Should You Retire in the Philippines?

Unlike what many Filipinos who have never left their country assume, living in the West is not easy, at least not here in Italy.

Wages are higher than in the Philippines but so is the cost of living.

And so the idea of moving to the Philippines for good can be rather tempting.

My Filipina wife and I have been talking about it for years but we haven’t come up with a plan yet. Why? Because there are so many variables involved and things to ponder very carefully.

So in this post I am going to explore this topic and the various aspects that need to be taken into account, because a lot can go wrong when moving to the Philippines for good.

What are some of these things that need to be weighed?

Do you already have a house in the Philippines or are you going to pay a rent or a mortgage?

Our house in the Philippines, the ground floor is a boarding house and there is a karinderia next to it

One of the strong reasons why my family might eventually move to the Philippines is precisely because we do have a house, so we would be free from the burden of having to pay a rent or a mortgage.

Although renting a house in the Philippines is significantly cheaper than here, especially in the province, we are still talking about at least 200-300€ a month, which is money for those who retire in the Philippines only having a social security check to tap into or limited funds. And this actually brings me to the second point which is:

Have savings and a regular stream of money

First and foremost, in order to retire in the Philippines you definitely need savings. Don’t retire in the Philippines without savings! Unforeseen medical expenses may very easily eat away at your savings, so you need adequate savings to tap into, should such emergencies arise.

But relying on your savings alone could be risky for a number of reasons:

In the Philippines it is very easy to live above one’s means: the urge to tour such an amazing country is difficult to resist, there are so many shopping malls to go to and so many opportunities to eat out that many Westerners find it difficult to keep life simple.

Medical expenses and surgery can erode one’s savings in no time.

So, apart from savings, you’ll definitely need a steady stream of money to tap into for the day to day expenses.

If you are relatively old and your social security check is not too far away, you could choose to live a simple life tapping into your savings until your social security check kicks in, but not all countries give social security checks to expats, Italy for example does not.

You can get your pension from the Italian government, the one you paid for with your taxes while working but if you haven’t worked enough years, like if you retire early in the Philippines and stop working at a young age, you can still get a social security check but not if you live abroad.

So, if you haven’t enough working years under your belt and you are only entitled to a social security check that is given to all old people, including those who haven’t worked an adequate number of years, make sure that your country gives such social security checks to expats. As an Italian I cannot rely on that and if I retired in the Philippines now at age 53, I wouldn’t be getting anything from the government when age 65 rolls around. I would only be getting that money if I moved back to Italy.

I could in theory sell my house and live a very simple life tapping into that money, but I am afraid of what could happen if a very expensive medical emergency arose.

I could in theory come back to Italy and get free medication or surgery and then return to the Philippines, but what if I needed an ongoing medical treatment that required going back and forth multiple times? I would run out of money before long.

And what if I found myself in a situation where my medical condition cannot be fixed going back and forth and I had to return to Italy for good and start all over again, not having a house anymore and having to work until the social security check kicks in? Finding a job around age 60 is almost impossible. But even if I managed to find work and make it to the social security check, living on a social security check while having a rent to pay is a very bad place to be in Italy.

Those who do live on the 500-600€ a month, that the social security gives them, usually have a house of their own (a lot of people in Italy inherited the house they live in) and no rent to pay, but if I sell my house to go to the Philippines and then things don’t work out and I find myself coming back here having neither savings nor my house, well,…….

So only relying on your savings can be risky.

To retire in the Philippines you also need a steady stream of money.

An old age pension would be perfect but if you retire while still young you don’t have that so you either need to start a business (online or offline) or find a job (but who will give me a job in the Philippines? Maybe the Italian embassy if I introduce myself as one who is fluent in Tagalog, Italian and English…maybe…..).

A good thing would be starting an online business, or a YouTube channel or something.

Many expats become full-time bloggers or Youtubers.

There is an Italian couple that is currently making around 15,000 pesos a month with their YouTube channel with 20,000 subscribers (, but that amount is barely sufficient to live a super spartan life, even in the province.

Other Western bloggers have way more followers and I guess they make decent amounts by getting 100,000-1,000,000 views or more

But staking everything on that can be risky because today followers follow you and tomorrow….maybe

So, while blogging can be a good idea, you might also consider investing money in some form of offline activity.

My wife and I have a boarding house for college students and a little karinderia but, in order to live on that money and not touch my savings (the ones that I hope to have someday, should I be able to sell my house….if someone buys when ‘rona is over), I would really have to live a very simple life. Which brings me to my third point:

What kind of standard of living do you want to have?

Do you want to live in Manila? If so, which part of Manila? Makati can be very expensive while Quiapo or Tondo are cheap but rather dangerous.

Do you want to settle in the province? Which province? In a tourist spot or somewhere off the beaten track? In a tourist spot tourists who have money to spend cause the price of everything to skyrocket.

The house my wife and I have is situated in a non-tourist spot, so, given the fact that we have a little karinderia and a boarding house, we could bank on a steady stream of 200-300€ a month, which in that province could be enough to live a simple life, meaning if one is happy with buying food at the pamilihan ng bayan, instead of going to a big supermarket situated within an SM or eating at the karinderia and buying street food instead of eating at Chowking, Jollibee, Pizza Hut etc on a regular basis.

Do you need a car? What kind of car?

I think in the Philippines, at least in Luzon a car is unnecessary, there is plenty of buses, jeepneys and tricycles but is your wife ok with not having a car? The car culture is hardwired into the Filipino culture.

What kind of food do you want to eat?

This is a little bit of an issue for me, because, while my wife is ok with the food sold at the pamilihan ng bayan, I am not too sure about the level of hygiene in those kinds of markets

While in the Philippines (I only went there as a tourist a few times) I never tried eating food from the pamilian, so we used to buy food at the mall or at a supermarket in Baliuag, Bulacan called Pure Gold, where they have an incredibly huge supply of wines from all over the world by the way.

But buying food from a big supermarket or at a shopping mall is as expensive as here so if I moved to the Philippines I’d have to consider that very carefully. Food is cheap in the Philippines but if you shy away from local food markets and want more sophisticated food, 300-400€ a month won’t be enough.

Eating out can be very tempting in the Philippines, because opportunities are everywhere, there is all kinds of fast-food chains, from Jollibee to KFC, from Chowking to Pizza Hut, you name it, but if you have a modest monthly stream of money you’ll end up tapping into your savings if you eat out often.

In the Philippines there is plenty of public transportation in the form of tricycles, jeepneys and buses but the car culture is very strong

Shopping malls and fast-food chains are everywhere in the Philippines

Do you need air conditioning?

I personally don’t need it but my wife does (I come from a colder country and I don’t need aircon, my wife was born and raised in the tropics but she can’t stand the heat…..) and, when we were in the Philippines, the air conditioner was on almost 24/7 as well as various electric fans.

What kind of house do you need?

A fancy one or simple one?

So the standard of living you want to have makes a huge difference, so does your ability to stay away from disease and unforeseen medical expenses.

There are foreigners who say that they make it with 400€ or dollars a month and some who need 2,000 bucks a month. There are some who say that saving up 100,000 bucks is enough to retire in the Philippines and someone I know who run out of over 300,000 euros in 15 years.

Here are other factors to consider:


Get to know the country well. Don’t just go on vacation there once, fall in love and hastily decide to move to the Philippines for good.

Spending a couple of months in the Philippines as a tourist makes you view the country through a distorted lens. Living there is a lot different.

I have a very realistic view of what it might look like to live in the Philippines permanently because I didn’t just go snorkeling or hiking. I spent months in my wife’s province, away from tourists, so do that before deciding whether to move to the Philippines or not.I spent much of my time in the Philippines in my wife’s area, and I got to know quite well what real life is like in the Philippines

Learn the language and adapt to the culture

In my blog I have a lot of posts about the Tagalog language and I speak it well.

Learning the language and its idioms well makes you see the country and its mentality through the lens of a Filipino, or, at least, gets you close to that point.

So learn the language and mingle with local people and don’t be the aloof Westerner who likes to have his gin & tonic in a bar or golf club where only Westerners go. Learn to have gin & (more) gin with Filipinos and have some kaunting (not kaunting-container) maboteng usapan with local people.

Dealing with your wife’s relatives who ask for money

Because in the Filipino culture the kin-group culture is at the center of everything and because a Filipina who works abroad (and one who has a Western husband) is viewed as the financial provider of the entire extended family, relatives who ask for money could show up at all times.

If you help everyone you’ll run out of money pretty quickly.

So consider your wife’s attitude and ability to set boundaries with her relatives, and her relatives’ respect for these boundaries.

Are you going to live in the same compound as your wife’s relatives or in a separate place, maybe in some island that is hundreds of km away?

That’s very important to consider if your wife’s relatives are needy and pushy.


Is the area safe? Do you have body guards? Our relatives in Bulacan have some kind of influence in the local community so I can go around alone and no one touches me. But you have to find out for yourself if your wife’s area is safe for a Westerner.

Maybe your relatives can offer protection as long as you help financially but if you don’t they won’t.

And if you speak Tagalog and know how to interact with locals you’ve got a much greater chance to be able to move around alone and without anybody’s protection.

Natural calamities

Even if you have your own house, you might also want to consider the fact that the Philippines is highly earthquake and typhoon prone and that you might find yourself in the position where your house either needs to be rebuilt or needs major repairs. Are you going to have enough money for that?

So, in conclusion, moving to the Philippines for good is a very delicate move and the factors that have to be taken into account are many.

You have to consider such issues as the standard of living you want to have, where you want to live, how much money you can save up before you move and how you can have a steady stream of money to tap into not to run out of savings, your willingness to adjust to the culture and get along with local people, safety issues and much more.

So, weigh your decision very carefully and enjoy the Philippines!


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