Why would any American choose to live in the Philippines? For the average American, it probably wouldn’t make any sense. For an American married to a Filipino, however, it may make perfect sense. Of course, it wouldn’t be a good idea in every circumstance. For a retiree like me, it’s a great idea.
Living in the Philippines requires more than just the ability to move and live in the Philippines. Financial security is an absolute requirement, especially for retirement. Things like welfare and food stamps don’t exist. If they did, I doubt foreigners would qualify for them. Even if you are financially secure, you need an escape plan if things don’t go the way they should.
One of the most annoying questions I’ve been asked by my friends and relatives living in the United States is “Why are you living in the Philippines?” It’s usually asked like I’m being accused of something, followed by a dozen other questions designed to make me feel like a traitor. My answer is usually something like “because I can”.
Since I’m married to a Filipino woman, the reason I want to live in the Philippines shouldn’t even be questioned. It’s incredibly arrogant to think all Filipinos married to Americans want to live in the United States. It’s also incredibly arrogant to assume they’re better off living in the United States.
For me and my wife (Josie), living in the Philippines makes a lot more sense than living in the United States. Both of our children are grown and able to lead their own lives. The two of us can’t live in the United States, on our own, without one of us working full-time or both of us working part-time. We can live comfortably in the Philippines without either of us working at all.
We own our home in the Philippines and the property tax is only around $160 USD (around 8000 pesos) per year. We own a car that we only need to use a few times a month. I get a monthly pension from the United States government. In a few short years, both of us will be eligible for social security benefits from the United States government.
We’ve already lived in the Philippines for more than 13 years, counting the time we’ve spent away from the country for one reason or another. We haven’t experienced severe financial problems yet. My pension is more than enough for us to live comfortably. It helps that we own our house and our car is paid off (and that’s a story in itself). I doubt we could afford to pay rent while buying a car.
We couldn’t afford to live in the United States on my pension alone (unless we owned a home without any remaining mortgage payments). It would be difficult when drawing social security benefits, but it would be possible.
The only reason we would be forced to leave the Philippines would be due to some sort of civil conflict or war. As each year passes, it becomes less and less likely that something like that could even happen. It could happen, however, and we’re taking steps for when it does.
There are factions always fighting on the island of Mindanao. It doesn’t affect the people like us living on the island of Luzon. At least, not yet.
It was the right choice in 2006, when we moved to the Philippines. It would probably be the right choice today. There are some things I should have done differently upon arrival, but that’s water under the bridge now.
I probably wouldn’t change a thing even if I could, despite some of the things I’ve experienced. I can get depressed and frustrated. And then I can get over it. Josie goes through the same things I do and it takes her longer to get over it.
Things happen. Living in the Philippines may not be the right choice someday. I hope I’ll be old enough not to care if that day should come.
Edited and updated. Originally published in August 2013 and updated in September 2017.