5 Important Money Lessons Everyone Must Learn from Dr. Jose Rizal, According to the Financial Adviser
Nationalism seems to be at an all-time high among us. People seem to have grown a newfound interest in our heroes—just look at the resurgence of historical movies and television series.
But it is also interesting to remember how our national heroes, who fought hard for our independence, have also struggled with their finances.
One of the most documented national heroes we have is Dr. Jose Rizal. He grew up privileged, being born to one of the wealthiest families in Calamba, and yet he was never careless with money.
Rizal was always conscious about his spending even though he knew that his parents could back him up for any financial need. It would be interesting to examine how Rizal managed to survive and work his way towards achieving his financial freedom.
What was Rizal’s attitude towards money? How did Rizal manage his limited finances while he was living overseas? What are the practical finance lessons we can learn from Rizal’s experience?
Here are the five practical money skills of Jose Rizal that everyone should master to become financially independent:
1| Learn how to budget your expenses
In 1884, while in Madrid, where he enrolled in the Colegio De San Carlos of Universidad central, Rizal kept a book of his expenses where he detailed every single cent he spent.
The book, which is currently preserved at the Newberry Library in Chicago, shows that Rizal was very detailed in recording his daily expenses. He would record every peseta spent from postage stamps and books, to lottery and theater tickets.
One way to save and grow your money is to learn how to budget your expenses. There are two types of expenses that you need to monitor.
First is your fixed expenses which are non-discretionary because they are necessary living expenses such as rental expenses, utility bills, groceries, and loan amortizations.
Second is your variable expenses, which are spending that you can get by without, if necessary. These expenses such as dining out, morning brewed coffee, entertainment, and other controllable expenses.
If you monitor your expenses properly, you can cut down your discretionary expenses to generate savings.
Although Rizal knew how to budget properly, he spent a significant portion of his savings on books and reading materials while limiting his budget on food.
Rizal was so budget conscious that he once bragged to his sisters that he did not take a bath for months. In a letter to his family, Rizal wrote:
“When I get home, I’ll indulge in bathing to satiety. You wouldn’t believe it that since the middle of August I haven’t taken a bath and I haven’t perspired either. That is so here. It is very cold and a bath is expensive. One pays thirty-five cents for one…”
2| Learn how to constantly look for opportunities to earn and save
During his travels in Europe, Rizal would often look for cheaper accommodation to save on costs. He was always moving and would sometimes stay with friends.
When Rizal first arrived in Heidelberg in 1886, he was booked in a pension house but as soon as he checked in, he would go out and look for cheaper accommodation.
In one of his letters, he wrote: "Tomorrow I am going to change my residence and move to No.12 Ludwigsplatz, near the University. The room alone with service, light, and heating costs me eight pesos a month or 32 marks.
“I shall eat at the restaurant during the day and at night take supper in my room in German style, that is, a cup of tea, bread, and butter. I believe that in this way I can live on 25 pesos a month with board and lodging.”
In 1885, when Rizal was in Madrid, there was a cholera epidemic that struck the city. Sensing good opportunity to earn money, Rizal planned to volunteer to take care of rising number of patients.
In his letter to his mother, Rizal wrote: “ There is cholera in Spain and also at Madrid where fortunately cases don’t exceed 34 daily…I am going to enlist to take care of cholera patients in the towns where there are no physicians, for they say that they give 12 pesos daily, though without board and lodging, and if this is true, I can earn in one month some 250 pesos sufficient to support me for five months, which is not a little saving.”
3| Learn how to have the discipline to repay your borrowings and become debt-free
When Rizal encountered financial difficulties in publishing his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, he asked his good friend, Maximo Viola to lend him P300 to finance the printing of the first 2,000 copies of the Noli.
Rizal was so thankful for Viola’s help that when he received his funds from his brother Paciano several months after, he did not delay any minute to pay off his loan immediately.
When you are in debt, there is always the anxiety of owing money where you find yourself always in the debt trap.
By paying down your debt, you achieve the satisfaction of freedom and security because you don’t have to worry about paying your debt when you have tight cash flows.
4| Learn how to invest and grow your savings.
While living in exile in Dapitan in 1892, Rizal won a lottery ticket worth P20,000. The ticket, however, was jointly owned with two other holders, so the share he got was P6,200, which is roughly P3 million in today’s value.
Instead of spending it for consumption, Rizal invested his winnings in several agricultural lands in the area. He bought a 16-hectare farm in Talisay, Dapitan where he also built his house.
Later, he also bought more lands in other barrios of Dapitan that increased his total land holdings to 70 hectares. His farms contained abaca plants, coconut palms, coffee, cacao plants and different kinds of fruit trees.
Sudden wealth can leave you broke when you don’t plan it properly. Windfall income can make you suddenly adjust your spending lifestyle thinking your wealth is unlimited.
When there is excess income, you must find ways to invest in assets that will appreciate rather than depreciate.
5| Learn how to venture into entrepreneurship.
When Rizal returned to Calamba in 1887 after staying many years in Europe, he established a medical clinic where his first patient was his mother, Teodora Alonzo.
His reputation as a doctor from Germany was so great that it attracted many patients from Manila to visit his clinic in Calamba. Rizal’s fee was reasonable that enabled him to earn P900 a month.
In 1891, when Rizal was living in Hong Kong, he also put up a medical clinic at No. 5 Aguilar Street in Central district. In just a short period, Rizal was able to build a large clientele and became a reputable eye surgeon among the locals and Filipino community.
Entrepreneurship is all about risk management. There is no assurance that you will always succeed. Preparing for risk and challenges in starting up a business is one of the key factors of success.
If you know how to manage your risk, you will be able to handle your investment and profits too.
Our heroes, like Jose Rizal, are some of the greatest risk-takers we know. May we apply their wisdom in our entrepreneurial endeavors.