“What’s your best money tip to Malaysians so they can do well in 2019?”
Every year, I ask this question to a variety of personal finance influencers. Some of them are CEOs, others are certified financial planners, and I’m always honored to have Malaysian Twitterati join in.
It’s a super-diverse pool of experiences and expertise. So to help us focus, I requested for their tips in the below areas:
- General Personal Finance
- Property Market
- Credit Cards / E-wallets
- For Women
- For Young Malaysians
I hope you’ll find something meaningful for you this year:
A. General Personal Finance
1. Lee Ching Wei, executive director and chief innovation officer of iMoney
(iMoney is the leading Malaysian financial-comparison website, which also hosts a great learning center. Ching is the big boss there.)
2019 is not all doom and gloom — if you play your cards right! If you aim to achieve your financial goals, first you need to take a long, hard look at your current financial situation. Be brutally honest with yourself: are you spending more than you earn? And are you eligible for any credit facilities if you plan to borrow or in the event of emergencies?
If you don’t understand your finances, how can you make the best money decisions? Start with something as simple as:
- Budgeting, then move on to
- Checking your credit score, and eventually
- Building your wealth. Once you have all your ducks in a row, you can properly plan your financial strategy and goals
Good luck, and 2019 may just be your best financial year yet!
2. KC Lau, founder of KClau.com
(I’ve been a fan of KC Lau‘s writing for more than a decade now. He’s a legend in the Malaysian personal finance space.)
Back to basics… which is setting your New Year’s resolution and achieving it! In financial terms, set meaningful goals like:
- Increase your income by 20% or more compared to 2018
- Improve your savings rate from 15% to 30%
A meaningful goal is something you’ve never achieved before, but not something too challenging that you might give up after February.
Ignore factors out of your control (recession, special bonus, windfall, etc.), but focus on what you can do now, this week, this month! I believe you will see tremendous results.
3. Suzardi Maulan, IFP A.K.A Pakdi, investor, financial planner and trainer
Tips for 2019:
- Review your asset allocation
- Make sure your asset allocation suits your risk appetite and life goals
- Since the equity (stock) market was down last year, it’s a good time to have more exposure to equities!
Happy investing! May the force be with you.
4. Julian Ng, CEO and co-founder of Akru
The advent of robo-advisors in Malaysia will raise investing awareness to higher levels. However, because of the excitement in investing and making lots of money, we’ve almost forgotten the age-old virtue of not spending.
I would like to stress that I’m referring more to “not spending” rather than merely “saving.” Today’s concept of not spending is a lot more disruptive and game-changing than in the past due to technology. By not spending, you can speedily add a lot more to your assets than investing/saving only the residual of what you’ve spent. It’s just dawned on me this is the true meaning of the old idiom: “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
For example, not spending on property ownership frees up a heck lot of funds. The same goes for not buying a car. This adds exponentially to your assets. Ride-sharing redefined car ownership to transport fulfillment. No-frills airlines and Airbnb shifted the travel budget to more meaningful experiences. In the same way, renting will recreate the home experience and shift the big bucks to other priorities for the future.
Robo-advisors will soon make a fund manager out of you; so that your assets accumulated from not spending will secure your basic needs, while giving you more meaningful experiences.
5. Divvy, founder of Dividend Magic
(Divvy is only 30 years old, but already has a six-figure stock portfolio worth more than RM 400,000. He writes about stocks, dividends, and was the first Malaysian (I knew) to openly share his stock market portfolio.)
Always invest with discipline. Save up and invest regularly, and remain invested even when markets are down. Ideally, have enough funds on hand to purchase when the market is in a slump.
6. Stanley Lim, CFA, chief editor of Value Invest Asia
(Stanley is the chief editor of Value Invest Asia, and the co-author of “Value Investing in Asia.” He believes that financial literacy is a key component to ending global poverty.)
I think the best investment will be an investment in our own mind. In particular, training ourselves to have the mentality and temperament of a long-term investor. Investing is never a get-rich-quick scheme so the key to investing is actually patience.
The ones who can wait will see their tree bear fruits.
C. Property market
7. Charles Tan, founder of kopiandproperty.com
(Charles is a Malaysian property expert who writes at kopiandproperty.com. He’s also the CEO of an asset auction company. “Pays the bills” he says…)
Property investment is not about aiming at buying today and selling six months later. It is about buying with a price we are comfortable, then waiting for the value to increase. A crisis may come but it will soon leave. A property bubble may burst but the market will surely recover.
If we need a crystal ball to predict the future, look to the advanced property markets instead. They are already the “future.” Oh yeah, it is best to buy when people don’t see it as the best time. It’s worst to buy when everyone we know is buying. Savvy?
Happy investing my friends.
D. Credit cards & e-wallets
8. Mr Genx, founder of GenX GenY GenZ
(When I was still a noob blogger, Mr. GenX taught me almost everything I knew about credit cards. His blog GenX GenY GenZ has changed focus over the years, but is still the best place to learn about air miles, credit cards and fixed deposits in Malaysia.)
We are masters of our own destiny. And if don’t plan for the future, we are like headless chickens who will end up nowhere.
Credit cards are the fastest way to being poor if one has no money but utilizes the credit — then ends up paying exorbitant interest.
However, for those who have discipline controlling their spending, cashback credit cards and even e-wallets may enable them to save some pocket money for essential expenses.
At the other extreme, I also question why people who’re earning big bucks focus on earning pocket money from cashback cards. It’s negligible to their income and thus won’t make their life any better. I tell you, if one focuses on small money, one will get peanuts.
E. For women
9. Natalie Pringle, chief marketing officer at The New Savvy
(Natalie is the CMO of The New Savvy, a financial, investments and career platform for women in Asia. I asked if she had any specific advice for women.)
Make it a habit to set your budget at the beginning of every month and promise yourself to stick to it. Use money envelopes for each week of the month and keep credit cards only for real emergencies. Share your experience with family and close friends so that you can learn from others and encourage them to also be financially savvy.
Also, talk to those around you and open up about your money concerns. Whether you’re looking for better ways to save and invest, or would like to know more about investing in different asset classes, asking questions is the best way to improve your knowledge. Don’t be afraid — you’ll find that many have been on the same journey and can only improve by being open.
10. Suraya Zainudin, founder of Ringgit Oh Ringgit
(Suraya’s Ringgit Oh Ringgit is the best personal finance blog in Malaysia today. Extremely relatable; delightful to read for men and women alike.)
The best money tip for women is to free up time for self-development and learning. For example, many women lack time because they work “the second shift” i.e. balancing a full-time job and performing the majority of (unpaid) domestic labor like childcare and household chores.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider outsourcing, renegotiating responsibilities with your partner/family, or simply refusing non-essential chores.
11. Dawn, founder of SG Budget Babe
(Dawn writes about achieving a financially-free lifestyle at SG Budget Babe and is one of the top bloggers in all of Singapore.)
Save, protect, and get ready for a rainy day. Build up your cash savings and ensure your biggest financial risks (e.g. health) have been covered by insurance.
If you haven’t yet started investing, promise yourself that 2019 will be the year you make it happen! Start small by reading financial blogs and websites, investment books, or even attend a course if you have to. Good luck!
F. For young Malaysians
12. Farid Bahrudin, guru to young graduates
(Farid Bahrudin regularly shares advice for young graduates to >100,000 followers on Twitter. Follow him at his personal account here: @faridbahrudin)
These are common tips, but worth repeating:
- Save first and spend later — save at least 5-10% of your income
- Use credit cards wisely. Take advantage of cashback and points offered — you could save up to 8% of your petrol expenses
- Find ways to earn extra income!
Bonus tips for Bumiputeras:
AMANAH SAHAM BUMIPUTERA (ASB)
For those who’ve yet to have an ASB account, please sign up! You’ll benefit from the yearly dividends (in 2018, PNB declared income distribution of 6.50 sen and bonus of 0.50 sen). Trust me, by having monthly savings and compounding over the years your money will really grow.
Apply when you know the differences between ASB and ASBF. You should also know how to use financial calculators. Don’t copy paste what people do but learn, understand, then decide.
AMANAH HARTANAH BUMIPUTERA (AHB) — OPTIONAL
AHB is a Shariah investment that invests in commercial property. Like ASB, you still enjoy income distributions twice a year. However, for AHB you don’t have compounding effects as any income distribution is credited to your personal account. If you’re clever enough though, money that you receive can then be invested elsewhere.
For Muslims, please open and have at least RM 1,300 in your account for Hajj registration purposes. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait longer for your turn.
13. Mohd Kauthar Rozmal, founder of Sembang Labur
Many economists are expecting a recession this year, so what should we do to protect ourselves?
First of all, regardless of whether there’ll be a recession or not, emergency savings should be our top priority. Save at least three months of salary; if you can save up to six months — that’s even better.
In the absolute worst case where you lose your job, at least you don’t have to worry about your expenses for three to six months.
As for investing, stocks are usually undervalued during a recession. Focus on long-term investing — you can buy into good companies at discounted prices.
14. Faiz Wahab, investor, speaker and writer at FaizWahab.com
2018 was quite a challenging year for most investors. Many people lost money — especially in stocks due to market turbulence.
I believe 2019 will be a great year for those who are willing to take the golden opportunity to invest, especially in the stock market. This is the opportunity to invest in good stocks at discounted prices. Make sure you have the knowledge to buy undervalued stocks. Once the bull comes back, you’ll be the biggest winner. Happy making money!
Bonus: Regional perspective
(As always, I reach out to a few of my Singaporean friends for tips too; maybe they have ideas us Malaysians haven’t thought about? Here’s Kevin, who writes about index investing and personal finance at Turtle Investor.)
Market returns generally took a beating in 2018, but do not be discouraged. Market volatility is part and parcel of our investment journey and more importantly, don’t forget we are in a marathon and not a sprint. Keep calm and stay the course.
John Bogle said it best: “Time is your friend; impulse is your enemy.”
16. Lionel Yeo, founder of Cheerful Egg
(If there’s one blogger in Asia who I feel is my blog brother from another mother, it’d be Lionel from Cheerful Egg. He’s shifting focus to spirituality these days, so below is his last-ever money tip for my annual article. 🙁 I suspect we’ll remember it for many years to come.)
Set up systems to help you think LESS about money. Create automatic savings and investments, then close your browser and live your life. The less you think about money, the better you’ll do.
Love your family, do your best work, pray every day — and you’ll be rich.
Almost every influencer this year spoke about the down markets and/or protecting yourself. It reminds me of what Warren Buffett once said: “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”
So whether the stock markets are gonna continue crashing, or if things improve — I believe there are always good opportunities, if we’re disciplined, patient and wise.
More importantly, never neglect the basics of personal finance — which people somehow keep forgetting. So keep budgeting, keep saving, keep investing, but above all — keep learning from this wonderful adventure we call life.
Happy New Year 2019. I wish you great success with money, and an even richer life beyond that.
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Thank You to all the influencers who shared their thoughts. If you’d like to show your appreciation, please take a moment to visit their websites, follow them on FB/Twitter, and send them some Internet love?
Aaron Tang is the founder of mr-stingy.com, where he writes about optimizing Time, Money and Relationships.