickly pile up, especially if you get sick, which old people seem to do a lot of.
Medicare, which will help defray our medical expenses in our old age, is not available outside the United States because it is not portable.
Ideally, we also would want around 3 scouting trips to the Philippines before making up our minds. I don’t know if we can even afford 3 trips. One trip may be all we get.
The other part of the equation is purely sentimental.
We love the New York area. You can hop on a train and be in Manhattan in less than two hours from our place.
But there is also a pull you can feel from the place you grew up in, where everything is so familiar. It is, in a hokey kind of way, "home."
Which way will the whole thing tip? I don’t know.
Since we do not have to do anything until a few years from now, it may have to wait until then.
"Kicking the can down the road" is not exactly a decision. For now, it will do. – Rappler.com
Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics, and regional security. He covered the 9/11 attacks in New York and the innumerable coups in the Corazon Aquino era. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon and his views have been quoted in news reports.