Time to get back to my Seasons in the Sun series here on LiP. So far, I have written about my Winter years of my life in the Philippines, which hit shortly after moving here. I have also written about the Summer of my Philippine life, which came immediately after I made it through winter. This week, I am going to tell you about Fall, or Autumn.
In short, I had a difficult life during the first few years of my Philippine life. After making it through those difficult years, things heated up and I was really living the good life. Life in the Philippines was good for me. However, around 2006 or 2007, the temperature of life began cooling down a bit, and Fall was on the way.
The exchange rate during those “summer” years was great, reaching as high as P56 to $1 in 2004 and 2005. When I moved to the Philippines in 2000, the exchange rate was only P40 or P41 to $1, so you can imagine how great a quick jump up to a P56 rate was. Expats were living large in the Philippines, including me. As I explained in my last article on this topic, in addition to a great exchange rate, my businesses were really humming, and I was making money like I never had before. Converting those dollars I was earning to Pesos was also great.. it was the best of both worlds.
In 2006, though, things started sliding a bit. The US dollar began losing strength. We started out 2006 with an exchange rate of P53 to $1, a slip of P3 or so from the peak. Things weren’t bad, though, nobody was complaining. By the end of 2006, though, the dollar was worth only 48 Pesos. We had lost nearly 20% of our purchasing power in the span of a little over one year. I started hearing from expats who were having a tough time making the adjustment. I was still doing well, though, and could not complain. Yeah, I enjoyed the time when the exchange rate was so favorable, but I was still living well.
In 2006, I started this website, Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. The site earned no money at all during those early years, but little did I realize that it would turn out to be a very good thing for me in coming years. By the end of 2006, I was spending a major amount of my time on this website, but basically doing it for free. I suppose that in that first year, if I made $50 on this site in a single month, that was a good month for me. Luckily I had other businesses that were doing well.
Then 2008 hit. 2008 was a terrible year for a lot of expats, including me. The dollar’s value continued to slide. By the time that 2008 arrived, the dollar was worth only about P41. Expats were really hurting. During that time, I saw a LOT of expats leave the Philippines and return home. This included Americans, Australians, Europeans, etc. It was a pretty tough time. But, for me, business was still booming… the dollars I was earning were worth a lot less than they were a short time before that, but I was still making it. Then September came. That was when the US economy took a dive. Lots of financial companies were going out of business, unemployment was taking off, people had no work and were really unsure of how they would be able to earn a living.
Business-wise, my market was almost exclusively in the USA. I had some business clients in Europe and Australia, but only a small number, and those regions (less for Australia) also experiencing a financial meltdown. Almost immediately, my business earnings went down by about 90%. That much lower earnings combined with a terrible exchange rate, and you can imagine, life was pretty tough, financially. I was still enjoying my life in the Philippines, but I had to work hard, and even with hard work I only scraped by.
When I was really doing well here financially, I had an American friend who kept telling me:
Remember, Bob, nothing lasts forever.
Oh, how right he was.
Since 2008 when things crashed, most of my businesses have recovered to some extent by now. A couple of my best businesses before, though, are only my lower end businesses now.
This was Fall, and it was a tough Fall at that. But, although I did not yet realize it, as Fall took a stronghold in my life, I had been developing other things in my business life that would take over as my major earners, and put me back in a good position again, while other expats were still suffering due to a poor economy and a strong Peso. Things like this blog helped me build a profile and popularity, that developed into a huge audience. Because of that popularity and the size of my audience, I was able to follow other types of business opportunities. This blog become so popular that I was able to earn a fairly substantial income from this site itself, and other income from related websites that were a result of this website.
So, Fall brought with it tough times financially. Nearly every expat experience Fall.. actually for some of them it was a deep winter. I am thankful that it didn’t develop into winter for me.
Thankfully, the Autumn is over for me, though. There are a number of things that have turned very positive, and life is good for me here in the Philippines. I’ll write more about that in my next article in the series, and the series finale, Spring has arrived. Coming soon!