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Thoughts of Mortality

I am 55 and mortality has not been much of a thought in my life. I know we only have so much time on this planet and then our life is over. Physically I am fine and have no illnesses to cause worry.

Well yesterday I was notified that a man I know here died the day after heart surgery.  He was married to a very sweet Filipina.  Now he is gone, the thoughts are about his widow. Did he have any joint savings to provide for her? I know their home was rented, so she does not have a home any more. I had heard she was estranged from her family so she is unable to return to them, of if she does, it will be a difficult situation. One thing in her favor is she is still young and attractive, but there are many young and attractive ladies here in the Philippines.

So, here is a sweet lady who dedicated her past few years to an older foreigner man. They were married for a few years and now he is gone.  Possibly, so is her financial support. I am not sure of her age or her schooling. Here in the Philippines jobs are difficult to get and most companies only hire people under the age or 30.

Hearing about his death, and the situation his widow is now in made me think about my own life. I am an American and my wife is a Filipina. I am not yet of the age to collect my Social Security Pension and have just a small amount of savings in an investment in the States. A Filipina wife cannot receive my Government pension if I die unless she had lived for a minimum of 6 months legally in the States as my wife.

What is this all about, well, now with this man’s passing, it made me think about Elena and what will happen if I die.

The only close family I have in the States is my mother and one brother. Unless something unknown happens to me, I will probably out live my mom. With my brother, we are not close and hardly ever communicate.  He is also older and probably will not outlast me either.
Well back to the subject or this article. It made me think, what will happen if I die and what I leave behind.  I will leave behind a loving wife. As any good loving husband, he wants to make sure his wife is provided for upon his death. Will she have enough money from me to live well? Luckily we have 3 nieces and 2 nephews who love us as if we were their mother and father, but they will have their own life and how much support they will be able to provide her.

I now plan to email my financial advisor, which I had not thought of doing until now to ask if there are any difficulties changing my beneficiary of my savings from my mother to Elena. IF there is any problem having the money go to a foreign national living in the Philippines.
Another thought, I am Jewish. I do not practice my family’s religion and I feel after death, I will not be around to worry about my body. In the Jewish religion a body is to be buried within 48 hours of death and then the family will morn at home where friends can visit to express their condolences. At a Jewish funeral home the casket is in another room or hidden by screens. At a Catholic wake the casket is up front and in full view.

Elena is a Roman Catholic and in her religion families have the body on display in at the mortuary for days or even weeks. So I wonder what Elena will decide to do at the time of my demise. I tried to talk to her about it, but she just says, “Let’s not discuss this; we will just have to live forever.”

I never liked visiting cemeteries. I always prefer to think of my relatives and friends who have passes of happy times and do not want my last memories of them in a casket or a stone with their name on it. I feel a photo of me at a happy time where the person who is looking will think of that time and feel glad to have been part of my life and not looking at a headstone or a memory of me laid out in a casket.

With that, my preference is being cremated and my ashes just disposed of.
Here in the Philippines people do not like to talk of mortality so the thoughts of the future is not often discussed so it is difficult for me to even talk of this to Elena.
I really do not need a will since I only have my invested savings in the US and our home here is in Elena’s name.

Let me know what you think of this and if you’re an Expat, what your plans are.

36 Responses to “Thoughts of Mortality”

  1. don m. says:

    my wife does not like to talk about death. In the PI it is a subject which is alinged with a lot of superstition.(Sp) My wife has lived here and will get her social security from her own accout even if I die. She is a lot younger than me. She will also get half my union pension upon my death–not big but a lot by the philippine standards. We don’t have any children so she will get what is left after all is sold here in the US.

    • Bruce says:

      It is good your wife has lived with you in the US. My original plan was to have Elena with me in the States and us both work, then if needed for an easier life we would move here to retire. Unfortunately the economy and housing went into the toilet and I had little choices.

  2. wildcat75 says:

    Hi! Bruce,
    Pardon me to say this , i know that this article is for expat only but i can’t help myself to comment, being a catholic myself we don’t normally talk about death but i always reminded my family what will happened to them if they keep on relying to someone? since i’m the breadwinner of the family i keep telIing them to study hard so they will have a chance to get a job to support themselves and not keep on depending to someone else .In the PHILS, If you have SSS (SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM), you wil be fine for the rest of your life but again this is depend on your SSS contribution. i guess for me the best thing to ensure your future for the rest of your life is if you have a considerable amount of cash, try to invest it on real property like land coz the price of it is keep increasing in the coming year or built a rented apartment , just say 1-3 units or more but you need to keep some funds for maintenance of course…. JMO…..

    • Bruce says:

      It is good you remind your family, but some Filipinos look at their OFW money as their life and lose all interest in working and developing their own lives. I just recomend you keep and invest some money for yourself. You never know how your family will consider you in the future.

      I knew a Filipina in America. She had been there for many years and was widowed from her American husband. One time her mother called her that her father was in the hospital and they needed money to cover the costs. This lady loved her father very much and flew home to the Philippines to see him. When she arrived she found out her father was healthy and not in the hospital. She asked why they lied to her and her mother told her “We wanted to buy some land and felt you would not give is the money.”

      So we see it is not just Filipinos scamming on the internet with foreigner men, they do it to their own familys too.

      • Christine says:

        Bruce, if I was her I would demand receipts on anything they purchased with my $$, even if it is a few pesos worth of bandaid, cotton buds, etc. 🙂

        It’s not being paranoid, but I have had friends being exploited and lied to by their families, just like the lady you mentioned above, causing so much grief for their daughters here.

        • Bruce says:

          She was an interesting person and maybe she got it from her family. In the US she would not remarry because she would lose the “free” money she received from survivor benefits. She went back to college because she found out they would pay all her costs and give her student allowance. Maybe the desire for easy money ran in the family. She had told me, a good friend commented on her marriage was more like a business merge.

    • wildcat75 says:

      Thank’s for the reminder i guess i already prepare myself for my retirement and in a few more yrs i’m going home for good, since i don’t have a family of my own i think i will live just fine, i don’t have to worry where to sleep coz i managed to built my own roof to sleep w/ and i have SSS,pension plan, pagibig,flexi-fund, and some personal saving, although it’s not that big but by PHILS.standard i think i will survive, hahaha!!I’m just helping my niece to finish her two yrs. computercourse in college and then maybe i will retire……Ive’d been away from home for such a long time and i want to go home to be w/ my mom..

      • Bruce says:

        It is wonderful you had the though to provide for your retirement. Not many here think about such things. I know you will do well. If you ever want to build a new home, remember me and my architectural services.
        I was not as smart as you to save for retirement.

  3. Hi Bruce,

    Good topic, even if taboo down in Philippines. It’s one I have not seen mentioned before. Being Canadian we do not have that restriction about the wife living in USA for 6 months before she can have your pension. That is the first time I have heard about it. With a first marriage we can just register the wife. With subsequent marriages we must prove that we “lived together as common-law partners for six months before the marriage” – almost as strange as your requirement!

    Retiring from Canadian government service I have government pension, life insurance, dental plan, medical plan – these can be available to my wife upon my death. I am an ex-pat in Austria.

    • Bruce says:

      You are lucky, multipal pensions makes life easier. I know in the states a woman that had been married more than once and divorced or widowed can chose which husbands benifits they want to collect from.

      The 6 month thing was told to me by a foreigner here that does lots of research. I think I need to resource it myself and will report if I find anything different.

  4. Evelyn says:

    hi bruce, evelyn here..
    nice topic…
    actually it is a filipino culture —- death is a morbid topic to talk about..but i guess the young ones today are more open about this..the young generations are already practical..we have lots of pre need plans that offer funeral services like caskets,memorial lots and internment services..yeah, because dying is really expensive and if you don’t plan ahead one will end up with huge debt to pay after the is in our culture that the surviving family will be surrounded by friends and relatives to give them love and support..even relatives from far away places will come and show their grief…yup, we grieve in groups.. people gather for the visitation and when people gather, food is served…the family cooks and makes other preparations for the visitation that is ongoing until the burial…well, it is really expensive to, we better not die huh?

    • Bruce says:

      Even in America family’s get together. There is a saying you only see certain parts of the family at weddings and funerals. It is also expensive. For me, I can be just thrown in the trash, I guess I am biodegradable waste.

      • Christine says:

        Bruce, you are funny! You reminded me of a Filipina friend of mine from years gone by. One day, she told me that she had instructed her husband to just feed her remains to the dogs when she dies because they don’t really have a lot of money to bury her properly. Yeah, even here dying is very expensive also.

        • Bruce says:

          Also as we say, death is hardest on the living. The dead are dead so they do not know whats going on. At least your friend will have the dogs fed well. Then the family will have fattened dogs to eat.

          • Christine says:

            Bruce, the friend was a Filipina married to an Aussie. So even here it is very expensive to die. You cannot get buried for less than $5000. You mentioned eating the dogs? I come from Cebu, I believe it is not widely eaten there. I think a long time ago, someone told me the people from Baguio eat dogs because it “heats” them up, with Baguio being cold.

            Filipinos are really superstitious. Death is just not a pleasant topic, so people tend to avoid it, and usually say “simbako ka malaa”. Not sure if I’ve got the spelling right, and the word means nothing to me. That is, I don’t think it is Visayan.

            While we are on the topic of death. I was bemused with my brother when we were on our way to Cebu one day last month when I was there. It usually takes us 2 hours from my hometown to Cebu city, mainly because by the time we get to Consolacion and Mandaue, the traffic gets so congested. One day we decided to go to Cebu on a Sunday, because I had an early appt. next day Monday. Would you believe it, we encountered 6 funeral processions from Compostela to Mandaue? Now, to some people, 6 funerals are nothing. But the reason I mentioned it here, was that because it was a funeral procession on a main road, it slowed everyone down on an already congested area, which prompted my brother to comment “why do they have to prolonged the trip to the grave, it’s not gonna bring him back to life?”.

            It is very different to the funerals here, which you described above. No slow processions here, just the service at a funeral parlour, then everyone drives to the cemetery and meet there for the final service. No traffic! 🙂

            I am familiar with the Jewish burial ceremony. My ex was Jewish. One thing I found hard to come to terms with after we got married was that I was forbidden to eat pork! Now, that was very hard for someone who was raised to eat the stuff all her life! One day, I asked someone who was somewhat senior in their church if I would go to hell if I eat pork. His reply was, “you won’t go to hell, it will just get you to heaven a lot quicker”.
            Apparently, the forbidden foods (which was everything I liked) are just guidelines to maintain good health. And because I wasn’t really that fond of beef or chicken anyway, I ended up turning vegetarian. It’s not bad being vegetarian by the way. Have a nice day, Bruce. You’ve got a really good site here.

          • Bruce says:

            Your ex must have been orthodox. I wonder how their family accepted you. I can from a very reformed family, actually in name only since we never attended Temple. Most of their dietary laws are from the days without refrigeration so were used for safety issues. Now it is just a traditional item. I eat everything as long as I enjoy. Balut is not one of them,. hahaha

  5. Evelyn says:

    hi bruce, evelyn again…
    yah, i know they come and get together here in amerika but not as showy as compared to our country…over here ,there is a time set for viewing and then the next will be the burial…over there, it is 24 hrs/7 or depending how many days and that is what makes it very expensive..well, it is our culture…
    right now ,one of our dear neighbors died..she will be viewing but the surviving husband(no children) thought of having a memorial for her which will be at the clubhouse here and he’ll bring the ashes to Canada to their hometown in Ontario…..

    • Bruce says:

      True, here there is a lot more ceremony with everything. From birth to death. Plus with the costs, here familys are willing to spend so much, for so little and can’t afford. In the US, you are more conscience of cost and wastes.

  6. Steve Baker says:

    Hi Bruce,
    I’m an American married to a Filipino and have a 4 year old dauughter. I also have heart problems. I’m a retired Firefighter and my wife will recieve half my pension upon my death. We also have plans for some savings and CDs. I worry about the same thing, death and leaving my wife and daughter without the things they need.
    We currently live in the states (Ohio) and have our house for sale with plans to move to Davao. We have already built her family a nice home and plan to live there with them as a start. We will look for land and build later.
    As a DISABILITY retired firefighter and retired Air Force we will bring an exceptional income to Davao, but it’s after my demise that worries me.
    My wife is now an American citizen and she is well educated, but does not have enough time in (usa)social secutity to collect on her own. I think she can draw on mine for her and our daughter, but will find out more before we leave the states.
    I will try to buy some properties and let her and her family become landlords. I have NO aspirations of becoming a landlord.
    We can NEVER prepare enough for our families future, once we are gone, and yet we still try. My plan involves me living long enough to complete it.
    The new heart clinic at the Doctors Hospital is part of the reason I plan to make the move. I know they have the expertise to take care of me. (I have already researched them and their staff).
    I’m still strong and healthy enough to do all this, but for how long? (I’m hoping for 25 more years) So, I choose not to worry on it and will just continue to execute my plan and live happy. We will vacation a little and enjoy the many islands of the Philippines.
    I hope I have not overstayed my welcome here. I like to get to know you and see you once we arrive in Davao.
    Steve Baker

    • Bruce says:


      With your wife being a citizen, she should have no problem with collecting your Social Security and will continue to get your daughters either.
      Davao doc has a good reputation, but that friend I mentioned in my article had open heart surgery at Davao Doc and then died there. I did not get enough information to heart problem or his surgery. All I know was he had a heart attack at home and was in for bypass.
      I would love to get to know you and your wife once your here and if you need me for any architectural design, plans or even construction needs, I am available. Especially since I could use the income, but promise you best prices and quality of work.

  7. Dan2vero says:


    I know money is tight, but what about starting the process of taking Elena to the USA, take a 6 month vacation to the states, stay with family that you are comfortable with. Unless you don’t think the percentage of your SSI income will help that much after you are gone?
    But I really didn’t look at this aspect as well, although I plan to keep my 401ks and other small investments, but I didn’t realize that a “foreign” spouse had to live with you in the states for at least 6 months.
    So this will be something I will have to think about doing as well.
    Thanks for the “food for thought” article…:)

    Danny H.

    • Bruce says:

      I think with the spousal visa costs, travel, then the immigration and 6 months in the US, I do not think it is worth it. I would love to bring Elena to America for a visit to meet my mom but getting her a tourist visa is difficult too.

  8. KrisBelucci says:

    Hi, cool post. I have been wondering about this topic,so thanks for writing.

  9. Christine says:

    Yes he was from Orthodox. I remembered celebrating several Jewish festivities like The Day of Atonement, The week of the unleavened bread, the day of the Passover, the Day of the Trumpets etc. There were quite a few we had to observe. We had to fast during the day of the Atonement too, which I found hard. One time I argued that I don’t really need to observe those, and that I can eat pork and crustaceans (forbidden also) because my race did not come from that area and it is highly unlikely that I have Jewish blood running in my veins. But that was no good. Because I was married to him, so that made me Jewish apparently. The family appeared to accept me even if I won’t convert. Could have been superficial, but probably helped we did not live in the same country!

    I’ve only ever eaten Balut when I was in primary school after being dared in exchange for a peso! I don’t think I will eat it again. It didn’t taste like anything. I had to sprinkle salt on it because it was bland by itself. I can still see that poor dead embryo (it’s almost a fully formed chick) in my head to this day.

    • Bruce says:

      I understand the difficulty. Luckily for me, we did not follow most of the traditions.
      About Balut, I say I prefer to let the little ckick grow up and end up at KFC.

      • Christine says:

        Well, if you were Orthodox, I don’t think you would survive in PI for long, what with our fondness for pork and crustaceans. The first and only last time I brought him with me to PI, it was a headache whenever we eat out, especially at food courts. I have to keep asking the food vendor what meat is in a dish. When I told my family he can’t eat pork, one of my younger sisters said “well then, he can have chorizos instead!”. Oh the innocence of babes. 🙂

  10. Al says:

    Even if I can provide for both, I always encourage my girl to be independent to the point that if something happens to me, she would not have to be troubled fiancially. This is not only applicable to Philippines and foreigners + Filipina couples but everywhere, for any couple and I have always supported this principle ever since I had relationships.

    • Bruce says:

      It is good you provide for your lady, but if you are together for a few years, and anything happens to you, is there a investment or savings to help her until she can find a full source of income?

  11. Belle says:


    Question for you: Can a filipino wife (not naturalized american) collect social security when the American husband dies?

    • Bruce says:

      A wife of an American can only receive Social security benefits, either death or retirement if she has lived in the US and has held a green card or residency for at least 6 months.

  12. gmmurgirl says:

    I am a wife and have the same worries, me and my partner has not had invested in any business yet. He is a lawyer but is not good handling with our family’s finances. As a wife I think start to invest in a stable business is a great idea for any family living in the Philippines and put up a trust fund for our children. I intend to do wealth-building for the sake of my kids in the coming years, so if something happens to any of us, our children will not be experiencing so much hardship. I also believe that husbands must teach their wives to earn a good living by hersel, not only will it empower her, but it will be useful when something happens to the husband, foreigner or not.

  13. douglas swindler says:

    bruce i am an american living here in davao city, i am planning to buuild a home here and i noticed in reading your articles that you are an architect. i would like to get with you about designing a house for me. the lot is narrow 400sq mtr wide 200 deep. my phone # are house 282 2877 and cell 09158444530 i would appreciate it if you would contact me so we can talk thanks doug swindler

    • Bruce says:

      I am back in the States. Unfortunately the contacts I have in Davao have been a disappointment. With that said, I have no one I can recommend for design, but have someone to manage construction that I do trust.

  14. Mary says:

    I too have plans of retiring in the Philippines. So to prepare myself, I have been reading books on this. One interesting note I found out in regards to the bank accounts of your loved ones here in the USA. They suggested that while the loved one is still alive is to go to the bank and fill out a POD (paid on death) or TOD (transfer on death). This is where you designate on what will happen to your money. You do this to not having to go through probate. The money will automatically be paid or transferred to the person you assign. I am not sure if banks in the Philippines have this.

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