My articles here are not going to all be about US military or federal (civil service) retirees, but Bob and I agreed at the outset that I should focus strongly on that area. There are lots of articles on many different sites written about “How to Retire” in the Philippines, but very few are written by actual US Military or Civil Service retirees. I am both. (Hello Paul and other notable exceptions to prove the rule).
In some ways military retirement isn’t all that different than retirement from any other job. In fact there is a lot of information in this article which is just as pertinent to non-military folks.
But in other areas there are huge differences, and those are what I plan to focus on. In the 10 plus years I have been actively involved in the “Live in the Philippines” niche I have seen a lot of information about military retirement here, and I have seen a heck of a lot of WRONG information mixed in with the good.
So my first point or caveat is, take EVERYTHING you read with a grain of salt. Most emphatically, this includes any information I write. I have a certain degree of expertise in some aspects of retirement, but the overall area of interest is very broad, and there’s no way I can “know” it all. Also, everything I write I strive to make accurate, but in the end, it’s all only my opinion or information I have passed on from sources I believe to be credible … but the sources may not be as credible as I think, or they may have outdated information also.
Number One Tip:
Go to the source. It is amazing to me how many folks I hear from with problems, or even actual fears, that stem from some vague “I heard” such and such. The majority of that “I Heard” “chismis” is strictly that, rumors and other half-truths. You want information about your actual pay? Go to DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service) the ones who will actually pay you.
You want information regarding VA benefits in the Philippines? Go to the site of the VA office here in Manila … they are the only ones, really, who can speak for rules and benefits here in the Philippines.
You want to know about Social Security Benefits here in the Philippines? Go direct to the Manila US Social Security office (located in the US Embassy, Manila). It’s the only real source, because (as with the VA) many rules are different in the Philippines than back within the borders of the USA.
You want to know about filing your US taxes here in the Philippines? Go to the IRS directly. They even have several pamphlets and manuals available for overseas tax payers. Knowledge is power. What “Joe” down at the VFW, who was stationed in the Philippines when he was 20, tells you about life here 30 years ago? Not so much.
Whatever you need to know, especially for US benefits, go to the source, do not rely on What You Heard. In other words, research and write your OWN “term paper”, you’ll be surprised at what you can learn.
Number Two Tip:
Lose the fixation on cost of living. Virtually 9 out of 10 questions I get, and the vast majority of those I see on other sites online are about “cost of living”. I just looked up some samples figures for current US military retirement annuities. There are huge variations depending upon pay grade at retirement, years in service, which particular pay system you retire under, etc. But the bottom line is, the low $2,000 USD per month to the $5000 USD per month I saw mean that any retired military family CAN live here in the Philippines, no problem.
Personally I stopped publishing and talking about “cost of living” questions because they just cause so many “wasted breath” type arguments, and I was also tired of the perpetual “You shouldn’t spend so much for this or that” criticisms.
The way life works is, you spend what you wish to and I spend what I choose to, and we both don’t criticize each other, OK? Even if we lived side by side in identical houses on the same street, your monthly costs and my monthly costs are almost certain be very different … and that’s the way life is supposed to be. Choices and personal preferences.
I much prefer to recommend two very useful sites (at least two so you can sort of average things out and compare for yourselves).
Expatistan and Numbeo. Together these sites have up to date cost comparison figures from more than 200,000 “real people” like you and I who actually ARE living overseas. I’ll let them do the talking for me on the Cost of Living subject.
I will say I find their comparisons regarding costs here just outside the Metro manila area quite credible. The farther out into the provinces of the Philippines, the less accurate any site like that will be, because there are just fewer and fewer people to make reports.
The bottom line is, as a US Military retiree you can live here on your military pension, if you want to make the right choices.
Some Considerations To Start With:
|Overall Cheaper Living
|Not as Easy to Start a “Second Career
|Great Educational Opportunities for Children
|Wont Be familiar “US Schools”
|Simple Medical treatment is Cheap and easy
|TRICARE (can only use Standard) problematical
|Complex Medical treatment is also cheaper
|May not be available, always “Pay Upfront”
|Very Cheap universal PhilHealth insurance
|Low payouts, limited areas of coverage
|Dental treatment is very cheap vs. US costs
|Again, out of pocket, pay as you go – no “Plans”
|Easy to own a car, reasonable initial costs
|Traffic can be Horrid, overall costs not cheap
|Public transportation is super cheap
|Comfort, safety, reliability may not suit all
|Plenty of shopping in city areas
|No BX or Commissary – I miss them, big time
|Very cheap cable TV
|Last year’s shows, limited sections and sports
|RAO’s offer US Mail service
|Limited service – no merchandise – slow
|Very cheap cell phone service
|Limited coverage issues, overseas costs a lot
|Lots of fresh veggies, fruits, meats
|In general, food costs way more than the USA
|No need to deal with US Immigration
|May affect survivor’s benefits and citizenship
|Many different visa solutions available
|All cost money and all require some hassle
|Can buy property with Filipino spouse
|Foreigner may NOT own property
|Veteran’s Benefits available via Manila VA
|Veteran’s support substandard versus USA
|Close proximity to Filipino family
|Close proximity to Filipino family
|Far away from US friends and relatives
|Far away from US friends relatives
When I first figured out how to put the table of pros and cons into my article, I had to select how many columns wide and how many rows deep it needed to be. I picked 20 rows sort of arbitrarily, thinking I likely wouldn’t fill them all. Turns out, I did, and I could fill more “pros and cons” rows if I wanted to take up your time.
(Oh and the last two rows, listing the same subjects as both “pros’ and “cons”? That is not a mistake or sick joke. Being close or far away from family … the Philippine side or the foreign side, can really be either a blessing or a detriment. Once again, it all depends upon you and your own personal situation.)
So how did I do on my arbitrary choices? Are there subjects you want to see in more detail? Just give me a shout and I’ll do my best.