Retiring in the Philippines can be a very nice choice, if you can keep busy productively. I used to joke when some guy after being around for about a year decided to keep busy with a “small business” and say “well there goes your nest egg”. One of the most often repeated remarks about businesses is that it is easy to earn a million pesos in the Philippines, just invest 2 million and be VERY careful to get out before you lose it all.
That the vast majority of Caucasian business fail has been my experience. But for sure not all and this post will address some of those. I will limit my remarks to business where the foreigner is the primary operator, but few actually own the business without the legal assistance of the wife.
Farming or animal husbandry.
If your location suits raising animals it is likely you will try this. I know many guys who raised pigs and actually made a decent profit. They did not do it in the same manner as most Filipinos though. Filipinos style is to have a pig out back, feed it table scraps and rice bran, sell it if an emergency but more likely use it for some celebration, saving the money needed to buy pork in the market when the price is high. Foreigners work on a different scale. In my observation feed and sales technique are key. A food source other than buying feed at the market is a must, many feed their hogs waste bananas from big farms, some supplement feeds with chicken butcher waste (lungs, blood and such) to raise protein levels in cheep feed stocks. Some raised corn just for feed. Many butchered their own hogs and sold them locally, during special occasions. Some shipped the hogs to nearby fiestas, butchered them there. I know at least 3 who did very well indeed, like $15,000 a year.
I choose farming. I loved to garden and loved to see my plants grow better than anybody else. I tested many crops, tomatoes, corn, peanuts, squash, eggplant, watermelon… this is a very long list. I lost 100% of my investment perhaps 50% of the time due to diseases and ignorance. When I earned I earned Filipino wages. When I got lucky and got a very good crop, the locals stole it in the night. Best crops for me were umpalaya and eggplant. Never lost money on eggplant but never made much either. For bitter gourd, I had some very good months but my plot of land got a soil disease and they all died, and subsequent crops died as well.
I did not buy farmland but simply asked if I could use it and abandon the fertilizer I bought when I moved away.
If you are getting started I suggest you start with peanuts, eggplant or corn. fertilize with chicken manure as store bought bags of fertilizer do not seem to have the ingredients as labeled.
I know of at least 5 foreign owned restaurants, that I would consider a success based on the fact that they still serve food. I have no experience with franchises. Filipinos love good foreign food and if you can get the imported ingredients reasonably (or manufacture them on site) they will visit and pay a premium for it. All who owned these establishments felt that they would have made a whole lot more money elsewhere (USA, Europe) and that they were no longer “retired”. All complained that requests for handouts by mostly government officials were not only a daily trial but as a foreigner they expected far more from them. All agreed that keeping a low profile worked in favor of gaining a profit.
As the saying goes, good work if you can find it. Known a lot of foreigners who bought cattle, or pigs, ducks, or dried fish, or rice, copra or vegetables and trucked them to various markets near and far. Selling at markets is simple and hassle free. Buying is the hitch. There is a system in place where a “buyer” advances cash in the expectation of a harvest and as such most crops are sold (at discount) (before a normal sale time when crop is in hand). Loaning money to Filipinos is to be strictly avoided. If you learn the language it is still possible to keep in touch with producers by texting, know prices around the island you are on and eke out a profit, essentially driving around touring. Very difficult to attain volumes sufficient to warrant profits that any foreigner I know would live on. Lots of “exaggeration” that leads you to drive far for few products. Guerrilla groups can be very ugly to trucking that they think the drivers are carrying cash. They stop traffic ahead of the truck, both directions, and then simply walk up to the stopped trucks with a gun. My friend lost 2 drives in 2 months who were shot in the head before being spoken to and then robbed of 300 and 540 thousand pesos. He was a rice trader.
I think the best businesses are those with no fixed address. Keep under the radar of government and your competition. Business licenses can be bought in one place but they are good everywhere. For a while I was an illegal logger (all loggers are illegal as it is impossible to get a permit legally), I had a Lucas mill where I cut dimensional lumber in the field. The law clearly states that logs need a permit to haul but dimensional lumber does not. The thinking is that it takes a sawmill to make lumber, so logs must be trucked. But a new invention cuts logs where they fall into very good lumber at about 1/3 the price a chain saw does. I had a crew from 1 to 11 guys, when they were all working I earned from $20 to $400 a day, mostly about $30. Did not work very hard, spent most of the money entertaining the crew buying beer and snacks at various houses of moderate to low reputation after work. (the whole crew traveled to the remote job site and spent days there).
Here is where I learned that obeying the law is no defense to avoid police trouble. Police set up checkpoints to “tax” log haulers. If you have a permit from DENR, the tax to be sure that your copy of the permit is not a forgery is P100 a truck load, if you smile and know the cop. I did not need a permit, but had my truck “impounded” for hours while they got an ‘official’ ruling on my load sometimes. I learned to go ahead with a Filipino friend of mine and pay before I arrived, sometimes hours in advance, and all problems were solved. I personally never paid. I lost my buyer and had real trouble getting parts for my mill, gave up. Became known over a very wide region as a “playboy” even though I did not actually sleep with a lot of women, but I did tend to drift to a little on the wild, drunk, loud, vulgar sometimes, side. I freely admit I was in it for fun.
If you are thinking of business, my advise remains the same, never take anything to the Philippines that you can’t walk away from with a smile.
The owner of this site has a MLM business and I don’t know if he has made a profit as one would expect if he had started this same concern in the USA, perhaps he can tell you later if he has.
NOTE 1: Another good business but you need to know what the heck you are doing or it will fail, is Internet Cafe. Our “Cool Zone Internet Cafe” has been in business continuously since 2002 and always turned a profit. I believe it made an average of P60,000 a month in revenue. The trick here is to diversify, do more than just internet access. We did color printing, ID Photos, copy service, Photo Editing, Photo repair, print brochures and more. I’ve seen plenty of nice looking internet cafe’s start up and 3 month later they are gone. This is usually due to the fact that the owners did not know how to keep their computes running. These users will trash a computer in a minute. You need to know how to quickly restore these systems to like new status again. The key is to use some type of disk backup (image sector by sector backup) so you can quickly restore that drive to it’s like new condition quickly or you end up with 16 broken computers. I know computers so if anyone needs help with this just contact me 571-970-9195.
NOTE 2: by Charles, the owner of this website: I started my MLM April of 2007 ran it until mid 2009, during that time I was making a high of $1000 a month although I only worked it about six months and just sat on it from there. I sold that business for a sizable amount of cash to my friend, he went on to make close to $5,000 with the same business. The difference being he worked it I did not. Now in late 2009 I decided to give it another try. I rejoined the same company under my Wife’s name in late 2009, but we were involved in moves and a lot going on, so I just sat on it until now. I have begun putting some money into it and plan to work it hard from my post here in Cebu. Most of my efforts will be working online with contacts in the US and around the world. I just signed on a past MLM guy who I believe will be a great asset to this new business. I will keep you informed here how things are going. I have several very promising prospects already soon to sign up so I think I am off to a good start.
The reason I like this particular company is it’s main product is made from the Mangosteen fruit only grown in Asia, and is known as the queen of fruits. This fruit has the power in it’s rind to kill cancer cells of all types, and prevents plenty of other diseases. My MLM was built around this fruit meaning not only is it an excellent MLM but it has an Excellent product that has been responsible of saving countless lives. I met some of those survivers in Cebu yesterday. The product has kept me from getting most of the diseases most people my age already have. My body is like a 30 year old and I am 65. I vastly improved my memory, it keeps me nerves steady no shaking. It completely relieved me of pain and acid reflux and it clears up my allergies. Eating the fruit only means you are missing out on most of this fruits powerful antioxidants and other molecules. Moat are in the Rind not the fruit. My MLM found a way to get that rind into the mix so you get the benefit from within it.