Have you ever thought about what would happen if Malaysia’s government re-implements the Movement Control Order (MCO)? With the upward trend of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, this is a big possibility. Be honest for a second – are you well-prepared for the next MCO? Many seasoned working adults in Malaysia are struggling to manage their cash flow, let alone fresh graduates or youths. This highlights the importance of being financially literate from an early age.
A survey conducted by AKPK in 2019 shows that only 24% of Malaysians are able to survive on their savings for up to three months, while just 10% are able to sustain for six months or more! Are you among the 76% of Malaysians who won’t be able to cover expenses for more than three months? If so, what can you do to improve your cash flow?
Differentiate between “needs” and “wants”
Many Malaysians lack financial knowledge in general, especially in the area of financial planning. A study conducted by the Financial Education Network (FEN) showed that Malaysians are not confident about their own financial knowledge. Although 76% have set a personal budget, two out of five people were unable to stick to it.
In addition, one in every five Malaysian working adults couldn’t save any income in the last six months, while three in every 10 needed to borrow money to buy essential goods. In other words, these people had to rely on credit cards, government incentives or even loans just to buy food!
To restructure your personal finances, you must learn how to differentiate between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. For example, food, rent, petrol and insurance fall under needs. Conversely coffee, streaming services, the latest smartphones, and other luxury goods are not necessary to survive. If you are spending more on wants than needs, you should consider reviewing your cash flow and potentially cut down on luxury expenses. You could explore carpooling or taking public transport, or cooking at home to reduce spending on dining outside.
Make saving a habit
The rising cost of living in Malaysia, especially in cities, has forced many young working adults to become more frugal. Even with extra jobs, many are still unable to allocate any earnings to their savings, with a 2017 Bank Negara Malaysia survey revealing that 75% of the Malaysians are unable to raise RM1,000 in emergencies.
Due to poor saving habits, many youngsters rely heavily on credit cards to finance their needs and wants. As a result, they may fall deeper and deeper into credit card debt. When they fail to settle their balance, it becomes a debt that carries forward to the next month’s bill with compounded daily interest. In simple terms, they’re spending their future income in order to support their lifestyle. When planning your personal finances, I strongly encourage you to set a budget and always keep track of your expenses, and avoid using a credit card if possible. Below is a rough allocation budget I would recommend:
|30%||Savings and investment|
|10%||Insurance and protection|
|100%||Total take home income|
It is advisable to allocate at least 10% to 30% of your income to savings and investments. These savings serve as emergency funds for you to cover the cost of getting sick, accidents and more. You should also look into exploring small investments that can help to grow their wealth. I highly recommend that you save or invest before spending so that you won’t spend all your income.
Do also allocate at least 10% of your income for commitments such as PTPTN loans to reduce the principal and compounded interest. Another 10% should be allocated for protection, as you are human and unable to foresee unfortunate incidents in your future. By purchasing insurance, this offers peace of mind and a reduction of your financial burden during times of sicknesses or unfortunate events.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!
High-return investments always sound good on paper, which is why it continues to attract many people, young and old alike. However, if you aren’t able to self-engage in comprehensive and thorough financial planning, you may lack a clear understanding of financial risks and returns. This makes you prone to errors of judgment, which leads to high-risk or unwise financial decisions.
It’s very easy to fall into investment traps and suffer huge losses. Many are also jumping into the deep end of trading in forex and bitcoin, or worse still – pyramid schemes and other scams. Without proper financial knowledge and understanding, it’s easy to be misled by shiny numbers and figures without considering the risk or feasibility of such schemes. Don’t be susceptible to financial traps and irrational financial decisions – read and learn everything you can about investing before jumping in to avoid becoming another statistic.
In a nutshell, it’s incredibly important for you to learn how to manage your cash flow and have your own simplified financial plan. By better understanding your cash flow analysis, you can re-allocate your income wisely. Always remember to save before you spend and understand the financial risks and returns before investing into anything. Be sure to avoid investing in platforms or schemes that aren’t legally recognised by the Securities Commission Malaysia.
Finally, remember that it’s never too early to start your financial planning journey!
About the Author
Edmond Tang Zhen Han is a certified financial planner that is passionate about helping people achieve financial literacy in order for them to reach financial freedom. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org