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It’s been a little over a decade since I’ve lived here in the U.S. and it has been an amazing journey to say the least! Talk about getting culture shocked! As one might imagine, it was a HUGE change from my simple life in the lovely islands of the Philippines.

Something that is quite apparent right on the onset, though, is the power of your money.

UPLB Main Library and the Pegaraw. Note: The P...

The Library at UPLB where slackers like myself can hang out and not be bothered by classes, teachers or books.

You see, when I was living in the Philippines, there seemed to be plenty of time for everything compared to the United States. Life tends to be more laid back. Shops and restaurants are usually open very late, so the nightlife can get quite insane. Even when I was back in college at the country’s best university (Shout out to UPLB! Woooh!) the student’s life left a lot of time for extra-curricular activities be it productive or intoxicative.

The issue came in the form of money. It was really hard to make a living compared to the opportunities found here. Once I had arrived in Michigan, I started working the first job I could find. I was a waiter at a small family diner. Life suddenly floored the gas pedal and I was left gasping for what little time I could hustle for myself. Everybody seemed to be in a rush. People even walked faster!

But then, after earning my tips and paychecks, I discovered that I could feel my money. The dollar’s buying power stretched on further than I had imagined! In one paycheck, I bought the most coveted video games for my PC which would have cost an arm and a leg in the Philippines.

My world had turned on its head. I traded most of my time for some (pretty powerful) money.

To give you an idea of the difference in purchasing power, I like to use my favorite conversion method.

In the United States, how many hours at the rate of the federal minimum wage would you have to work in order to afford a large pizza with all your favorite toppings on it? Two, three hours? Maybe four at the most?

Česky: Pizza

A Filipino Pizza has a myriad of savory flavors that would blow your taste buds away. One bite, and everything else seems bland.

About decade ago in the Philippines, it would have taken around 400 Philippine Pesos to buy a pizza with everything on it. The National minimum wage was set to around ₱ 200… per DAY! I’m talking a *whole* day of back breaking work to earn a measly $4 (₱ 50 to $1 back in those days.) So after TWO whole days, you could buy the same pizza that an American could have bought after a couple of hours on the job.

That my friends, is how powerful the dollar felt in my hands.

While the values may have changed somewhat between now and then, fundamentally, the U.S. Dollar is still the World’s Reserve Currency. In the next few weeks, I want to share with you some of the top money lessons I’ve learned here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. I sincerely hope you can make good use of this knowledge, regardless of where you find yourself in the world today.

As a side note, let me just say that I firmly believe those of us over here have one of the best opportunities to leverage what we can potentially earn in order to live, travel, and enjoy the best things in life. And to finally cross off all those pesky lines on our bucket lists.