On a post I recently made about “Going Home” one of our frequent visitors, Peter, asked what you should do in a certain situation. He told how he had offered financial assistance to a cousin of his wife so that she could take a trip to another spot in the Philippines. Soon, many other cousins came out of the woodwork and were looking for their assistance too! Unfortunately, this is all too familiar in the Philippines. I have come up with a solution that works for me, maybe it will work for you too. We’ll look at that shortly.
Let me first give you a little history. Feyma’s immediate family has always been good about not asking for money, and I can’t complain about that. Funny thing is that the people who ask for money and such are distant relatives, people that Feyma barely knows! Shortly after we were married, nearly 18 years ago, we received a letter in the mail (we were living in the USA at this time). It was from the wife of a somewhat distant cousin of Feyma’s. She went on and on telling us how bad things were for them and how much they needed money from us. Well, at the time we were not too stable financially, and we just threw the letter away. These were people that we didn’t really know anyway.
After moving to the Philippines, the floodgates opened with more and more people looking for assistance. In addition to family there are always friends, acquaintances and even people we have never seen before looking for a handout. When you first come here, if you are like most, you are a little too free with your money. Every guy begging on the street can spot a foreigner coming, and the ones who are new to being here are a particular easy catch. As time passes, though, you quickly learn that you simply can’t help everybody who needs it. Heck, you can’t even help every person who asks! If I gave money to every person with their hand out, I wouldn’t be able to feed my own kids! So, it simply has to stop, or at least be given wisely.
I choose to give wisely (at least I hope it is wise – sometimes I am proven wrong). In general, my decision has been that I try to help the next younger generation of my wife’s family. My nieces and nephews are the people I choose to help. I have been burned on this a couple of times, but I have also developed what I consider as some great relationships with my nieces and nephews through this means of helping. Another thing, I rarely just give people cash. My intention and goal is to help get these younger people in the family a decent education, and also help them learn how to make money. It is my belief that they actually learn more by living with me and working in my business than they do at school anyway. I know how to make money, and by passing this along to my nieces and nephews it is my goal to help lift my wife’s family from poverty in this current generation.
Lets look at a current example that I am just getting started on. I have a niece who just recently graduated from high school last year. Before she completed High School, I was thinking about this girl and how I could help her. This is a girl that I really like, she has been kind to me, and is willing to talk with me and engage in a conversation. Because of her friendliness to me, I wanted to assist her. In the past, I have sent several people to school, but I’ve also been burned on that, so I wanted to take a little different approach this time around. In December 2006 (maybe before that, I don’t recall) I contacted this girl and told her that I had a proposal for her. I offered her a job with my company, one in which she could learn how to do business the way I do, and hopefully one day she can go out on her own with her own business. I told her that she could live with us here in Davao, we would feed her, give her all of her needs, etc, but not pay her a salary. Instead, for each year that she worked for me, I would send her to college for one year at the college of her choice here in Davao. Now, to clarify, she can not go to college while she is working, but if she works for one year, after that year I will pay all of her college expenses for one year. If she works four years, she has a full ride through college, on me. See, I want her to work for 4 years, because if she does she will have a great education in street smarts and business smarts, then can add 4 years in college and get her book smarts there. After 8 years she will know more about business than if she had gone for an MBA, in my opinion.
Now, let’s look at what I’ve done for others in the past. There have been several nieces and nephews that I have put through college, or at least have started in college. However, in several instances they have messed up after only one or two years and were not able to complete their schooling, at least not through my generosity. I feel that by simply “giving” it to them, they didn’t appreciate it. They felt that it was “coming to them”. And, when they did things that they should not have done, I cut off my generosity to them, and they were on their own. Of course, they got warnings and such, but they ignored it to the point where they lost their free ride. I have learned that it is better to make them earn it, as I am doing with my niece now, and then I feel they will appreciate it more and strive to do their best.
How do I choose those that I will help? Well, I choose the ones that I like, and have impressed me in some way. There are plenty who are too shy and won’t talk to me. I generally don’t give them help. I like to help those who are able to muster the courage to talk with me and be a friend to me. Those are the ones who will be successful in life anyway, and a helping hand from me will assist them in achieving that success. Somebody who is so shy that they run off to avoid me will probably not do well in business anyway. Besides, why should I help somebody who is not even willing to be my friend?
Now, the next question, which Peter already posed in his comment. What about the other family who keeps asking. You helped others in the family, and soon lots of family is expecting assistance. What do you do? For me, I have come to the point where it is pretty simple. I say no. Another commenter, Julius, has said it is a good idea to not let people know that you have money. I agree with Julius. However, I am in a position where I can not easily hide the fact that I have money. I have a very large house, which is also where I operate my business. I need a place this size to handle the family and business combination, so I can’t change it. I have several of my nieces and nephews staying with me and working for me. They can see what I have, and the word gets around. So, the family knows that I have money. The thing is, though, that if you can just say NO, in no uncertain terms, after a while people get the message and they stop asking. Word gets around too, and soon the whole family understands that I am not the person to go to if they need something. Maybe some people don’t like me because of it. If that’s the case, it’s fine by me. I do my best to help, but the thing is – I choose who I am going to help. I don’t let people dictate it to me.
You know, something has come out of this whole ritual that is kind of interesting. I did cut off help going to my wife’s sisters and brothers, and I do feel that they did not like me for it. They never did, and still don’t talk to me very much. However, I am helping their kids grow into successful people who can pay their own way. And, I am starting to see that my brothers and sisters-in-law are coming to understand and appreciate what I am doing. There are some who still rarely talk to me, but that’s OK by me. I can live with it. But, the thing that is very rewarding to me is that I am seeing a love and trust develop between me and the nieces and nephews that I have helped. Even some nieces who have messed up their assistance from me have told their brothers and sisters to be good and don’t make the mistake that they did. I find it rewarding, and I am happy to see the development in these girls.
I have one niece in particular who has been living with us and working for us for about 4 years now. She has come to the point where she has told me that she feels that I am the father that she never had, and she appreciates me for it. Yes, in many ways it has been tough love for some of these kids, but when I hear something like that from one of them, it’s very rewarding to me.
This has worked for me, your mileage may vary, of course!