My father was an above average white collared employee, and my mother was a full time housewife. There were 6 of us kids, who are 2 to 3 years apart. Considering that education in the Philippines was more than a privilege than a right, with how my and my brothers' ages were so close to each other, it was very hard for others to imagine, even those who had bigger income than my father, how my parents were able to fund all our college education.
I still very much remember a few days before my 7th birthday when my mother told me we are going to a bank to open a savings account in my name. The words of my mother echoed strongly up to this date: " 'day, we are not rich and we can not spend carelessly. My priority, and your tatay's, and hopefully, yours one day, is to save for your college education. If ever we did not give you grand birthday party before, because we thought you were still young to remember the memories and make choices for yourself. Now, that you will be turning seven years old a few days from now, I would like you to know that the money we could have spent for your birthday parties were all saved. It is about time we transfer your "birthday parties" money to your account, in your name. Where slowly, you will make guided decisions in your life, because we want you to grow up knowing the importance and value of savings. Now that you'll be able to remember more memories and probably know more which you could appreciate, you have the option to choose whether to have a real birthday party, or add the birthday party money to the savings account we will open for you which were saved from all your unspent birthday parties."
I asked my mother before making the decision if I would still get a new dress, a new pair of shoes and if she would still make me sweet rice porridge in coconut milk (ginatan), cassava fritters with shrimp (okoy), and noodles (pancit).
And I replied, "maybe, I can add 2 friends? How much money would it take away from my bank?"
My mother smiled and told me that the addition of 2 friends will not cost a lot more to take some money away from my bank as long as I ask for the same foods. So, I chose "no real birthday party" because my memories of my last birthday was already very happy for me. I did not know how it could be happier. Besides, I would have my 2 best friends, and family with me, and the same foods I always had wanted. They were more than enough for my birthday. I could not remember if I skipped the shoes and the dress, but what I could very well remember, was the joy of looking at my very first savings account passbook.
The night after I had my very first savings account passbook, I asked my mother to explain to me how the money can grow in the bank. Listening to her about deposits vs withdrawals and interest compounded over time, I realized Math is so much fun to play with. I took very good care of my savings account passbook. I started harvesting our red guavas and brought them to school. I promoted them to be "special guavas where the red color means richer in nutrition". I sold the guavas very well, and always was so happy in collecting the money so I could ask my mother to go to the bank to deposit some money. Our trips to the bank was some of my happiest memories then. I could very well remember the smiling face of the teller each time we made a deposit, asking me if what I was depositing was already my money. I remember proudly telling her, "YES!! I earned them from selling guavas and winning Quiz Bees!" She would always give me that warmest smile, and would tell me, "I am so very proud of you! Keep it up!" For a child, that affirmation inspired me further to keep the savings up! :) I must admit those smiles and words made me addicted at that time to putting more money in my bank. Aside from selling "red guavas" in school, I would join every contest anywhere that would have prize money. :) Thankfully, during those days, there were as much "Spelling Quiz Bee" and "Math Quiz Bee" as much as singing contests. :) Because I didn't have a voice to join singing contests, I would join all "Quiz Bees" instead. As early as that age, I knew the challenge in defeat and the humility in victory.
The value my parents taught me about saving for education, and how education can be the best savings is the same reason why Upromise was launched nearly a decade ago. How Upromise works is simple: members direct their spending to Upromise partners which include more than 800 online stores, 8,000+ restaurants, thousands of grocery and drugstore, and earn money for college. Anyone can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars for college with their everyday spending with the help of some online deals and ecoupons. The money saved or earned from everyday spending can be used to contribute toward college tuition and expenses.
Saving for the rainy days and financial freedom for peace of mind was planted into my heart and mind since I was seven years old. It was nourished continuously since then, and grew in high interest as well. Spending something that we cannot afford to pay in cash was something that my parents had advised us not doing at all. My father told us there was only one reason for him to borrow money from the bank, that was to get a house loan for all of us.
Tatay and nanay did not choose a big house. Instead, they chose a house where the monthly payments would still allow them to save for our college education, save for our rainy days, and where they could pay off our house in ten years. They wanted to be financially free as early as they could. My father, though very much could afford a car that time, simply rode jeepney from our home to his work because his priorities were: 1. saving for our college education 2. paying off our house the earliest he could. 3. buy more lots from subdivisions first for all of us, his kids. His reason? He won't always be healthy, and regardless what happens to him, he would have the peace of mind that the future of his kids, would be taken care well of by the funds he set aside. Only when he secured those priorities that he bought his very first car, a used one, because he wanted to pay it in cash. A sacrifice I could clearly see now, where he puts his kids first before himself.
We played a lot outdoors, there was just no time for us to sulk and to wish we had TV because we were so joyful outdoors, whether it be playing tennis ( father's fascination was we all grow to be professional tennis players, haha, but nope, we all did not become very good at it ), playing baseball, running in the field playing "tagu-an", or "catch me if you can". During the night when we were all home, if we all were done with homework and studies, we were all happy playing scrabble, or boogle, or chess, or domino, or working on puzzles. No one from us kids asked for TV because we simply were happy the way we were. Our parents though they may be able to afford it, but chose to be on the conservative side when spending to have peace of mind for our future. They may have not showered us with the best material things, but for us, THEY GAVE US THE BEST IN LIFE.
When I was in college, my father's concern happened. The company he worked for in years had a reduction in branches. The company he worked for was shut down in our city. He lost his job. A year after he lost his job, he underwent major surgical procedure and stayed for a very long time in CCU and ICU. It costed a lot of money. Without the shelter anymore of company's health insurance, we could lose our house, and we would all stop college. Thankfully, their savings for the rainy days made them move past that challenge without anyone of us stopping college, and without us losing a home, and without nanay asking anyone for help financially. Though they lost some of the subdivision lots that they bought for us, their kids.
These days, I felt like I have so much compared to what my parents had. That's why, in my heart and in my mind, there is really nothing that I want anymore. I am not saying I am rich and have everything in life, far from that. However, I am fully content with my life.
Sometimes though, I wish my mom is still alive to enjoy what we all are enjoying as well. I am so happy that I was able to treat her to dining out, to my own baked cakes (something we may be able to afford then but my parents skipped them for our college savings), and many more luxuries I could already afford to shower my parents after graduating from college. I am also happy to know and hear some of my mom's last words before she passed away: "I am ready to go "inday", I am so happy and content with my life, there's really no more I could ask. We only prepared for your college education, but most of you pursued advanced degrees in your own. I do not worry if anyone of you would be able to afford living a decent life for you all are living more than what we imagined. I have no worries, no sadness, no complains to bring on to God when I meet Him above. I only have thanksgiving and happiness for all that He gave to me." During my mom's last few days, she would always ask me to sing to her and with her, "I offer My Life". The song, became one of my most favorite songs, which I almost sing everyday up to now in prayers, which always bring tears, not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and gratefulness, for I had such A WONDERFUL MOM, who showed me the way to see HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD.
I miss my mom, I miss her terribly. Sometimes, I still cry whenever I miss her. But each time I hear the echo of her last words, and some of her words in my early life, I smile. Both nanay (my late mom) and tatay taught me and my brothers to live the "Joys of Simple Life". Where happiness is not built on material things, but on the free things that God gifted us, allowing us to be FINANCIALLY FREE as early as we could.