Most of us wish to retire early before we hit 60, which is the retirement age in Malaysia. But not the living legend, the Father of Modern Malaysia.
Born on 20 of December 1925, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad holds the record of being the oldest prime minister in the world when he was in office. This was when he became the prime minister of Malaysia once again on 10 of May 2018 when he was 92 years and 141 days old.
Smart Investor recently had the honour and opportunity to speak with Dr Mahathir in person. He spoke to us about his philosophy around work and retirement, what he has invested in and how he keeps his mind sharp at his age.
Trust in Our Malaysian Doctors
A well-known story about Dr Mahathir during his first premier was that he put his faith in local Malaysian doctors for his heart surgery. The surgery was led by a local doctor, Dr Yahya Awang with his team in 1989.
He was then 64 and 82 years old when he went for his first and second major surgery, respectively.
“Basically, I’m quite healthy in the sense that I don’t have any debilitating diseases. What I had was a blockage in one of the heart arteries. The doctors are very good and I recovered. Once I recovered, I was free from the disease and I naturally came back to normal,” Dr Mahathir shared.
Today, at 96 years old, he is still standing strong and working tirelessly for the betterment of our country.
You need to live a moderate life. Don’t eat too much because that could affect your health. You should also have enough sleep and don’t get too excited over things.Tun Dr Mahathir
Dr Mahathir added that one has to try and stay as calm as possible.
“Mainly, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I think this also contributes to my good health,” Dr Mahathir emphasized.
He said that he eats almost anything but keeps his portions small. He also shared that he practiced his mother’s advice when it comes to diets:
“When the food taste nice, stop eating.”
Until today, Dr Mahathir’s memory is still intact. What is his secret?
“If people ask me questions on matters that I am interested in, it is easy for me to remember what information I have. But if you ask me something that I know nothing about, of course, I cannot answer. The main thing is to always do a lot of reading, discuss frequently with others and debate with people,” he responded.
These are the tips he shared on keeping your mind active.
The mind is like the body. If you don’t use it, it begins to retrogress.Tun Dr Mahathir
Stress and Heart Attacks
Recent findings by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) found that ischemic heart disease remained the principal cause of death in Malaysia, contributing to 17% of 109,155 medically certified deaths in 2020. People tend to think that heart attacks will only occur to those in the retirement age, but surprisingly we can see that men and women are now having heart attacks as early as in their 20s.
He thought that people nowadays are very emotional and get easily upset over things. This will affect the part of the body where the heart beats more than normal which can put a strain on the heart.
“No smoking. That’s very important. Beyond that, don’t go through too much stress. Try not to get excited and angry much,” he advised.
Severe road congestion, the rise in living costs and many other factors seem to make everyone so stressed these days. What are the ways we can overcome stress?
“We have to accept that things cannot always be right. Today, we are facing a pandemic that prevents people from working and they cannot earn money to buy food. Of course, this worries them and it’s very difficult not to worry,” he said.
Health is Wealth
When the word retirement planning comes into mind, everyone is focused on building their wealth but not their health.
Health is very important. It’s no good having billions of Ringgits if you can’t even move or talk or behave normally. So, it’s better to have less money, but stay healthy. You enjoy life better.Tun Dr Mahathir
Younger generations tend to get involved in the gig economy, freelancing and running their own business. In 2020, the DOSM shared that almost four million people are working in the gig economy in Malaysia. This includes ride-hailing, food deliveries and managing holiday rentals via an online platform or an application accessible through smartphones.
Unfortunately, most of those who are involved in this line of work did not contribute to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). How can they start planning for their retirement?
“When you’re healthy and able to work, you can do whatever you like. But when you grow old, you need a pension and some income. If you have done well in your business and you have contributed to EPF or you have saved money, then when you’re old, you don’t have to worry too much about finance. But if you work where there is no pension and you don’t save and don’t contribute to EPF, when you grow old you’re going to have problems,” Dr Mahathir shared.
On the Rise of Inflation
Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) projected the headline inflation of the country to be between 2.2% – 3.2% in 2022. This is not only happening to Malaysia but countries around the world which are affected due to the pandemic and Ukraine-Russia war.
How can Malaysians weather the storm?
“Interest rates are a cost to doing business. The higher it is, the more costly the business. This will result in production services being more costly and when it is more costly, of course it is not sellable,” he shared.
Dr Mahathir further explains that low interest rates will encourage people to invest and some of them would fail. But for the government, the lack of investments will reduce the creation of wealth.
“We need people to invest money in order to create wealth. Because when they make a profit, they are actually creating wealth, then they will pay taxes to the government,” he added.
Investment is one of the tools to hedge against inflation. However, the number of scams is now running into billions of Ringgits, despite there being a lot of legitimate investments. Why are people still falling for scams?
Dr Mahathir opined that people want to get rich quickly and they easily believe the pitch when people tell them that there are easier and faster ways to earn money.
“There is no such thing as easy money. Money comes through hard work and intelligent work. If you believe that putting up a few dollars somehow will multiply to a big amount of money you earn, then you’re going to be cheated,” he explained.
We then asked him what his investment portfolio was like.
I don’t own any shares except for 200 shares of Malayan Tobacco which I bought long ago before I became a minister. That’s all my investment.Tun Dr Mahathir
Dr Mahathir further added that he also had to invest in PNB and took up some shares worth RM1,000 or RM2,000 because he had to show that investment matters and is good for the people during that time.
He clarified that he only depends on his salary which is quite a lot for him and more than what he needs.
“I used to be a private practitioner, earning maybe RM2,000 a month. But when I was a prime minister, I earned RM20,000 a month. I can’t spend the money. Besides, the government pays for my house, electricity, water supply, cars and even aeroplanes. I keep my money,” he shared.
As a smart investor, you can have all the money in the world. But all that money will mean nothing if you do not have good health to go along with it.
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