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You can live well here on just $10/day

July 25, 2011
Daet, Camarines Norte, Philippines

I first started coming regularly to Daet, in the Bicol region of the Philippines, more than 13-years ago.

It’s a sleepy, quiet, relaxed place without the bustle of Quezon or Manila… perfect for people looking to live an easy, simple life. Despite the bucolic setting, though, the telecom infrastructure is pretty stellar.

At my wife’s hotel last week, I was able to utilize a mobile broadband connection, which cost me the equivalent of $0.25 an hour, to sit and do what I do every day no matter where I am in the world– monitor and trade the Australian stock and options markets.

I even sent out a trading alert to my 4th Pillar subscribers from here when another great opportunity to make some safe money in the Aussie market became available.

I should also mention that Daet is incredibly cheap.

Wages for unskilled workers are about $4.65 per DAY.  If you buy food from the local markets or vendors and prepare it yourself, you can have quite a decent meal of fresh local fish, rice, and vegetables for less than $1 per person.

If you have a place to stay, even adding in a few luxuries (beer is about 50c a bottle, for example), you could live well here on $10 a day.

Down the road from my wife’s small hotel is a vacant beach lot for sale.  It’s priced at about $35,000, and the owners have spent a considerable amount of money improving it with access ramps and other structures leading down to the water.

The land is already planted with some crops, and there are ponds suitable for fish farming. Of course, construction costs here are quite cheap by western standards, and you could build a nice three-bedroom home for around $60,000.

In total, that’s less than $100,000 for a spacious beachfront home in a quiet, clean, pristinely beautiful place where living costs will only run $10/day.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is largely a cash market; there has been no rampant bubble created by teaser loans and negative real interest rates. Hence, prices haven’t moved much.

I believe it was Milton Friedman who said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”  From what I’ve observed around the world in property markets, I couldn’t agree more.

Property markets that are based on high leverage and cheap money are the quickest to rise and fall. Where property markets are based on cash transactions, though, prices tend to remain reasonable.

If you’re looking for great value, I’d put that among the key criteria in your search.  Assuming you have cash, seek out places where the real estate market is largely cash-based.  Daet is just one example of a cash market where there are some real bargains available– both in terms of property and living costs.

In the Philippines, the catch is that only Filipino citizens can buy land outright. A non-citizen may own only a 40% interest in real property.  So if you were interested, you’d need a Filipino proxy, or a carefully structured corporate vehicle through which to purchase land here.

I’ll have much more to tell you about the Philippines, my adopted home country, in future letters… including how I don’t have to pay taxes!

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About the author: Born to a Danish father and British mother, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Tim Staermose has led an international life since the day he was born. Growing up, he also lived in Egypt, Denmark, and Singapore, before eventually settling in Australia, where he completed his education and took out citizenship. Since then he has also lived and worked in Hong Kong, and Manila, Philippines, in the field of equity research — both for a bulge-bracket Wall Street investment bank, and for an independent investment research firm. Today, when not traveling the globe looking for investment and business opportunities for the Sovereign Man community and catching up with his diverse, multinational group of friends, he divides his time between Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Shaw/782529043 Dan Shaw

    I have always loved the Philippines but am totally afraid of having to be hospitalized there.  My only experience with local hospitals was 20 years ago and then it was up to family members to bring food and feed the individual as well as any linens and such that was needed.  Most medicine cost much more than a typical family could afford, let alone the hospital cost.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stalcottsmith Steven Talcott Smith

      I understand the provincial hospitals have improved but I imagine quality varies.  The Philippines have been exporting nurses and doctors so they certainly produce them.  At the top hospitals in Manila, I can afford to pay cash and the service and facilities are excellent.  Cost is about 1/4 – 1/10 the price of US “cash” price.  Provincial hospitals are cheaper.  I would come to Manila and go to St. Luke’s for anything serious.  I would consider coming here for medical vacation for anything that was going to be too expensive in US.

  • TroubleBaby

    Awesome write up Tim, keep up the good work!

  • Jackfry247

    Tim, could you give me more info on the type of mobile broadband connection you use?

    • RTWDream

      Jackfry. I was there last year and you should have at least 3 options for those USB Wireless broandband services (3G… There are some 4G service in the rich parts of Manila).

      1) Sun Cellular – cell and mobile broadband; cheapest. Even their cell service have dirt cheap minutes for overseas calls. So cheap, it’s cheaper for them to call you than you to call them using Skype or calling cards from the US. Supposedly, some old billionaire who owns the company made it so cheap to give back to the community… Not sure if it’s true.  http://www.suncellular.com.ph/

      2) Smart Communications – both cell and mobile broadbnad. Supposed the best coverage outside Manila http://smart.com.ph/

      3) Globe – cell and mobile broadband. Supposed to be the best coverage in Metro Manila.

      When I went there last year, I was able to buy a mobile broad band USB modem for 20-25 dollars. Then I just needed to buy credits to use it. If you look through their sites, you can get monthly plans as well for much cheaper.

  • Karl

    Looks / sounds like a pearl. Your article is appreciated.

  • MadNumismatist

    I love the PI, being a 10 year vet, married with three kids,
    mostly born at the ex naval hospital Subic bay free zone and the ex naval base.
    The place is awesome, the people are awesome, and corruption is awesome. You can
    pretty much buy your way out of anything.


    However, after ten years there, my life expectancy dropped twenty


    I WAS hospitalized, regularly, and the costs are not soo
    bad, but you really do not want to go through it.


    My real problem with the PI is the US involvement. It is
    still a vassal state, and literally on the front line of the war on terror. Anything
    “Joe” demands, “Joe” will get, but still a lot less of a cultural shock than
    most counties outside of the west.

    • RTWDream

      I am from there as well. And I have to agree with you on how much they just do whatever Uncle Sam wants them to do. It’s been almost 70 years since they stopped being a US colony, but they still want to please “Joe” all the time. Even joining in almost every major military engagement the US gets into. And the culture is more like America Gone Third World (a preview of the USA?), than some strange place.

      I also have to add that it’s not only on the front line of the war on terror, it’s also another one of the pawns that “Joe” will ultimately use to put China in check (Spratly islands as flashpoint).

      But outside of the Manila, the country is beautiful. The mountains. The beaches… Oh, the beaches….

      • Roger Charlesworth

        How can you say this when Phils cancelled the lease on Subic and Clark????

      • RTWDream

        Maybe they cancelled it because of the US support for Marcos?  You can’t treat your ‘little brown brother’ like that, and expect no blowback.

      • MadNumismatist

        Flicking through the news I rarely see any articles about
        the Philippines, its economy, politics or poverty. This makes me believe that
        the country has been ostracized since the end of the leases, and only just
        heading back into Uncles arms.

        What is interesting and seldom talked about is the massive airport built by
        USAid in Mindanao- General Santos area. It is longer than Clark and the port
        deeper than Subic. Apparently all built to help the Filipinos export more Tuna
        to Japan and has nothing to do with Indonesia or the Abu Sayaf, or the
        THOUSANDS of Iranian “missionaries” down there.

      • Justin Miramontes

        Did the US drag the Philippines into the war or terror or did the Abu Sayyaf? C’mon.

      • RTWDream

        I never said the US dragged the Philippines to the war on terror. Where do I say that? In fact, while most Americans have no idea about such a phenomena as a Islamic terrorism, the Philippines have been fighting it for decades. Look up MNLF and MILF (not the mom kind.. hahaha.)… My point is how the Philippines like to follow the US around. A lot of it, surprisingly, is voluntary. They joined the US in the Korean War, Vietnam war, and they were even in the Iraq War II. But pulled out after some Filipino guy got caught and threatened with beheading (and the WMDs were nowhere to be found). And with so many Filipinos working in the ME, it would have been easy to find more.

        They kind of look up the US as the big brother. That same big brother allowed the Marcoses to rule the country for 20 years, bringing them form the #2 economy in Asia to one of the worst… It is definitely a weird relationship.

    • Dboy

      “My real problem with the PI is the US involvement.”

      Exactly! That and the christian taint keeps me away from PI

  • Elai

    I don’t think it’s the cash, it’s the Philippine citizens only law that causes cheap real estate.  You see similar things in thailand with the thai citizens only law. 

  • mike_f

    fascinating…i spend much time in hawaii and haven’t met too many filipinos i didn’t like.

    is there any surfing in  the area?  how long a trip to get from manila?  any social activities to amuse one’s self?

    whats the name of your wifes small hotel…maybe i’ll swing by for a look.

    aloha, mike

  • Kevi2

    Mad Numismatist,

    Could you elaborate on how is it that your life expectancy dropped, please? Do you mean simply by a fact of living in a country with lower average expectancy that you feel this metric now applies to you as well? Or was there something else that seriously downgraded your personal life expectancy?


  • Tim Thomas

    My God man, why tell anybody of this Earthly paradise? Thanks for reminding me there are still places to escape to ;-)

  • Roger Charlesworth

    The other problem is how do you live there? I am married to a Filipina so I get a one-year visa on entry with her and can apply for residency based on her status. Once you are resident you are then subject to travel tax whenever you leave….

  • sandiegosam

    I am interested in purchasing the land adjacent to your wife’s hotel.  Can you provide an address or contact information?

  • stevesteve

    Tim, thanks for the article. I haven’t traveled as much as my friend Richard, but he tells me when he went to / through the Phillipines one time to “check it out” (Manilla basically) on his was to Thailand once again, he felt like EVERYTHING he tried to do or EVERYWHERE he went, EVERYONE was trying to scam him, or pull some kind of scam on him! I know that you are quite content there, have a wife, basically more stable than say just a visitor but ….what do you think about his experience? He CONSTANTLY had to have his guard up! Also, he wasn’t to thrilled over the woman, catholicism thing either! (Those famous missionaries….can’t leave a saner people be.) Unlike Thailand – speaking generally of course – most turned out to be pretty much fake in their “friendliness.”   

    • Joe

      Even you can get scammed from a Filipino or Filipina via internet to those who are posting dating profiles.

      I worked with internet dating company and the big complaint are Filipinos due to them being carders. They have to drop Philippine to prevent scam operation.

      Although, I can’t stereotyping those people since few of them are amazing worker which sit well on my short list.

  • Digitallando

    Just filled out my application for Australian citizenship by descent, I will be moving to Australia just for the hell of it, will live their for a while, then go anywhere else in the world based in knowledge from SMC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jay.twila Jay Twila

    It all depends on the kind of lifestyle you seek. For $10.00 per day, I wonder if that includes EVERYTHING. Meaning broadband internet access, electricity, city water (assuming no well water), city sewage (assuming no aerobic system or cesspool), rent or property taxes (assuming you own and bought with cash), etc. I find just about anywhere you go on Earth. You’re going to spend a few hundred dollars per month to get the “basics.”

    $10.00 per day sure sounds sweet. But I don’t think it’s all that easy. It’s possible to spend $10.00 per day in North America food, drinks and entertainment. (By being frugal and making prudent choices)

    I will say this, I would hope a place like the Philippines would get a North American more bang for the buck. I am not discounting the premise.

  • http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/ Bobbi Lee Hitchon

    Great piece. I spent some time in the Bicol region. It’s definitely cheap as chips and beautiful there. 

  • Ian Usher

    Fascinating stuff – always been intrigued by The Phiiippines.
    I was wondering where I might find out more about Tim Staermose, and in particular, his 4th Pillar subscription service, which is mentioned in this posting?
    Many thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/fredraw Frederic Patenaude

    The idea of living somewhere well for $10 a day sounds appealing. The Philippines is an intriguing destination, and a beautiful country, however I believe from experience that people selling the dream of living cheaply abroad are not telling the whole story. 

    The Philippines may fit the bill for aging men looking for younger wives and an hedonist life on the cheap in Paradise, but it’s not for most people.

    After visiting the country as part of a long trip around the world, I would say it’s one of the few places I would not come back to. The only reason I would come back would be to do some scuba diving. 

    Things to know about the Philippines: 

    1) The infrastructure is seriously lacking, even downright crumbling in some places. The ferry system of boats going from island to island is scary and several people die every year. Let’s say the boats have seen better days! 

    2) The government is seriously corrupt. 

    3) Most islands are filled with trash and people pollute copiously. 

    4) The food seriously sucks, especially if your idea of a healthy meal does not involve eating a pile of white rice with another pile of bad cuts of meat drenched in vinegar and nasty sauces with no vegetables, meal after meal. The Philippines is no place for a vegetarian, and no tourist I have ever met ever said they loved Filipino foods. Only filipinos love filipino foods because of the emotional attachment they have from childhood with it. Expats I have met probably make food their #1 complaint in the Philippines. They put a ton of sugar in literally everything, including pasta sauce. 

    If all you want from life is lie on a beach,  drink a lot of cheap beer, forgo culture, and date girls that are three times as young as you, then the Philippines is probably a good place for you. 

    Paradise is a lot more than pretty beaches and a cheap lifestyle. There’s a reason countries like the Philippines are cheap: they are poor. People are poor, women look for richer men abroad in hope of a better life, and the culture is vastly different than yours. 

    • Timsingleton

      I love Filipino foods and as for your comments about no vegetables or fruits, you must have seriously pissed your hosts off.
      I love the food in the Philippines and have been there more than a few times. Manila, Bicol, Cebu, Tagaytay, Bihol, Boracay, The people are more than friendly unless they encounter someone who shows up with a superiority complex, LOL. Those deserve a bad experience, in my estimation.

      Yes, the Filipino is poor. This does not make them ungracious unless they encounter those who think their money makes them superior. As Stephen King says about writing (if you think writing sucks, leave it for those of us who like it) if you think the Philippines sucks, then stay the hell out.I have had a belly laugh on more than one occasion when I see a Filipino turn the tables on a Westerner because of their rudeness.

  • Gil

    You’d think this is how world poverty would be solved – many people who make a good fortune (but not a great fortune) should go to where they’ll be a big fish in a small pond.  As poor countries attract such wealthy people and their disposable income they’ll in turn begin to start to become wealthy and so forth until the whole world evens out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-McGee/100000214783855 Ray McGee

      Gil, I must disagree with part of your comment. Although there is a localized “trickle-down” effect wherever wealthy people congregate, true long-term wealth is created by the manufacture of goods that satisfy a need or desire.

      For example, the US was an economic powerhouse when we were one of the main exporters of food and products. Now were are becoming a service economy, and as a result, we aren’t doing so well (to say the least).

      Conversely, China did not become what is is today by attracting wealthy people of retirement age, but by converting natural resources into products, at a fair price, that the market wanted.

      If you want to solve world poverty, show people how to make things other people want to buy, and you’ll go a long way towards your goal. Who knows, you might even make a very good profit while you’re at it.

  • samcarmx

    Let’s see: daily wages are under $5, but the lot costs $35,000. Doesn’t anyone see something wrong with this picture? It’s typical third world greed and asset inflation. The Philippines is typical third world: a sea of poverty and islands of riches. You may assume rampant corruption, crony capitalism, etc. etc. Exploitation and pathological selfishness on the part of the elites. Wonderful. Such an “opportunity.”

    “As poor countries attract such wealthy people and their disposable income they’ll in turn begin to start to become wealthy and so forth until the whole world evens out.”

    This is utter “trickle down” nonsense. Wealth is a function of productivity, of value creation. Third world countries are those where people from rich countries vacation (and where natives are turned into bartenders, waiters, and hotel maids) and where multinational corporations extract natural resources in cahoots with comprador land-owner nationals who get very rich. If you think this system eventually yields an evening out of wealth, you are not thinking straight nor are you observing concrete reality.

    “For example, the US was an economic powerhouse when we were one of the main exporters of food and products.”

    This is hilarious. Exports are an exchange of real goods for foreign currency. Imports are an exchange of our currency for real goods produced elsewhere by very cheap labor. I’ll let you figure out which is better. The US was a “powerhouse” when it produced high-value products and had a strong domestic market for its own goods, not when it exported or inasmuch as it exported. The drive to turn the US into an exporting nation amounts to turning the US into the Philippines so that it can compete with the likes of such countries. Precisely what is happening. And you think this is a good thing? The US government has been effectively hijacked by a military-corporate-financial-government complex–just like Eisenhower warned. Not good. Ideologue libertarians seem unable to identify and think consequentially about the entities behind the mask of the government and who run it–they are only capable of a knee-jerk reaction when the word “government” is uttered, as if all governments are the same. What has happened in the States is the power grab of a third-world style rentier elite creating a population of indebted “peons.” “Government” as such isn’t the problem. A country without a government–apart from the pipe dreams of naifs–is barbarism. Thinking like that deeply hypocritical Reagan is to fall prey to the privatizing rentier elites who are aiming to enslave you, and thus it is to fall victim to the rhetoric that is being used against the population, which votes for the very measures that are enslaving it. “I owe my soul to the company store…”

    “Conversely, China did not become what is is today by attracting wealthy people of retirement age, but by converting natural resources into products, at a fair price, that the market wanted.”

    I see. No doubt you would love to live and work in this “paradise.” I don’t think so. Americans are so media manipulated it is pathetic.  They seem incapable of thinking except along the grooves laid out for them by propaganda. China is a pit, a seriously contaminated pit, full of quasi-slave labor.  Why do you think American and European corporations moved there? To want the planet to be like China is to want the world to be a veritable hell. To understand China stop reading Jim Rogers or Marc Faber, for heaven’s sake, and read people who actually understand the country in depth.

    As for the Philippines, Frederick Patenaude seems to be the only one with his head screwed on right. Moreover, few Americans know what it is like to live in the tropics–especially third world tropics, not Hawaii or St. Barts. The fact that people in the Philippines can be “gracious,” is perfectly irrelevant. Of course there are both good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant people there like anywhere else.  So what?

  • http://www.dividendmantra.com Dividend Mantra

    Fantastic information. I’m actually considering the Philippines as a potential retirement destination. I’m looking to retire young (by 40), and this seems like a great place to stretch the proverbial dollar. I am considering the SRRV visa, which seems to be a decent deal that doesn’t require leaving the country constantly. I greatly look forward to future articles on this!

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