An eight-week long journey to understand personal financial planning in the Philippine setting
Welcome back to Journey To Millions!
It’s been quite a while since we last had a chance to update you on our personal Journey To Millions. So, in this article, we decided to share with you what our latest escapade was as personal finance advocates.
About four or five years ago, while we were attending a free series of short financial literacy seminars in Makati, we received an invitation to attend the Associate Financial Planner (AFP) Certification program of the Registered Financial Planners Institute Philippines. We were very eager to attend the program and fantasized about the depth of knowledge we would acquire from it but we didn’t have enough money to pay for the tuition. Back then, with relatively lower monthly income and immature saving skills, we could hardly save for anything other than our wedding.
After several years of dillydallying, we finally made up our minds and enrolled NOT in the AFP Certification Program, but in the Registered Financial Planner (RFP) Certification Program, an eight-week long series of half-day Saturday classes at the Crowne Plaza Galleria, Ortigas Center, Pasig City with the Philippines’ leaders in personal financial education.
Tuition was P28,000 per head, but since we attended as a couple, we were given a discount of P2,000 each, lowering the total cost to P52,000 for the two of us. We must admit, it was quite a significant amount of investment that we really took a deep breath before “pulling the trigger.” (In a short while, we will be letting you know if we think this investment was a good idea or not.)
Our goals in attending the RFP Program were to:
1. Learn unbiased financial planning education based on the Philippine context. From our experience, the risk of seeking advice from people affiliated with financial institutions can be quite high because companies design our interactions with them to be profitable (just like any sane company would do). So, when we seek the counsel of their employees/agents, we usually receive advice not based on our needs but based on their sales goals (sounds selfish but it can be real). The usual story starts with people trying to act as if they care about us, as if they are our friends and have our best interests in mind (not really), then pitching a product they want us to buy. Our hearts break every time this happens, because all we ever want is honest to goodness holistic advice.
Also, as you might have noticed in our previous articles, we’ve been long time fans of western best-selling personal finance books (like the Millionaire Next Door, etc.). We still love those books for their thorough research and statistics (something we lack in our current slew of personal finance books in the country), but we must admit that there are so many questions that those books cannot answer, simply because the Philippine setting is very different from the US. For example, while Americans have long been enjoying the benefits of tax-free government initiated retirement plans, we don’t have ours in place yet (still waiting for PERA). So, we’re really craving for an opportunity where we can discuss personal financial issues with competent teachers of personal finance based on real Philippine setting. Yes, we do watch ANC On The Money as often as we could, but we literally couldn’t raise our hands and ask our burning questions directly to any of them while watching the video online, right? We’ve tried so many times to send emails to the program asking many different things but we don’t seem to be lucky enough to merit a response. We love them, anyway.
2. Confirm what we know and what we don’t know. You see, there are many different areas in personal financial planning that we intend to master as we age (like cash and debt management, retirement planning, and investment planning) and we’ve accumulated a good sum of information from learning opportunities we’ve engaged in through the past years, but since we are not really part of the financial industry (none of us are working for a financial institution), we feared that we might be holding on to beliefs that are erroneous or incomplete, which can hinder us from achieving better results for ourselves and from helping our loved ones do the same. So, we wanted to be really sure about what we know by having our beliefs checked by others who’ve already made it big time.
3. Create our very own comprehensive personal financial plan. Yes, we’ve long been tracking our expenses using an Excel file that Elvin made. And yes, we know how much our net worth is on a daily basis, and how much our annual savings rate is too, but those things in themselves do not constitute a comprehensive financial plan that reflect how we intend to live our lives together, in short, medium, and longer term horizons. Simply put, we needed to learn how to literally make a “life plan” that is grounded on realistic economic assumptions and sensible financial calculations. (Sorry. We’re getting really geeky here.) In short, we just really wanted to increase the possibility of doing things the right way.
Now, the big question is how well did we meet our goals by participating in the 41st RFP Program? Or shall we say, how well did the RFP Program fit our needs? Let’s answer these questions by zeroing in on each of our goals.
Q: Did the RFP Program allow us to learn unbiased financial planning education based on the Philippine context?
A: Except for the instances where the teachers invited us to attend specialized seminars for specific topics that they teach somewhere else (which others can call promotion/selling), the teachers were consistently frank and brutal about calling a spade a spade, and we were very happy about it. Despite having “agents” or “sellers” of financial products attending the class, teachers did not hesitate to present their ideas objectively, and that objectivity is what made us trust them more. At times, they would even openly critique the current practices in the Philippines and compare it to the ideal setting. They were also very generous in sharing their 25+ years of experience working in the Philippine financial services industry, giving us a glimpse of how it was, how it is, and how it can be. No book could ever capture the wealth of their wisdom. So, for this question, our answer would be a big YES.
Q: Did the RFP Program allow us to confirm what we know and what we don’t know?
A: Yes. All of the teachers were very approachable and encouraged class participation and we took advantage of that. We were able to ask a lot of questions during the lectures and got meaningful responses from the teachers. All of them are seasoned speakers, so, they generally anticipated our questions in advance. Most of our questions were answered during the lectures even without us needing to raise our hands. That was quite a relief, especially during the first few meetings when we were still feeling quite nervous and shy (which quickly turned into the opposite when we started to warm up). But for those times when we got curious about something we never planned of asking, we were almost always given satisfying answers combined with very good humor. We did a lot of laughter therapy in almost all of the classes too. All in all, our confusions were properly dealt with and our worries were put to rest.
Q: Did the RFP Program allow us to create our very own comprehensive personal financial plan (CFP)?
A: YES! That’s the whole point of the program. It was designed for each participant to learn how to make comprehensive financial plans, not only for themselves but also for others. However, in our case, we decided to have our very first CFP made by someone else for a fee (P5,000).
You might be wondering, why on earth did you have to spend P26,000 each for that program only to end up paying someone else to make your own CFP??? Crazy, right? Yes, we think we’re crazy. But for the sake of peace on earth, please relax a bit, and let us share with you our little secret.
Creating our very own CFP in the middle of the program turned out to be very difficult for us. There was a point where we became so attached to our goals, that we had a hard time calling a spade a spade. Do you get what we mean? We became so hooked on our dreams that we were starting to be unrealistic with our expectations of ourselves and of the world around us. We needed someone, in this case a registered financial planner, to objectively (not emotionally) guide us in making our decisions. Numbers instantly became our best friends, and our financial planner became our jedi master. Now, we can confidently improve on our own CFP without the need for assistance, using tools we personally learned to make.
Why tell me all these?
You might be wondering, “Why are you guys telling me all these?” The answer to this is easy. If you’ve ever visited the Journey To Millions About Page, you would recall that our main goals for putting this website up are to “protect our dear friends and loved ones from faulty financial advice” and to “make a compilation of legitimate, updated, and dependable money management resources that you and I can safely enjoy learning from.”
As personal finance advocates, we’ve given ourselves the task of learning everything we can about personal finance, given our limited resources, so we could share it with you, hoping that with this little gesture of friendship we could both make this world a better place.
Remember the saying, “Do unto others what you want others do unto you?”
It is what we do.
Worried about not having enough to pay for the program?
Please don’t be.
We didn’t write this post to ask you to attend the program. You actually don’t have to, simply because the program is primarily designed for people who wish to become financial planners or are already acting as financial advisors in their current roles (or something related to that).
There are other learning opportunities that won’t cost as much, and we promise to share those learning opportunities with you in our future posts. We know, from experience, that it isn’t that easy to shell out sums of money for a program like this. As we’ve mentioned earlier, it took us years before we finally had the funds and guts to make it happen. So, please don’t stress yourself and take one step at a time.
However, if you’re as passionate as we are about personal financial management and if you’ve got some money to spare, then, by all means, we support your interest in attending the program. Your money management skills would definitely be upgraded if you take this program seriously.
For our next post…
For our next post, we decided to share with you some of the life changing lessons we learned from the RFP Program. Just a reality check, we cannot and will not parrot everything discussed during the classes, but we can give you details of the people we learned from and summaries of the topics they covered. Sounds good enough? Wait until you read the posts yourself.
For now, if you have any comments or suggestions related to this article, feel free to type in your thoughts in the comments section below.
As always, if you think this post will be of help to someone you know, go ahead and share this now.
Thank you for dropping by our Journey To Millions!
Until our next post!
Edel & Elvin
Image taken from www.RFP.ph