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Net Worth

In a Tatler Asia interview last year, I was asked a very straightforward question: How do I become rich? How do I make tons of money? To which I responded, “it’s the wrong question”. To become rich should never be your goal. It’s the idea that you can build something from the ground up that is important. The feeling of accomplishing something out of your blood, sweat and tears should be your goal.”


I can understand why people would ask these questions. Wealth and financial freedom are valid life goals. We want to have money because we want to be able to provide for our family. We want lots of money so that aside from our existential needs we can also get things that we, and our loved ones, want. It is a basic human aspiration to get rich. But it is not the only goal in life worth pursuing. 

It is the same thing whenever Forbes or some other organization comes out with the list of the richest persons in the world or in the country. People fixate on the rankings and net worth that usually accompany these types of lists. I get it. Knowing one’s net worth is important. And understanding your net worth allows you to plan accordingly. But your worth as a person, as a human being, cannot be reduced to a personal balance sheet. I am not saying it is not important. It is very important. But it is not everything.

Your net worth is simply “what you own minus what you owe”. In general, a positive net worth is the goal people strive to achieve because a negative net worth means your financial life might be heading the wrong direction. And I think we need to teach young Filipinos about the importance of net worth so that early on in life they can learn fiscal responsibility and personal finance management.

But we should also teach young Filipinos about developing as whole persons. Financial independence is but one aspect of what we are and what we should be. In other words, our net worth as human beings cannot be reduced to an assets-minus-liabilities formula. The road to wealth creation and financial independence is not just about money. It is about your journey as a person—knowing what you love, going after your dreams, building from the ground up and, of course, securing a prosperous future for you and your family.


When I was a little boy, I helped my mother sell shrimps and fish in Divisoria for two reasons—I wanted to help her in improving our lives, to get us out of poverty, and, I truly enjoyed every second of it. In all those days that my Nanay Curing would wake me up early morning so we can walk to our little stall in Divisoria, I knew that that was what I wanted to do in my life. Earning money and getting rich were goals but they were means to an end. 

When I attended college at the University of the Philippines-Diliman my dreams expanded to include my community and my country. I still wanted to get rich but I was more focused on the whys. So when I started my small gravel and sand business, and later on put up my real estate business, part of my goal was to pay off the loan I took out and get a return on investment. But my big dream was to build houses for Filipino families. I noticed that OFWs returning home with their savings earmark their money to build a house for their family. I wanted to help. I wanted to be part of making their dreams come true.

Sometimes people are terrified of attending reunions because their classmates might think that they are failure because they do not have enough money. Your worth, as a person, as a human being cannot be condensed to the car that you own or whether or not you own the latest iPhone. It is okay if you want these things but there is more to life than the assets you own.

Someone rightfully said, “Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.” They are not separate life goals. You should be able to work hard and live a meaningful life. And so whenever someone ask me for advice on how to become rich I always say: find what you love, discover your passion, that one thing worth dying for, find out what others need, and then proceed to build something from the ground up. The money will follow and nothing can put a price or a peso sign on your success.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar