Why do household helpers work for us? Like any other job, to earn an income to provide for their needs. And to hopefully save for the future.
It’s a privilege to have the means to hire yayas and all-around helpers, but also a huge responsibility (and occasionally a headache) to manage personalities and be a blessing to them as well.
Role as “Amo”
As a work-at-home mom, I spend a lot of time with our household helpers and get to hear their struggles and aspirations. Most come from uneducated backgrounds, living off paycheck to paycheck. Saving for the future seems like a pipe dream to our helpers, especially if they are the sole breadwinners of their families.
One of the things I am most eager about sharing to our staff is to teach them the importance of saving and preparing for their future. Basically, to leave them off better than when they first stepped into our home.
Here are some ways we teach them about personal finance and encourage them how to save. Time will tell if all this comes to fruition, but so far I’ve seen progress with some of our helpers.
7 Ways To Help Our Helpers Save
No Cash Advance.
During the interview/hiring process, I make it a point to be clear that we have a no cash advance policy at our home. Some automatically frown and say they don’t want to work for us anymore, and we are not offended. I mention that our goal is to help them save; not spend above their means. Cash advances perpetuate the mindset that they will never be financially free. The borrower is a slave to the lender, and it’s not beneficial or empowering to them either. There are very few exceptions for cash advances, but in general it’s not something we want to encourage.
Encourage Foresight and Planning
I’ve been crazy about the phrase “mental models” since I read the book Smarter, Faster, Better because it makes so much sense!
Sometimes I’d randomly ask our helpers hypothetical situations about their personal lives. Conversations like,
“I know you won’t be with us forever, what’s your plan after you leave us?”
“How many years do you think you still need to work before retiring?”
Then most answer that they want to have their own small business back in their province.
THEN I comment.. “Everyone wants that, but not everyone gets it. What do you think you can do to achieve this goal?”
They often thoughtfully pause and this nudges them towards developing delayed gratification and pro-actively saving.
Some of our helpers who have been through rough times reply that they have enough problems today that they can’t think of the future. This is where we as employers can come in and offer our help. Not by blindly doling out cash, but by helping them in making a savings plan that they can execute.
Help Themselves Before Helping Others
It’s in the Philippine culture to help our relatives, and it’s one of our greatest strengths and downfalls as a culture.
When people are blindly tied to a relationship and fail to set healthy boundaries, they tend to give out of guilt. Spoiled relatives easily take advantage of their failure to say no. Goodbye, savings.
My greatest annoyance are the yayas and helpers who already have grown children. Their kids are in their 20’s, able to work, or have their own families yet still ask for their parents to shoulder their expenses and luhos.
Some of our helpers dip into whatever money they have saved because kawawa naman sila (I pity them). As much as I try to be patient and understanding, I really lose it when I hear this line. I would always reply “Ikaw ang kawawa!” My siblings and I have witnessed this time and again with my parents’ helpers. They worked for us for 20+ years, and come out with nothing for their retirement. They lose focus of their savings goals (if any). Their kids end up lazy, unmotivated, viewing their parents as their personal ATM’s.
It’s ultimately up to them, but I try my best to explain that love is not convenient. Loving our kids means equipping them to face challenges. They have to learn to solve their own problems, even if it means seeing them suffer for a while or giving them a firm no.
Our helper’s savings should be allocated for emergencies first, then for retirement, then if there is any extra, for giving. I remind them that sooner or later, they’ll be sixty years old. Do they imagine living a comfortable retired life with a small side business of their own, or still working off their sore and aging bodies?
Optional Deducted Salary
This has been a great helper to one of our yayas. She is a widow with 3 kids and the sole breadwinner for her family. Her parents take care of her kids so she provides for them too.
We came up with a salary scheme of deducting P500 a month. At the end of her first year, she was very excited to get P6,000 in cash savings apart from her regular salary and annual bonus. It also gave her a taste of how it felt like to have her small sacrifices pay off.
Salary deductions for savings also takes off a lot of pressure from her when her relatives ask for money. She can truthfully say that it’s not with her but with her employer.
More Opportunities To Save: Annual Bonus
Aside from the optional deducted savings, we also give an annual bonus of P10,000.00 for yayas for every year stayed with us. This year, I was very happy that yaya decided she wouldn’t spend any of it and asked me to help her open a savings account.
Currently, we haven’t had an all-around helper who has reached the one-year mark, but we are also offering this as an incentive during interviews. We also have other incentives and benefits for our helpers, some financial and others non-financial.
p.s. A lot of my friends commented that ten thousand is a lot of money to give, in addition to the required 13th month bonus. For me, P10,000 is a great investment for peace of mind. I’d gladly trade that amount for not being burdened with searching and interviewing new hires, or spending on unreliable agencies.
Open a Bank Account with NO ATM.
With yaya’s annual bonus, we opened a regular passbook account with a minimum 10,000 balance. Yaya asked me if she should get the ATM since it’s free. I advised her no, since it would just be a temptation to spend.
The harder it is for her to access her savings, the better. I also told her one disadvantage of ATM is that some helpers send their ATM card with the password to their relatives for convenience. Their hard-earned savings are usually drained after a few months’ time.
I left her at the bank to fill out the documents and she came home an hour later with an excited smile on her face. It was her first time to get a bank account and she proudly told me she deposited 2,000 pesos from her salary the following month.
Make sure their salary is enough so that they can actually save.
Depending on the personal circumstances and life situation of our helpers, we should take into account what is a fair living wage that will allow them to live AND save. I recently read an online petition exclaiming that everyone should give the P3,500 minimum salary for household helpers. It exalted that if “you do the math” and account for their food, living expenses, etc., then their salary is commensurate to a minimum wage earner.
But it’s a free economy, and it’s a buyer’s market (more employers than employees) now. I know that the one who wrote the petition wanted to make a point against all the helpers out there who are demanding and entitled, but how would you feel receiving P3,500 a month and having a family to feed?
Not everyone agrees
Sometimes, no matter how you try to help, there will be some helpers who will be resistant to your advice and just want straight up cash. They are often the ones with the entitlement mentality na “Mayaman ka naman eh.” And it’s their choice not to spend their income the way they see fit. We do give financial help, but for us what’s more important in the long run is helping them develop the right habits and mindset about money. Eventually, they will be able to manage their finances well (save and invest!), giving them hope and a concrete plan for their financial future.