Retiring in the Philippines: Pros & Cons

My travels and reads for the last 8 years have given me much insights on why more and more expats and BalikBalikans (Overseas workers partially retiring in the Philippines) are taking advantage of the low cost yet lucrative lifestyle in the Philippines.

Each year, InternationalLiving.com’s Global Retirement Index ranks the top 25 retirement destinations in the world, based on factors like climate, healthcare, fitting in, benefits and discounts, and cost of living. The Philippines – an archipelagic country of 7,000+ islands – made the 2016 list, scoring especially well in the Fitting In and Entertainment & Amenities categories.

Though the Philippines is still a low-cost country, it doesn’t currently rank at the very cheapest level for Cost of Living; that honor belongs to Cambodia, which got 100 of a possible 100 points. For 2016, the Philippines earned 85 – the same score as Portugal and the Dominican Republic. (Nicaragua came in second, at 95.) The country also scored 92 for “Fitting In” (is English spoken, are locals welcoming, is there an expat community, etc.), putting it in the top half of the list. (Only Honduras (Roatan) scored a perfect 100; Belize and Ireland got 98.) Based on International Living Magazine.

For most people, the decision to retire abroad is a difficult one, and it can be even more of a challenge to decide where to settle down. With the world the way it is, issues of safety are of increasing concern, along with costs. So many factors including the issue on drug trafficing and social injustice just to name a few. To get your research started, are some of the pros and cons of retiring in what is considered one the world’s best retirement destinations: the Philippines.

Here are the Pros

Low cost of living

Many choose to retire overseas in order to find a lower cost of living. The Philippines doesn’t disappoint, and most expats can live comfortably on about $800 to $1,200 a month. This includes food, board and lodging with personal maid and driver and dining out occasionally. The average retired U.S. worker’s Social Security benefit is $1,348.49 per month as of June 2016, which means your monthly benefit alone could be enough to cover your basic living expenses in the Philippines. With the predominance of GRAB, like UBER, one can travel anywhere more safely without the trouble of maintaining your own car.

Expat Incentives

The Philippines welcomes expats, and even has a government agency dedicated to attracting foreign retirees. Expats here receive a number of financial benefits, including discounts for the 60+ crowd, the duty-free import of $7,000 worth of household goods and exemption from airport travel taxes. Having a Senior Card provides 20% or more discounts from fast food to transportation. Even a FREE Movie night and Birthday Cake in some cities. In addition, expat residents are allowed to work or start a business. Also helpful: Once you have permanent residency, you can stay in the Philippines for as long you like (your retiree visa does not expire), and you can leave and return without reapplying for residency.

Beautiful Setting

The Philippines is known for its tropical climate and natural beauty. From the tops of its lush mountains to its colorful coral reefs – and everywhere in between – it’s easy to be in awe of your surroundings almost anywhere in the country. Its many beaches (remember those more than 7,000 islands) are perhaps the biggest draw: Places like Boracay in Aklan, with its white sand and crystal clear blue water, and El Nido in Palawan, a richly biodiverse area where limestone cliffs rise from the sea, attract people from all over the world. Every year there are more and more areas that are being developed and groomed to attract retirees who wants to enjoy nature and the fresh air and natural, organic lifestyles in the islands. Dumaguete, Tagaytay and Laguna and other areas gaining interest from retirees.

What are the Cons?

Infrastructure Problems

In recent years, the Philippines has been one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, but problems with infrastructure could hold the country back. According to a recent World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, infrastructure problems are the leading economic obstacles the country faces. What does that mean to expats? Depending on where you live (its 2016 International Living ranking for infrastructure is 89), you could experience power failures, prolonged water shortages, outdated telecommunication systems, and deteriorating bridges and roads. Currently, the government has congoing project showing improvement and extensive construction building roads, bridges and intercity express highways.

Healthcare

Although expats have access to excellent and affordable healthcare in Manila some areas in the Philippines don’t offer the same level of care, lacking both infrastructure and investment. This can be especially problematic for expats who have chronic conditions that require regular treatment, or who have conditions that would be considered out of the ordinary. Besides Phil Health, there are more health Insurance coverages that are being offered to those who can afford extra premiums. More and more modern hospitals are opening in various parts of the country besides the bigger, modern hospitals in Metro Manila. Due to the congestion in the Metropolitan Manila, big developers like Ayala Land and Mega World are building Master Planned communities in key cities that area also attracting more expats like Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao, just to name a few.

Safety Concerns

Interestingly, the “Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Security Reminder,” dated August 17, 2016, and released by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines did not mention the drug killings. It cautioned: “Extremists have targeted sporting events, theaters, markets, mass transportation systems – including airlines, and other public venues where large crowds gather. Crowded nightclubs, shopping malls, buses and popular restaurants have also been targets,” and directed Americans “to review the information in the most recent Philippines Travel Warning.”

It is common sense that every expat or BalikBalikans should consider checking the place where they plan to retire before investing or settling in one area. Most BalikBalikans (Long term Filipino-American residing overseas) consider going back to their hometown and plan making a difference helping their long estranged families and childhood friends. However, it is not necessarily true that this is the best plan. It is advisable to live among a community surrounded by like-minded expats and co-Balikbalikans who can relate and better understand their new ways and heart.

Note: U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in the Philippines are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides security updates and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you and/or your family in case of an emergency.

So, what is the Bottom line?

The Philippines is home to a well-established community of expats who have retired overseas in search of a better climate, change of scenery, new cultural experiences, affordable healthcare and a lower cost of living. The Filipino people are very warm and welcoming to foreigners, and the country offers a number of incentives to retirees. What more, Filipinos are known to be caring, helpful and most of all, can speak English.

Making the decision to retire abroad – and figuring out where to go – are difficult steps that take lots of research and planning. Like every other country that might be on your list of potential retirement spots, the Philippines has both its pros and cons. Each should be carefully evaluated before making any decisions.

It’s a good idea to visit the area, preferably more than once, before making any decisions. Try to visit from a resident’s perspective, rather than as a tourist and meet locals by joining local outreach clubs like the Lions Club International and Habitat for Humanity. This way, you will have a better perspective of the local lifestyle.

Join a Meetup:

One way of learning more about the Philippines is going to our Meet-Ups and Real Estate Tours showing who to navigate the maze in Philippine living. We gather like-minded people who wants to know more about how to buy and sell properties in the Philippines with those who are already enjoying the lifestyle of living there part of the time every year.

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