Hindsight is the greatest teacher.
While people are suffering due to the no work no pay policy during the ECQ, I cannot help but think that there’s invaluable lessons for employees from this ECQ experience. Not everyone goes through the same ECQ experience. Some people suffer than most.
While many complain about not having any money, others are surprisingly calm and are simply enjoying their quality time with family.
So I wonder, what makes those who are anxious vs. those who are calm different? As I reflect on this question, I realized that this ECQ experience is teaching us so many invaluable lessons regarding our career, the way we spend money, and the way we think about the future.
Here are 10 critical lessons I think we can glean from being in ECQ, and how we can do better the next time there’s a rainy day.
1. We must have an Emergency Fund set aside for downtimes like this.
You don’t need to be rich or earn a high income to have an emergency fund. Some of the people I know with the highest salaries are those who are in debt. Maybe because they earn more than average, their spending is higher too.
To have an emergency fund, set aside 10% of your income into a separate bank account, and only spend the money for REAL emergencies. Sickness and hospitalization is an emergency. ECQ is an emergency. Tuition fee is not an emergency, as these expenses should be planned ahead of time.
It’s all about financial management — I have two types of staff when it comes to how they spend their annual bonuses:
- Staff 1: Buys a TV, a new washing machine, an iPad for the kids and a new phone for herself when she gets her bonus.
- Staff 2: Buys one little thing for herself and saves the rest.
Who do you think is suffering most during the ECQ?
2. Cut your spending to what you need, not what you want.
It’s no secret that I love branded bags and shoes. However, a Ferregamo shoe costs Php 30,000, which is a whole lot of money. A pair of Valentino cost Php 55,000. I also love to go online and buy stuff for my daughter, many of which she doesn’t even like to wear because there’s so uncomfortable.
I noticed that our family expenses was drastically cut during the ECQ. Maybe because we don’t go out and don’t go shopping all the time, we only buy the essentials like food and toiletries, so you can really see that what we spend on a lot of frivolous things because we want to impress other people.
If you don’t go out, you don’t need to buy clothes, shoes and makeup. Your kids will still be okay with the toys they have at home. If there’s not a lot of deliveries, you don’t shop a lot online. Come to think of it, a lot of things are unnecessary.
3. Avoid being in debt. Debt is doubly bad especially in times of crisis.
The ECQ teaches us to only buy things we need, and only if we have the money to afford it. This is because if we over purchase, we usually take out a mortgage (for the house), a car loan (for the car), or an installment payment (for the credit card bill).
The problem with debt is that you still have to pay for the interest, even if you’re not working and have no income during thee ECQ. So this is double trouble for any regular employee. You no longer have any money for your daily needs, you still have to pay for your interest payments because it’s your obligation.
What’s worse, you cannot even use your car too much during the ECQ.
4. If you make a big purchase item, use cash.
Using cash ensures that you will only buy things you can afford.
My family has never bought a brand new car. The rule of thumb is, once you drive your car out from the dealer, the price is already depreciated by 10 to 30 percent. There is no point to buy a new car unless it’s for our ego of smelling the brand new interiors. No matter how shiny a car is, it will lose its sheen after a few weeks — definitely NOT worth the price you paid for the car.
A brand new Toyota Innova 2.5L Diesel in 2015 cost Php 1 million. We bought a well maintained second-hand Innova for Php 450,000. The owner was a diplomat and took good care of his car. We paid in cash.
It was a good buy and the dieseled car saves us Php 1,000 per filling of gas tank. But we also got a very good deal on the car because we paid via cash and didn’t go in debt.
If you don’t pay in cash, lending companies make an arm and a leg off you. Our driver bought a motorcycle for Php 70,000, payable over 5 years at Php 3,500 per month. While Php 3,500 looks reasonable, Php 3,500 x 12 x 5 years is a freaking Php 210,000 in total!
That means, he is paying 3x the price of the motorcycle because he chose to buy it in installment instead of paying it in full. Instead of doing installment, why not save up for the motorcycle and pay for it in whole. You can just spend your Php 140,000 elsewhere.
5. Pick the correct company to work for.
It is this time of ECQ that you can see if your company demonstrates compassion to its people or not. From my involvement with the Philippine HR Group, I saw that a lot of companies were strictly enforcing their No-Work-No-Pay policy. Even if the staff has been there for ten years, the company still did NOT offer any financial assistance or salary loan option whatsoever, and practically left their staff at the mercy of the government. And when the government dragged its feet, the company still didn’t step up to help, screaming that they have no money to help.
That’s why I wrote that companies should somewhat help their staff and make a plan on how to support them during the lockdown. Even if it’s just an allowance, every little bit helps. I believe that businesses should have the heart for their employees and put them first. When some businesses demanded their share, I was so angry that I wrote that Workers should be first instead of Businesses.
The irony is, I know for a fact that many of these businesses do have cash. You cannot operate a business if your cash reserve is only a month worth of wages. Many of my friends who own large businesses enjoy lavish vacations, have mansions for houses, own several cars, and only wear expensive luxury items. And yet, despite their great wealth, they still choose to pay their people not a single cent during the ECQ, not even as a salary loan.
This pisses me off. It clearly shows that the employees made the wrong choice of working for such employer. It is the employer who got rich over the employees’ efforts. But when it’s time for the employer to give back and offer some assistance during the staffs’ time of need, the employer hides behind the cloak of, “The company has no money!” even though it’s NOT true.
I don’t think anyone should be fully paid for days unworked, and I think it’s awesome when a company is so generous to offer such help. However, I think that a company should still show some compassion and initiative to take care of their employees, and offer a bit of assistance if not to release their pro-rated 13th month pay, salary loan or financial assistance if they can.
So during the ECQ, you can truly see what type of company you are working for. Reflect on whether they truly care for you, and if they don’t, find out if this is really the company you want to invest your time, effort and talents in. Dito mo talaga makikita kung may pakialam sa iyo ang employer mo, kung kahit papaano, tinulungan ka during the ECQ.
6. Stop changing your jobs so frequently.
Since December was our peak month, we have a lot of employees who come and join us because they make a lot of money on commissions during this seasonal period.
The irony is, after the peak season, a lot of employees choose to resign and rest despite our efforts to persuade them to stay. But they can’t be convinced. For them, they’re fine with the money they made short-term and so, they would choose to rest and then apply again after a certain period. Some employees however chose to resign because there were better offers elsewhere post the peak season.
Whatever the reason, the joke is on them. ECQ started on March 17 and is still ongoing. During the ECQ, employees of the company was able to receive the Php 5,000 from DOLE CAMP, and some financial assistance from the company every payroll. What’s more, thoes who have been with the company longer are given higher financial assistance than those who were new. It truly pays to stay long in a single company.
Those who left before ECQ found themselves jobless, with depleted savings account, and no assistance whatsoever from the government or the company. Those who resigned for another job found themselves laid off from such jobs, and are now scrambling for new employment. And those who chose to rest for a month or so found finding a new job so challenging as nobody is really hiring right now.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most expensive employees are those who have stayed with you longest. They’re the ones whom you give extra bonuses, salary increases, and better treatment. The longer they are, the more you give them to incentive them to stay. When they get older, you need to reward them with Retirement Pay for years of great service.
The newest employees are the cheapest. All you need to do is pay their wages.
7. Make sure all your records are updated.
The government has launched the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program recently. The program promises a generous subsidy of Php 8,000 for two tranches, totalling to Php 16,000 government assistance for those who are qualified.
Here’s the clincher. To be qualified, you need to have:
a. A Tax Identification Number (TIN)
b. Paid your SSS contributions up to January 2020
c. Have a personal bank account that’s under the employee’s name. It cannot be a payroll account since third parties cannot deposit to this account.
d. This bank account should be registered online at MySSS, and you can only do so if you have registered in the SSS office before the ECQ. If you haven’t registered, the minimum you need is a UMID ID, which you should have gotten when you first started working.
Actually, the requirements are easy to get. All you need to go is to the BIR RDO and the Social Security System office and you’re done.
The problem is, most employees did not bother to procure many of the above-mentioned requirements even though the government has repeatedly reminded us to do so. Consequently, we might find ourselves disqualified from the SBWS program, just because we didn’t do what we were told to.
Through our own negligence, we disqualified ourselves. And we cannot blame anyone else but ourselves for not fixing these administrative issues when we had the chance.
8. Live in the correct neighborhood. Who rules your barangay matters, so you better choose wisely.
My staff in Tondo, Manila has gotten relief goods every week from their local barangay. My other staff in Laguna only received relief goods once last week. Our family in Pasig City has NOT received a single relief good from the government (Note: Mind you, I’m not complaining as we have what we need. But I do hope that they’re actually giving relief goods to other people because we ain’t getting any ourselves).
The type of assistance, relief good, execution of the Social Amelioration Program largely depends on where you live, and who manages your area.
Some barangay captains and their people are corrupt and steal a bit from the money that’s given by the National Government. If your community leader is corrupt, there’s numerous chances for him and his team to enrich himself during the ECQ. In times like these, you can really see which mayor or government official truly love their constituents and ensure that help that’s for the people is received by the people.
Or you can see how evil they are that in times of crises, they still can’t help but dip their dirty hands on the moneyt hat’s intended for the people.
You know who they are. Don’t ever vote for them again.
9. Leave and Cleave and only support your own immediate family
It is cheaper if you support your own family, instead of supporting an extended family. If you get married, make sure that you don’t have to support every Tom, Dick and Harry of your signficant other, which would put you in personal bankruptcy no matter how much you make.
Take for example our family driver who was already earning 50% above minimum wage, but is still suffering during the ECQ. Despite his higher income, 13th month pay and annual bonus, this driver is still crying that he doesn’t have enough money to feed his family.
At first glance, you may feel bad for this family driver. However, when you see his family’s structure, you can understand why he’s always out of money.
For one, he lives with his girlfriend’s family, which comprises of her parents, her brother, her brother’s wife and their kid. So a lot of his income is spent on his girlfriend’s family, many of whom should already be self-sufficient. Two, they don’t really live a prudent lifestyle as per his earnings. Their room has an aircon and their house has a rent. So you can see, it’s not as if they’re living a cheap lifestyle.
Leave and cleave — It’s far cheaper to live on your own and pay what you consume, instead of paying for two families and a gazillion mouths to feed.
10. Marry the Right Person
During the ECQ, you will spend a lot of time at home. Hence, it matters if your spouse is compatible to you or not. The joke is, ECQ will bring either more child births, or more separation. In short, ECQ can either bring you together with your spouse, or break you apart.
If your husband or wife is a terrible person and COVID-19 forces you to spend your time with them, COVID-19 will open your eyes as to what type of person you actually married.
I enjoy spending time with my husband and my daughter since I work 6 days a week, at least 8 hours a day. I know that I would never have this type of quality time with them otherwise. My husband love to converse with me on social, political and every day issues, and enjoys his time with me.
Other husbands find their wives insufferable and annoying, and can’t wait to go back to work. They’re not particularly fond of their wives, and use their jobs as a way to escape.
The ECQ is an eye-opener for all of us. I feel that there’s a lot of “Should have, Could Have” things we should have done before the ECQ to make us more ready for this emergency. It is my hope that we take our experience during ECQ seriously so that we can better prepare ourselves for the next crisis.
How about you? What are the things you learned during the ECQ? Lessons that will better prepare you for your future? Please share in the comments below.