According to the 2019 Financial Inclusion Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), almost half (47%) of Filipinos do not save. The pandemic, though, has caused more people to finally trust formal accounts like e-wallets. Filipinos are also keen on the PhilSys National ID, which should boost financial inclusion—so we shall wait for the next BSP survey to see some good news.
One has to open an account—a basic indicator of financial empowerment—to be able to formally save, as well as to spend on daily needs, send or receive remittance, income, and benefits.
Among the BSP’s surveyed savers, more than half (51%) opt to keep their savings at home. The classic alkansya system might be a good stepping stone when training kids about saving, but in the long run, saving at home will only depreciate your money’s value it won’t allow you to beat inflation. Mutilated peso notes and coins are also the last thing you’d want to redeem from your taguan.
So, what are the other formal accounts that can help you save safely and earn a bit? In 2019, the top choices were microfinance NGOs (22%), bank accounts (21%), and e-money (12%).
Interestingly, account ownership is higher in rural areas than in urban cities. BSP believes this is triggered by microfinance NGOs, like CARD MRI. The company offers microfinance services and community development programs to rural areas, especially the unbanked population. They also offer formalized paluwagan and loans, enabling clients to save and grow their money, and eventually gain financial freedom.
One of the basic deposit accounts is savings account, which can include an ATM debit card, passbook, even credit cards. Despite the very low interest rate, this financial product is protected by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. so it’s considered safe.
To prevent impulsive withdrawal, budgeting gurus encourage people to open a passbook without an ATM.
To help you save and separate your ipon fund in a virtual money envelope, some banks can automatically set aside money into a separate account, while offering a little insurance on the side. BPI Save-Up offers this for as low as P250, with free life and accident insurance depending on your account balance. BPI’s interest rate remains 0.125% per annum, though. Then there’s one of the newest digital banks, Tonik, which allows you to make “stashes” for different needs—at a whopping 4% to 4.5% interest.
You may also save your emergency fund in short-term time deposits (or term deposits) available in banks, to make sure you won’t touch them unless you’re in a life and death situation.
Branchless or digital banks, such as ING and CIMB—with their encouraging interest rates of 2.5% and 2.6%, respectively—are also motivating the unbanked population to finally open their own account. You only need to download the app, present a valid ID, and get verified by proving you’re not a robot.
Basically, the money kept in banking computer systems are considered e-money. But not all electronic money issuers are registered as banks.
In the first quarter of 2020, BSP registered an increase in e-money users, which equaled to 37.5 million Filipinos.
The likes of PayMaya, GCash, GrabPay, ShopeePay, Lazada Wallet, and DragonPay have become household names as people tried to stay in the safety of their homes. Thanks to the yearlong waived transaction fees via Instapay and PesoNet that we wish could have lasted forever.
E-money users, however, should learn cyber hygiene and be wary of scams. And while these apps have made our lockdown lives easier, let’s admit it, they can also make us spend more because they’re so flexible and convenient to use.
If you have extra disposable money that you want to save and grow for the short term, you may also keep your money in treasury bills (or T-bills) which mature in as early as three months. The returns, although low, are fixed and guaranteed so it’s perfect for risk-averse investors. You may invest directly through brokers or money market institutions.
May Dedicatoria is a writer and financial advisor. For personal financial coaching, email her at email@example.com.