Retirement in the Philippines as an American

First off I am not an American but must know at least 100 just in Cebu who have retired here already. There is a bit of swaying on are other places cheaper and foreigner friendly such as Panama or Costa Rica which to be honest if you do the figures the Philippines is probably not going to come out favourite. The way the country is geared is to keep the rich rich and in doing so they have made the country very insular when it comes to foreigners to do business. At the same time if your retiring fully on a reasonable pension then you wouldn’t have to worry about that and simply look to enjoy the rest of your years riding it out in sun swept Philippines.

Most people seem to have grumblings of some sort but generally content and adapted to the environment around them not always positively as some never seem to leave sub-divisions while others integrate with local society. Its all about choices and budgets to get the most out of retirement in the Philippines.

The first choice being location and as the saying goes “location, location, location” and it comes down to that when deciding to stop here long term as you will find everywhere is a little different from everywhere else. The cities have more amenities and larger hospitals at the same time smog and traffic congestion are a problem. Personally I like sitting between city and provincial having access to both as this allows the choice as well as having a lower cost of living compared to Cebu city which is still within 20mins of my house. Get the location wrong and sign a one year lease or worse buy a house you could find yourself very unhappy and stuck there.

Isolation can also become a problem which is why I advise meeting up with like minded expats as filtering out the good from the bad will give long term friends but also contacts in an emergency. I love the Philippines but do find I hear horror stories too often and its normally involving the family an expat has married into at the same time many of the Expats bring it on themselves by they’re actions which can be very counter productive or even dangerous if offending the wrong people.

This is not America is the most important thing to remember many things here are dysfunctional and long winded especially in government departments. My wife is currently awaiting her SSS (Social Security System) ID estimated waiting time take a guess.. 2 years!! Service is up and down you will find things like grocery store staff to be very helpful and will take your groceries to your vehicle while on the other hand looking for something technical most people don’t seem to know the products they are selling and instantly will point you in the direction of the most expensive based on the fact your a foreigner so assume you would want the expensive one regardless how it compares to other similar products. Food is mixed some is good some is bad. Another issue of an insular society is the problem with imported goods as there are tariffs set for many things so if you see your favourite imported item buy as many as you can as they may not be there next time!

People are generally friendly and in the years I have spent here I have yet to come across anything other than a smile and friendly chat. Doesn’t mean you can trust everyone mind as everyone and his dog wants to sell you a property, help you find a girlfriend or wife etc. etc. most of this is done on a commission basis for them not out the kindness of heart. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in a nice way as a buddy just that with such things I take them with a pinch of salt and have yet to be proven wrong and even a friend of ours added at least P300,000 to a house price purely because I am a foreigner and said it was a good price with a smile.

Generally every American I have met loves it here and although many have had a rough ride forcing them back to the U.S.A. they can’t wait to come back. The guys who are here full time are in a similar state happy with what they have and generally just going about their business. Only stumbling blocks are immigration costs, currency exchange rate and land ownership rules that makes them paranoid about losing everything to the girlfriend/wife.