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Financial advice for migrant domestic workers: Reassess your goals

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All of us have been affected by the pandemic this year, in different ways. As a domestic worker (and possibly as a parent, sibling, child or friend), you will have faced challenges – at the very least you will have felt some uncertainty about the current situation and worries about what the future might bring. While we hope for the best for 2021, none of us can predict the future – instead, we need to do what we can to plan for it, to protect ourselves and our loved ones as much as possible.

Take a moment now to do a little check in with yourself. How has this year been for you? What has been your biggest challenge, and how have you dealt with it? What are you worried about for next year, and what are some possible solutions? Answering these questions can help you be honest with yourself and find a path forward too.

Reassess your goals for 2021
You haven’t been able to achieve your goals this year and now, with so many more expenses, it feels like your goals are moving further away. What’s the best way to get back on track?

To start with, know that you are not alone – many of us have faced challenges, disappointments and setbacks this year. So, begin by reviewing your progress. Why were you unable to achieve your goals this year? Besides the higher expenses, did you have any other challenges or distractions? Were any of your major expenses for ‘wants’ and not ‘needs?’

Move on to evaluating the list of goals you want to achieve. If this is your first time setting your goals, that’s totally fine – start with the end in mind! What were your goals when you first came to Hong Kong? Has anything changed due to COVID-19? How can you make adjustments but still continue to achieve the goals you set?

Make sure your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Remember to add a ‘price tag’ (a total value for how much your goal will cost), as well as a deadline to achieve it. It might take a little longer than you intended, but with some adjustments you can still make it happen.

Know that you need to prioritise your goals but don’t try to tackle all of them simultaneously. Break them up into smaller, more achievable pieces – try to save a small amount
towards them each month, build your confidence by starting small. Ideally, paying off your debts and saving for an emergency fund (three to six months of your salary) should be your first priority.

Lastly, have patience. Commit to your goals – they do not have to change every month. Labelling them as short-term, medium-term or long-term can provide direction and focus. Avoid taking a loan in order to make your goals happen quickly; the future can be uncertain, so you don’t want to be in a position where you’re paying back a loan you cannot afford.

Empower your family
Your family has not been able to work during COVID-19, and you’re supporting so many of them. Can this continue in 2021, especially if they can’t get jobs? Is relying solely on your income a sustainable plan?

Your family has not been able to work during COVID-19, and you’re supporting so many of them. Can this continue in 2021, especially if they can’t get jobs? Is relying solely on your income a sustainable plan?

You’re right, you and your family must work together to make sure you’re not shouldering this all by yourself. Start by talking to them about a collective plan. Communicate honestly about your concerns and talk about possible safety nets. What is the Plan B? Of course, you don’t want to think negatively, but you must plan for the possibility that you might not always have your job in Hong Kong. Try to have a constructive, positive conversation about the short- and long-term future.

Take this time to educate yourself and encourage your family to do so as well. Perhaps they could retrain or learn new skills which could give them employment opportunities. This could also help them think about alternative income streams. Food catering, delivery, plant cultivation and selling secondhand goods are all businesses which are gaining popularity in the Philippines. Encourage family members to think creatively – this might not have been the career they had in mind but right now, we all need to work together to do the best we can.

Of course, your relations must understand that they also need to manage money carefully right now. Try and get everyone involved in the financial planning process (even your children). Share your financial goals with them – if they are motivated to work and save, it’s a winning situation for everyone.

Finally, move into 2021 with positive thoughts – you might have faced difficulties this year, but you’ve come this far, so don’t give up!


Enrich HK is an award-winning Hong Kong charity providing financial and empowerment education to migrant domestic workers. For a free, confidential one-to-one financial counselling session and to learn about the courses on offer, visit www.enrichhk.org. If you have a question you would like to have answered on this page, email [email protected]

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