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Living in Luxury in the Philippines

Living in Luxury? What does that mean? A while back a commenter said something that had bothered me. He said when he retired, he could live comfortably in America or he could live in luxury in Davao. He said, to him, it was a no brainer. In other words living here was the best decision.

I have spent many hours at different times on this philosophy. In America I have lived well at times and there have been times I have lived in a much cheaper life. At 39, while attending night classes for my drafting degree, I lost my job to downsizing. As my savings decreased and my only income was unemployment insurance, I had to share a small apartment with one of my classmates. I remember times, after paying rent and bills counting my money and trying to figure out how to eat that month.

Now, I know there are people in America and many other first world nations that lived better than me and many who need less to be comfortable in their needs.

For me, to retire and live comfortable in America would be having a decent home or condo, a car and enough money to have the basic needs with some advantages. These would include being able to go to a restaurant a few times a week, see a movie of one of the small theater plays. Of course this would also include cable TV, high speed internet and air conditioning for warm weather.

I do understand the cost of living in America has been increasing and if your retirement is in investments, the rate of return has gone down to the point you are not building your savings but hopefully you have a balance where you can live on the interest and not decrease the principle.

Now I will discuss retiring here in Davao or somewhere else in the Philippines. It is true; many things are much cheaper in the Philippines than in America or other countries. At the high end, I know someone who had built a large 3 story house with 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a powder room, in a high end sub-division with a great view of the ocean for about $400,000 USD. There are many other nice high end homes in good sub-divisions for much less.

There are foreigners here that enjoy all aspects of living here and some that have become acclimated to life here. I can only talk for myself and my thoughts.

To me, someone saying luxury I think of a larger house with as many of the amenities he is used to in America. Large bedrooms with closets, CR’s with hot and cold water, tubs and showers. Nice kitchens with large ranges, laundry facilities with modern washer and dryer and probably cable TV, internet and either central air conditioning or at least a unit in most rooms. It will be in a higher end gated sub-division with a nice clubhouse with pool and restaurant and maybe even an exercise facility. This person will probably have maids and cooks on staff. He will probably buy a large SUV vehicle and belong to one of the golf courses here too.
That is wonderful and I know his home life will be as comfortable as or more so than in the States. But, there are times he will have to or want to go out. He will need groceries, clothes, items from a hardware store and many other items. There will be times; some item he is used to buying at a certain store for months will be out of stock. When he asks when it will be back in stock get the usual answer, “I do not know” or “Maybe next month.” He also needs to realize he is in a country where many people he will come across will not understand English or only part of what he is asking.

He is probably used to nice smooth paved roads and here will find potholes, paved roads that end and becomes a bumpy dirt road that gets flooded. He is used to drivers that are courteous and considerate and see here drivers cutting you off and not letting you into their lanes. He will see drivers changing lanes without even looking to see if there is a car coming.

If money is no object, sure he can eat in the expensive restaurants that cater to foreigners but there are times your hungry and you are not near one of these places. If he is going to eat at home, is he going to spend the high cost to buy imported meats and the other products he is used to that is not regular available here from the US?

As I had in an article a while ago, there are many foreigners that come here to visit, stay in the better hotels, eat in their restaurants and use a taxi or a driver to take them around. After they go back to their home country tell others and feel that life here is so comfortable and cheaper then back home. Many things are cheaper, but things like imported items, gasoline and electricity are more expensive.

By now you must be thinking, Bruce must hate it there. No, I enjoy it here. Yes I get frustrated at times and there are things I miss from my life in the US but I look at the job market and the economy and realize my life would be so much worse if I did not move here. I enjoy going out and meeting people. I enjoy learning about the culture here and the differences. Even with the differences I love my family and how we relate to each other. I have learned to eat well and enjoy most of the foods here. I also enjoy being able to write my feelings, thoughts and views on this site. I get many comments from people that disagree with me and many that do agree. One thing I find interesting, most agreements are from Filipinos and most disagreements are from foreigners.

As always, I am giving this disclaimer; what I write is thoughts, observations and experiences. Not everyone will feel as I do, live as I do or think as I do. I am just relating how I think about things from my view.

If you agree or disagree, your comments are welcome. I just do not want a long heated debate or accusations.

47 Responses to “Living in Luxury in the Philippines”

  1. Juandy says:

    Hi, I really enjoy reading your post 🙂 I’m living in Indonesia (Asian Country) and I also often hear someone telling me that living here is much much cheaper than living abroad in well developed countries like America.

    I’ve just traveled from Singapore (also an Asian country) and I realized when I was there that price for food and accommodation are much much higher than in my hometown… I wonder how much more more higher in other countries outside of Asia 🙂

    But I know everything comes in balance… You want cheaper life expense living in developing countries but you must live the consequences of living with minimum public facilites, less organized traffics, governments, rules, etc…

    For me I think that’s the beauty of living in developing countries and for entrepreneurs that shall brings lots of business opportunities and creative ideas 🙂

    Original Chinese Recipes

    • Bruce says:

      Juandy,

      Thank you for enjoying my site. You are right about balance. There needed to be a balance in ones needs between life and needs. There are advantages and disadvantages living in a developing country, or any country or culture different than your used to.

  2. Evelyn says:

    I agree with your views ,Bruce.
    You have really immersed yourself to the Phil culture as i can see in your views here..
    hi to elena

    • Bruce says:

      Evelyn,

      I am trying to learn and understand. I think it will be a never ending activity.

      Elena says hi back to you.

  3. Ralph M. says:

    Hi Bruce;

    Living in Luxury in the Philippines can easly be obtained on a $1,500 USD per month budget. Here in Canada (ie: Vancouver BC) the same lifestyle as above, will cost you over $3,000 per month. For a better livestyle at or below the average expat monthly pension income, living in the Philippines is great. I am a yearly snowbird to the Philippines from Canada, who stays in Baguio for about 5 months at one time.

    Maybe sometime Bruce, you can come to Baguio as our guest.
    bye for now…. Ralph for Vancouver

    • Bruce says:

      Ralph,

      It is true you can live more cheaply here, but the point I was making is, no matter how much you have to spend and how well you live in your house, there are things unavailable here and situations you would not experience in your home country. Some are hard to get used to living here.

      Ralph, we would love to visit you. Just send us the plane tickets and we will be on our way. 🙂

  4. Banot's Asawa says:

    I would advise anyone looking to make the move spend alot of time in the PI and I dont mean staying in hotels and riding around in taxis 🙂 Go for extended periods before you commit to the move and stay in local houses (rent 1 for a month) use local transport / rent a car and see how the country really is.

    The typical tourist type visit will not give you a true representation of the country.

    Go Local 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      Banot’s Asawa,

      That is exactly my point in the article. Also no matter how high your income, and how modern your house is, your still in a third world country with many differences then in their home country.

      • Banot's Asawa says:

        Absolutely, There are definitely frustrations, but for me the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

        Something that I do constantly is try to think of things that I could not live without here in the states. I talk to my wife all the time about it.

        Sample:
        Non-sweet bread, I mean really how hard is it to make a loaf of bread without a bucket full of sugar in it!! ……….. Solution on our move we will be bringing a bread machine with us 🙂

        Pasteurized Milk: Just say no to powered, canned or fresh. They do not stimulate my buds at all ……….. Solution …… uh…. mmmmmmm….. we dont have 1 for this 1 yet, only hope is that as more and more Filipinos get refrigerators they will offer for the shelf life, oh how I will miss my milk :'(

        • Bruce says:

          Banot’s Asawa,

          There is bread with less sugar avaliable in Manila. I think it is called Gardenia. I am not too sure if there is anything here.
          About the milk, there is the radiated boxed milk like the PermaMilk in the States. And I think there is some fresh milk avaliable. I am not a big milk drinker, so I do not know about the taste differences.

          • Banot's Asawa says:

            Ya spent alot of time in Manila and the bread is still sweet 🙁
            on the milk topic ………. yuck 🙂 hehe

  5. Alan says:

    Nice thoughts Bruce . I would agree that costs here are generally less than in a first world country except for imported items . One way to alleviate the latter situation is if you have friends , relatives abroad that can ship import items to you . And if you check out expat forums you can often find folks that are returning to their former countries and have second hand items to sell , especially electronics and furniture .

  6. Marvin says:

    You hit the nail on the head Bruce. I always take my visitors to the local hardware stores,if you ask them to go ahead and try to find, lets say a quality toilet seat, or just a simple I-Bolt, they won’t find one. I could go on and on about how many times the store manager looked at me and said “Don’t have it, never saw one before, we just hand make it, no need to buy or sell those silly things. If it is quality and made somewhere other than China it will cost as much or more than US priced items. They have to get use to the fact that many things you buy here for less will probably need replacing in six months. No matter what country you choose to live in, you’ll always get what you paid for.

    • Bruce says:

      Marvin,
      Thank you for commenting. I see you have the right idea to show visitors the differences and sometimes the difficulty moving here with the thoughts that life and product quality and availability are the same as back home.

      • Rich says:

        I’ll be making that same trip next month to see first hand a long list of items, been to hardware stores in Bonafacio in Manila and they were a sad excuse for a Lowes / Home Depot here in the states 🙁

        • Bruce says:

          Rich,

          So far there are no stores like the US as Costco, Lowes, Home Depot or even the local supermarket. As Bob says “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.”

  7. jon italy says:

    Bruce hi how are you iam happy for you live there can help me iwnt open cafe net there my friand say me that good work there ands send me this …………. tell me that tru Information
    open the enternet café
    ithink 1 hour 20 pesso 1 pc
    20X24 hour = 480 pesso 1 pc
    480X40 pc = 19200 pesso per day 40 pc
    19200X 30 day 576 000 pesso pe r month
    we can get 300 000 Net profit
    for we not all the time
    Almost
    My calculate tell me mr Bruce that tru Information

    • Bruce says:

      Jon Italy,
      I have never run an internet cafe, so I do not know all the details. Here is what I know:
      The only cafes charging 20 pesos are in the mall or high end cafes. Most charge 10 pesos per hour and some have lat night discounts to 5 pesos.
      If your not in a high traffic spot, like in a mall or near a school, you might have trouble keeping all stations filled. Then you have to think about rent, aircon, staff and a IT tech to maintain the hardware, software and virus attacks. Then you need to have the games that are popular. Some cafes have been closed and/or fined for using pirate software.
      Maybe one of the readers will give their insight to this topic.

  8. jon italy says:

    Bruce hi how are you iam happy for you live there can help me iwnt open cafe net there my friand say me that good work there ands send me this …………. tell me that tru Information
    open the enternet café
    ithink 1 hour 20 pesso 1 pc
    20X24 hour = 480 pesso 1 pc
    480X40 pc = 19200 pesso per day 40 pc
    19200X 30 day 576 000 pesso pe r month
    we can get 300 000 Net profit
    for we not all the time
    Almost
    My calculate tell me mr Bruce that tru Information

  9. jon italy says:

    ask you Bruce I have taken the money 80 000$ end of service in the iron factory in italy can Living in Luxury in the Philippines if you have for work and live ask you …Bruce iwant new live in ph iam ge gf there iwant new life can this amount can be worked by anything in the Philippines or not
    and not have salary in italy for get end of service for that iam ask you for cafe net thank you

    • Bruce says:

      Jon Italy,
      If you come here with $80,000 USD and have no pension, you can live find for a few years if your careful. I honestly do not know the cost to open a Internet Cafe. I heard PLDT (Phone Company) used to have, but not sure if they still do, had a deal for people wanting to open a cafe. They would supply a certain amount of computers, computer desks and internet connections. You need to remember, there is always hardware breakage and replacements. Also consider rent and utilities. Also for ease you should have a Filipino partner to file all the forms for rent and business licenses. You better have someone you can trust so your not ripped off. Caution and visits here before moving and putting your life in a new place that you do not know if you will be happy living. Have a Plan “B” all set up.

  10. jon italy says:

    ask you Bruce I have taken the money 80 000$ end of service in the iron factory in italy can Living in Luxury in the Philippines if you have for work and live ask you …Bruce iwant new live in ph iam ge gf there iwant new life can this amount can be worked by anything in the Philippines or not
    and not have salary in italy for get end of service for that iam ask you for cafe net thank you

  11. Lonnie Carreau says:

    Bruce,

    I love your blog. I Married a Pinay woman that was in the US on a student visa. We have a young son and are very happy togather. I have approached her with the idea of retiring in the Phillipines. She has brought up many of the things you have mentioned on your blog and that while the money may go further, there are many things I would miss. We are going to go for a visit soon. I look forward to doing as you suggested and “look before I leap”. As I am only 39 now, by the time I retire, I should know if it will work out for us. No doubt another big factor for us would be what is going on in our son’s life, who by then should be in college or starting out on his own.

    Thank you for your efforts.

    -Lonnie

    • Bruce says:

      Lonnie,
      I am glad you enjoy my site, I never thought it would be as accepted. I hope you will tell your friends and your wife will do so as well.
      Where is your wife from in the Philippines? I guess when you visit, you will visit her hometown. If you make it to Davao, I would enjoy meeting you both. Depending on your needs, you can adjust. There are things here that you cannot get there too, like Durian and bad sanitation. 🙂

  12. Lonnie Carreau says:

    Her family is in Leguna and she wants to visit her ex co-workers at UP. This is our first trip since she left, so we have a lot of stuff planned. I think I could write an article about going visiting family in the ph. Most of our luggage is gifts for extended family, including purses, kid stuff and chocolate…. lots of chocolate. I will only be there 10 days, but my wife and son will be there 21 days. We have already made elaborate arrangements for our sons 2 year birthday party. We do not have large gatherings at our home. The biggest gathering my son has seen was when we visited my wife’s sisters family in another part of the US. This will definitely be a unique experience for me. I hope I am able to apdat as well as you have.

    -Lonnie

    • Bruce says:

      Lonnie,
      The first thing to hit you will be the heat, then the traffic. Once you arrive at the family home, you will see more relatives than even your wife will know. Everyone will want to meet the “Rich American”
      Be careful, everyone will need this and that and your credit card can be worn out. If your lucky, they will use English, most familyies will talk in their language and you will be there smiling.
      Besides all that, when you see things that bother you, remember your not in America and this is their home and life. Accept what you can. It gets easier over time.

  13. jenie=) says:

    hi! it’s my first time here…but i had a nice time reading=)

    you’re right in saying that these things you say are your thoughts and that it’s debatable (but comments are better accepted), haha.

    one thing i can say…i’m happy for you that you have a choice, for there are a lot of people who doesn’t. as for me, there are wishes..but then again, i go for wherever i am destined to be.

    hope you can come and visit my blogs too=)

    • Bruce says:

      Jenie,
      I am glad you found my site. I visited yours and it was interesting. I hope your making money with all the paid per posting. I prefer to keep my site pure for my readers. Not making money, but enjoy telling my stories.

  14. Gene says:

    Im an American living here in the Philippines. I agree 100%. Living here is much better than back in the states. Not from a financial point of view but from a “life is more interesting here” view.
    My Filipina wife, child, and I live in a Mt. Pinitubo resettlement close to Angeles City. A resettlement is like a Flintsones version of a condo. Block after endless block of these 12×30 foot cement boxes.
    I’ve been here more than six years now. No aircon and live on less than P10,000 per month. Still, life is great! Lots to see and do. Once the local stores and vendors are use to you, you get the same price quotes etc as anyone else here. We joined the Brgy. Police about five years ago and have fun serving the town and local area.
    Great place and would never think of returing to the states.

    • Bruce says:

      Gene,
      For me, there are good points living in either place but with my financial situation, there is no way I could live in the states.
      Good for you, I do not think I could live in a place that small and without aircon unless I had to, but I know it would be difficult.
      Thanks for visiting and enjoying my site.

  15. Gene says:

    Bruce,

    First thanks for you email and also for your comment here. You’re right. No way to live back in the states. That goes for me too. Just too expensive there anymore. With a few years left to go before collecting Social Security we do live on a very fixed income indeed. But what the heck, life is good here and far more interesting than back home. I’m still counting the days till we can get aircon in here or another place with it. It got up to 100f in the house yesterday. Ouch!!!

    • Bruce says:

      Gene,
      I make sure I reply to every readers comment or email. I enjoy getting to know more about my readers, their life and interests. I also welcome to post a guest blog from anyone who has an interesting experience or observation they like to share.
      Try to make the wait shorter, I would sleep in the mall if my home got that hot.

  16. Vance says:

    Hello, I have so enjoyed your site. My name is Vance, I am an ex arospace engineer, and part time professor. I am 59 years old and am thinking about retiring in the pines. The cost of living here in the US is just to much to survive on. I have been talking to a wonderful philappina woman there for some time now, and we are serious about marriage. She is 49 and a very stable, honest, and down to earth woman, with 4 children, 3 grown, and one that is 13 years.

    I figure my retirement salary at 62 will be about $1500 a month from social Security and company penion, not counting my 401K. I trade currencies to make a little extra money on the side. After having read your articles, which is very interesting, honest, and straight to the point, I wonder as a black man, if living there would be any issues, other than the ones you mentioned. Would I be welcomed there and would my retirement provide a reasonable living. Your honest opinion is appreciated!

    I guess I could do without some of the modern convienances found here in america, but I am very handy with my hands, and I do have a Masters Degree, if that would help any.

    Thank you for your articles, I have made your site a favorite, and will revisit it soon. Want to learn as much about the Filappines as possible, look before I leap.

    Sincerely Vance

    • Bruce says:

      Vance,
      Welcome to my site. I am glad you enjoy my articles and find use in my information. I have not heard of any prejudice about black men here. I have met a few. I think there will be less prejudice than in the States.
      I think with your income, you will do fine. With your degree, you could try to get a teaching position if you wish, but you need to promote yourself, do not expect them to come to you.

      Feel free to ask me anything online or through email.

  17. Stewart says:

    Hello Bruce, I just returned from two weeks in Davao and read your blog with interest. My Partner here in the UK is Filipino though she left a long time ago. She had a house built in Toril some years ago though (being a Civil Engineer). This was my first trip to Asia so it was Culture Shock to the fore. Do they all have noisy dogs and cockerels? I fantasised about mass murder of the neighbours every night ;o)

    I guess we are thinking of selling up and early retirement back to Davao and looked at places like Villa Mercedes and Royal Pines for a QUIET life then I spoke with an Attorney and unearthed the difficulty of owning land and property as a foreigner. So I can see that it takes a shed load more planning to achieve.

    I don’t really fancy complete retirement so I visited their Oncology provision at Davao Doctors’ with a view to related business projects. Lovely people but few and basic resources and patient volumes have been reducing (ability to pay?) which made me think about our own access to good healthcare if we happen to need it. What does one do?

    That traffic!! it really is a Full Contact sport, somewhat like motorbike racing here. I like the idea of being on the first Ducati in the city or a big BMW traillie, if one can import used vehicles, but something tells me they make it really difficult and expensive.

    Anyway I will keep an eye on your blog from now on.

    • Bruce says:

      Stewart,
      It is true, a foreigner cannot own land. Some of the options is what most do, have the title in their wife/partners name. You need to trust her because legally it will be hers. Another is leasing the land with a long term lease. Then you own the house but they own the land. You can legally own a condo.
      Gated subdivisions have better rules and more quiet. Medical availability is good in many ways, but this is not America or England.
      Driving is crazy, but as I have written in many articles you need to be aggressively defensive. You need to know how to force your way into traffic and when to back off. Good thing most do not drive faster then 20-40 mpkm.
      There are ways to import a car, the custom charges go down with age of vehicle. Just remember, if it is not sold here, where will you get spare parts.

  18. Seth says:

    Bruce,

    I appreciate the cander in which you write. You try to be very honest and it shows. As for the cost of living in the PI I find it very interesting because my wife and I always talk about returning to Davao. When I have visited I always make it a point to go to the local malls and shopping centers to compare prices and also check on the availability of things. I have not considered going to a hardware store but will make it a point next time I visit. Things in America are going up on a daily basis and there is no change in site. As far as the heat goes, my wife tells me all the time that it is hotter on the Louisiana Gulf Coast then it is in Davao. So she is miserable here outside in the summer and like most Filipina’s she dont handle the cold to well either. The thing I like the best there is that there is so many different kinds of fresh fruit and fresh seafood. I showed your website to the wife recently and she is also now reading your columns. Keep it up and may God bless you

    Seth

    • Bruce says:

      Seth,
      Thank you for commenting. Yes, I try to be honest with my views. I do not get real hard on negative things because life here is the way it is. I also try not to sugar coat things and make people think this is paradise where all your dreams will come true.

      You are right about the heat compared to the Gulf Coast, the difference is it never really gets cool here. It is like Florida or Gulf Coast 12 months a year.

      I hope your wife will comment and introduce herself too.

  19. Roger says:

    Here’s a question from a future visitor…How necessary, and how expensive, would domestic help be?

    • Bruce says:

      Roger,
      I can only answer for Davao. Each city in this country, it would vary depending on cost of living. We pay 1500 a month, plus room and board. After a year we plan to give a raise. Some pay more, some less.

  20. Al says:

    Give me a green card + money and I will still say no to living in US 🙂 When I was in my 18’s I was so taken by the glamour and facade that is going on there then one day I just realized that under that facade there is not much substance.

    Philippines or similar country all the way. The thing is, there is no similar country to Philippines. The Philippines might not have that glamour facade but the substance is certainly there and that’s what will make most of your life in the end.

    Anyway, just my 2 pesos 🙂 Wait, too much, 2 centavos is better 🙂

    • Bruce says:

      Al,
      Here as anywhere else, there is good things and bad, good people and criminals. The purpose of my writings is to let people that are planning to move here, THIS IS NOT AMERICA. There are differences and you cannot live your life or plan life will be the same. We all came here for our reasons. Once here, you have two choices, stay or leave. If you stay you need to accept what you cannot change.

  21. David says:

    hi Bruce how are you
    My name is David I live in Dubai, I thank you for the information about the Philippines and I have a question I have a friend living in the Philippines form 5 years and sent him a message I want to I work there the field of fast food Kentucky such as Dubai has sent me the information that he could do I that in the city of Angeles and said to me The cost of the establishment of the restaurant about 70 000 thousand dollars and profits daily exceed $ 1300 after all expenses and I did not believe tahat Can we get this profit in the Philippines, many Filipinos working here, I’m afraid to have my friend had lied to me that the profit of this magnitude
    Is there such that I hope that this teaches me to invest this amount in the Philippines can achieve
    The second question I got to know she old girl 22 years at the site of the marriage has been accepted to marry me knowing that my old is 50 years Is this marriage is acceptable in the Philippine law or do they want money just note it’s not asking me any amount of money and she told me that her father agree to her marriage, and I like it Thank you very much to all of the information
    best regard

    • Bruce says:

      David,

      I am not sure how to answer you. I have no idea how and what fast food business make there and about the girl, just be careful.

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