“What’s your best money tip for Malaysians so we can do well this year?”
Every January, I ask this question to a bunch of personal finance influencers. Some are CEOs, others are licensed financial planners, and I’m always honored to have Malaysian Twitterati join in.
It’s a super-diverse pool of experience and expertise. So to help us focus, I asked for tips in the below areas:
- General Personal Finance
- Investment (including Properties)
- For Women
- For Young Malaysians
- Bonus: Bitcoin and Crypto
I hope you’ll find something meaningful this year.
General personal finance
See Wai Hun, CEO of iMoney
With this prolonged pandemic, even those who had an emergency fund may find it depleted, especially if they lost income last year.
Focus on rebuilding and recovery in 2021. It is recommended you save at least 3 months of monthly income or 6 months of monthly expenses to cover living costs and financial commitments.
How do you rebuild your emergency fund? Consider refinancing your mortgage to benefit from the low interest rate today (having more cash on hand doesn’t hurt in these uncertain times). Or consolidate your debts using a low-interest personal loan to avoid missing any payments.
Lastly, look for side hustles that can help increase your income. Year 2020 has definitely taught us to be resourceful and adaptable. We’ve beaten 2020, let’s beat 2021 too!
Roshan Kanesan, producer of BFM’s Ringgit & Sense show
Specifically for 2021, focus on building your emergency buffer fund.
It’s always exciting to talk about investing and assets, but what I’ve personally learnt from 2020 is the need to be prepared for the unexpected — to help ease my mind and sleep better at night.
A year ago or so, things were very different and so were my priorities. We weren’t expecting rampant pay or job cuts, so while having a buffer fund wasn’t top of mind then, now it is.
With some reprioritizing of existing assets, I’ve managed to reach 6 months of conservative expenses, but I’m aiming for 12. It’ll take me time, but for peace of mind, I feel it’ll be worth it.
Suzardi Maulan, IFP a.k.a. Pakdi, investor, financial planner and trainer
Do what gives you peace of mind during this uncertain period.
If you can get inner peace by having all your money in cash, do it. If you think paying off debt is the way, so be it. If you believe gold or cryptocurrency will protect you better financially, go get it.
We’re currently navigating uncharted territory. I’ll do what I know best, which is stock market investing. But that’s just me.
Suraya Zainudin, founder of Ringgit Oh Ringgit
(Suraya’s Ringgit Oh Ringgit is the #1 personal finance blog in Malaysia today. Extremely relatable; great reading for both men and women.)
Do personality tests. The more you know yourself, the quicker you’ll find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
- The Four Tendencies test tells me I don’t need support groups to stay accountable to my goals (so I don’t need to waste time & money looking for them).
- The Big Five Personality Traits test tells me I score very high on Openness to Experience, so I should allocate budget for experimentation purposes AND be mindful to not overspend.
- The Love Language test tells me gift-giving is NOT my primary love language (I’ve informed my partner so he doesn’t need to waste money).
- The Financial Behavior Report tells me I prefer DIY financial planningthan working with a professional (so I better not slack off and keep on learning).
There are more; feel free to reach out to me anytime on this topic and/or where to find them!
KC Lau, founder of KCLau.com
(I’ve been reading KC Lau since I was a clueless university student more than 14 years ago. He’s a legend in the Malaysian personal finance space.)
Retail investors usually make the mistake of chasing the next hot trend. For example: Bitcoin and Tesla stocks might have grabbed your attention as they reached all-time highs in Jan 2021.
On the other hand, value investors buy an asset at a discount to its value. That’s how you minimize the downside.
I would love to see more people invest more rationally, rather than emotionally.
Julian Ng, CEO and co-founder of Akru
It’s another year of uncertainty. Vaccinate when the time comes.
I’m also taking a serious look at crypto because of the trillions in stimulus expected from the Biden administration. I rarely give short-term outlooks but I’m also not asking to sell the house to buy crypto. I’m saying maybe spend some beer money on it.
Maybe barbell the portfolio.
Divvy, founder of Dividend Magic
2020 was huge for investors. Those with savings, and the correct mindset would’ve definitely been able to capitalize on the opportunities. With vaccines and conditions stabilizing in 2021, it’ll be interesting to see if markets will be slower this year.
Regardless, my advice has always been to save and then invest. AND when an opportunity presents itself, invest more.
Eza Ezamie, co-founder of Majalah Labur
(Eza is the co-founder and COO of Majalah Labur, the country’s premier Bahasa Malaysia website about investing.)
With every hardship, there will be ease afterwards. With the recession taking place in 2020, I foresee the economy will recover in 2021.
Make sure you stay invested, whether in good times or bad times. And ready yourself with some cash reserves, in case a good investment opportunity comes around.
Tell yourself this, “History will repeat itself.”
Just look at what happened after the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 Subprime Mortgage Crisis. So here’s to an exciting year ahead for everyone.
Wong Wai Ken, country manager, Stashaway
(Ken is the country manager for StashAway, the first licensed robo-advisor in Malaysia. Every time I sit down with him, I feel like I’m learning something new about the financial world.)
2020 showed us managing risks or potential downside is vital. Your portfolio needs to be protected at all times through diversification in your asset allocation — by investing across different asset classes.
Each portfolio should have domestic and international exposure to stocks, bonds, gold, real estate and other alternatives — so if one asset underperforms, your portfolio is protected.
Add to this dollar cost averaging (diversifying your deposit timeline if you like), and you’ll be on your way to successfully investing for the long term.
Stev Yong, founder of MyPF
(MyPF is an award-winning financial education platform dedicated to help Malaysians simplify and grow their personal finances. And it all started from a blog by Stev back in 2013.)
Last year was crazy seeing among the worst corrections and the highest highs ever. Let us apply the hard-earned lessons we’ve learned into 2021:
- Be resilient by having an investment plan and sticking to it.
- Be adaptive through diversification, asset allocation, and dollar cost averaging.
- Avoid greed and FOMO — whether it’s Bitcoin, penny or glove stocks.
Let us not only survive. But let us simplify and thrive in our personal finances and investing!
Charles Tan, founder of Kopiandproperty
(Charles is a Malaysian property expert who writes at kopiandproperty.com. I asked him if he had any property-specific tips.)
Property market growth must depend on economic growth. Without economic growth, any property market growth will be speculative and unlikely to be sustainable. Many have predicted 2021 GDP growth will be better than 2020.
This forms a base for our property investment decisions, but the three most important questions remain:
- Do we understand what is property investment?
- Have we done sufficient due diligence on what we are buying?
- Are we buying a property we can afford?
If we answer “No” to even one of these three questions, it may be best to invest in something else. Happy investing.
Dawn, founder of SG Budget Babe
(Dawn writes about achieving a financially-free lifestyle (including family/kids topics now!) at SG Budget Babe. I really wish more women would deep dive into personal finance, so hopefully Dawn’s thoughts inspire you.)
Given that we’re coming out of a global pandemic, cautious plays will be key in this year. Take this chance to review your personal finances and plug the gaps — be it in terms of your emergency funds or insurance coverage.
If your income is only from a single source, consider building a second stream of income (Some ideas: here).
And when it comes to your investments, always remember to weigh your risk-reward ratio before you make any decisions. Don’t just blindly follow the crowd, or even online “gurus” for stock tips — best that you build your own knowledge to do your own.
Suyin Ong, founder of Suyin Invests
(Suyin hosts a YouTube channel about what people can do to build good relationships with money — so they’re free to lead great lives. I asked if she had any specific money tips for women.)
I tend to seek out “the right time” when it comes to having that money conversation, and unfortunately, this has worked against me.
Be bold. Ask for that raise. Ask to be paid well in exchange for the work you do — do not wait until you feel you deserve it or have earned it. Because chances are, you already have! Probably months ago too.
You are capable, much more than you think you already are. And when you’re feeling low, remember too to ask for support.
For young people
Farid Bahrudin, guru to young graduates
(Farid Bahrudin regularly shares money and career tips for young graduates to >100,000 followers on Twitter. Follow him at his personal account here: @faridbahrudin)
Three years ago, my advice here was to aim for 3-6 months of emergency savings. Hopefully my advice benefited those who were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some further pandemic tips:
- To know what to prioritizefirst — to survive, to have savings, or invest to grow money?
You can do all these the safe way (practically zero risk), by putting your money in ASB. Where even if you need money urgently, you can withdraw it.
- To plan and wisely make use of benefits. For example: BPN, the extra 2% employer EPF contribution, and any i-Lestari or i-Sinar Please don’t fall into get-rich-quick schemes.
And save any extra money you’ve received for a rainy day.
- Please support local businesses. Buy from them.
- Not financially related, but please follow all health SOPs and take care of yourself.
Faiz Wahab, licensed financial planner, speaker, writer
2021 will be interesting for those who want to start their investing journey.
The market is expected to have ups and downs throughout the year. If you’re good at timing the market, you may try to enter at a lower entry point. However, if you’re not an expert, you can either leverage on professionals to help grow your investments, or you can start dollar cost averaging.
There are lots of investment opportunities you may want to try. It is not wrong to try, but you need to first cover the essential parts of personal finance — such as emergency savings and insurance/takaful.
Chin Yi Xuan, founder of No Money Lah
(Yi Xuan is the founder of No Money Lah, where he writes about adulthood issues openly — like money and happiness. He’s an economics graduate from Universiti Malaya, and currently a full-time trader and investor.)
2021 is going to be another turbulent year. That’s why it’s important to do a quick financial health check at the start: do you have enough emergency funds?
Next, focus on keeping and even increasing your income in 2021 — that’s what’s putting food on the table right? Ask yourself the following questions:
How can you add unique value to the stakeholders in your work? How can you help solve the pain points of your employers/clients/colleagues? To do that, I encourage you to think differently — attempt to look at your work through different lenses.
The moment you can do so, you’re well placed to demand for higher pay at work. If not, there are always better places that would appreciate your unique value and perspectives!
To dive deeper, I highly recommend the book Linchpin by Seth Godin for all young Malaysians.
Mohd. Kauthar Rozmal, editor, researcher, writer
(Kauthar shares his unique perspectives about personal finance, investing and the economy for young Malaysians at @mohdkautharr.)
In 2020, even though the economy was going down, the stock markets (and crypto) were going up. More and more people were getting involved.
While many are sharing their profits on social media, please be aware investment is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, you can make money from trading, but the fact is 90% of traders lose money in the market.
For new investors and traders, focus on strengthening your fundamentals. Build up your emergency savings, improve your cashflow, and have adequate protection (insurance/takaful).
Bonus: Bitcoin and Crypto
David Low, Southeast Asia general manager of Luno
(Luno is the #1 Digital Asset Exchange in Malaysia, regulated by the Securities Commission. It’s the safest and easiest way to start investing in Bitcoin. With all the recent hype, I asked David — who’s also my boss in my day job — if he had any tips for Malaysians to get started with crypto.)
Start with a small amount you’re willing to experiment with. This can be as low as RM 3. Once you have skin in the game, it’ll incentivize you to learn more about this remarkable technology.
Bitcoin might seem “expensive” right now, but I recommend you understand it first, before considering other coins.
Once you get past the hype around price and dive into the deeper philosophical aspects of Bitcoin, I believe you’ll be amazed at what you learn.
Mr-Stingy’s closing thoughts
This year, almost everyone talked about emergency funds and the need for protection.
If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, I think we can all agree it’s life is unpredictable. Even the best-laid plans can get ripped apart by things we could never imagine.
I hope we can all build extremely strong and resilient finances this year. Even if we risk being overly cautious. Even if we have to say goodbye to old, comfortable ways of doing things. That way, whatever crazy 2021 brings, I know we’ll still be okay. And maybe even ready to grab some amazing new opportunity.
Happy New Year 2021. I wish you great success with money, and an even richer life beyond that.