It’s that time of the year when holidays beckon and festive season sales entice.
If you are like many Malaysians today, vacations and bargain buys are what you will be spending your spare cash on as the year draws to a close.
According to a consumer confidence survey in the second quarter of 2018 by global data analytics company, Nielsen, 43% of Malaysians chose to spend their spare cash on holidays and vacations while another 33% splurged on new clothes.
While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a well-deserved holiday or celebrating with friends and family, rewarding yourself and your loved ones should also not derail your long-term financial goals.
However, delaying this important life decision can have long-term consequences.
Majority of Malaysians don’t have enough savings
A survey conducted by the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) Social in August this year revealed that only 18% of those surveyed managed to achieve the minimum savings target.
In addition, the survey highlighted that more than half of the Malaysian adult population is not covered by any retirement or pension system, which poses great challenges to the nation’s welfare system in its quest to meet individuals’ financial needs for retirement.
According to EPF, even those who are covered by social protection programmes have inadequate savings as currently only one out of three active EPF members can meet the threshold amount equivalent to a minimum pension of RM1,000 per month to support their minimum retirement needs.
For those gainfully employed at present with 20 to 30 years of working life ahead, chances are you are thinking of the next overseas vacation or perhaps eyeing a new gadget to purchase in the year-end sales, instead of thinking about putting aside money for retirement or your child’s education.
The problem is that if you do not start to put aside money for savings, even a smaller goal of putting aside several hundred Ringgit a month to pay off debts or save for a rainy day will seem unattainable.
This is certainly true of Malaysian millennials with 75% of them reported to have at least one source of long-term debt, according to an earlier study of financial know-how of this age group by the Asia Institute of Finance.
|% of millennials
|Sources of debt
|Hire purchase / car loan
|Mortgage (e.g.: house land)
Furthermore, 38% of them also reported taking personal loans, while 47% are engaged in expensive credit card borrowings. The study also shows that while millennials know about savings habits they may not currently have the necessary knowledge to manage it effectively.
In fact less than 40% of those surveyed turned to their banks and financial advisors for financial information and advice; this shows in their investment choices with 40% admitting they put aside less than 10% of their monthly income towards investments.
|% of monthly income
|Investments by millennial
|Less than 10%
|10 – 19%
|20 – 29%
|30% or more
Start with RM500 and you will be amazed how much you can save
It may seem impossible to put aside money regularly if you are in this situation; yet there is no better time than now to start saving something small that makes the goal realistic.
The attitude of putting off saving money for more short-term gratification can have dire long-term consequences.
|% with shortfall
|20 – 29 yrs
|30 – 39 yrs
|40 – 49 yrs
|50 – 59 yrs
|60 yrs and above
When it comes to saving for children’s education, out of 94% who do plan for their children’s education, 62% reported facing a shortfall in savings despite starting to plan since their child reach 7 years old.
Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that the percentage of parents who plan for their children’s education decreased with each additional child they had. While 72% made plans when they had their first child, only 17% did the same by the time they had their second child.
|Stage of education planning
|Percentage of parents planning for their children’s education stage
|% with shortfall in preparation
|Planning for child #
Clearly, both data from the OCBC Bank and external studies show that, in general, Malaysians are falling behind when it comes to attaining their financial goals.
If your savings are falling behind, now is the time to catch up. Gaining control of your debts like paying off higher interest loans and then moving on to those with lower interest to free up fund for investment savings is the first step.
Although it seems expenses just accumulate as the years go on, it is crucial to continue saving the amount that will get you to your desired goal.
If retirement is decades away, tackling more immediate money matters like credit card debt, mortgages and student loans might take priority but making the effort to set aside RM500 a month is a task we can all accomplish. There is no better time to take charge of this goal than the present.
According to a 2015 Bank Negara Malaysia survey, Malaysians are not in proper control of their own financial decisions and well-being. While one in three Malaysians is worried about his or her retirement, only one in four possesses any form of investment.
So, making it a point to set aside this amount regularly is the first move toward gaining a sense of achievement. Alongside this, the compounding effect will make a big difference over time, so it is important to start early.
As the year draws to a close, why not tick those boxes in your checklist by making an appointment with your nearest OCBC Bank representative to find out how to get a head start on your own life goals with just RM500.