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When we spend too much and people say we earn too little

We had a very viral piece of news about millennials spending beyond what they were earning. The stats from BNM shows that 47% of millennials have high credit card debts. People love negative news and the comments have been non-stop and some have started to debate and brought in politics. Many times, if we like to really debate objectively, bringing in politics solves nothing.

Some commented that this is happening because it is Malaysia and that there are so many countries paying much higher salaries. They said many of these countries have currencies which are many times higher than Malaysia. Thus, when all these happen (salary and currency), then one would not need to overspend.

By the way, I do not think anyone forced anyone to overspend in any country. Persuade, yes. Clever marketing, yes. Making the product look like a must-buy, yes. Making it seem affordable, yes. FORCE by putting a knife on our neck and tell us to buy? No. Let me share my experience after working for the past 23 years and having also those overspending periods during the start of my career.

It’s really not about the currency

Actually, it’s not about the currency, it’s about the living expenses in that country. Many years ago, I signed an offer letter for my ex-staff in Hong Kong and her salary was way higher than mine! That pay is above RM20,000 after conversion. Yet, she said it’s impossible for her to afford even a 500 sq ft apartment in Hong Kong by herself. In some of the mentioned countries where we will earn way higher, it’s really good to read a little bit deeper into their house prices, their restaurant prices and perhaps even their parking fees too.

If there’s an opportunity, go for it. If there’s none, go find it

Let’s understand that no country is perfect but if we have the desire to work in another country deemed to be way better then where we are today, then by all means go for it. I have many friends who are doing very well overseas. One former colleague started working for a while in Shanghai and now has his own business and happily married with kids there. Another former colleague is now having her own cafe, husband’s a senior management and I could see she travel nearly every week! Just do not keep complaining and start doing something about it.

All the PERHAPS we could PERHAPS have done

If it’s here in Malaysia, just browse through any job sites today and one would realise that there are so many jobs being posted by companies which pays salaries which are above RM20,000 in the private sector. By the way, if we earn RM20,000 we could easily afford a RM1 million home and drive any segment D car. Question is, do we qualify for these jobs. If we do not qualify, then what are we doing about it?

Perhaps we could stay MORE focused on what we do currently and do it better every year? Becoming a senior manager does not happen overnight. Perhaps we could STUDY by part-time for a higher qualification and really stand out versus the peers versus watching never ending TV dramas? Perhaps we could SAVE and learn how to INVEST our money for continuous returns instead of going for expensive vacations and think we deserve it?

When nothing changes with us, then nothing changes for us

If we like to be serious about this issue of someone underpaying us, then could we also answer WHY are there no other employers willing to pay us more? If that’s because only entrepreneurs would become very wealthy, then have we read how they started and start to do something similar and take the risk they took? If we have done none of these and just keep complaining, then we should realise that when nothing changes with us, then nothing changes for us.

Some important financial stuffs we could do?

The car we drive does NOT reflect our status and that Japanese B-segment car just tells me that you could not afford a better Japanese C / D segment car. I drive a ‘no status’ car according to many millennials. I am still driving my 11.5 years old Persona 1.6 MANUAL which has never given me any issues until today. 146,000km. Just this choice versus a ‘higher status’ car saved me RM30,000 over 5 years. That’s RM6,000 per year or RM500 per month back into your salary… Quite a wow.

Property is compulsory. Renting means whatever we paid are gone. Buying a small place, renting out 1 or 2 of the rooms meant it’s a much better deal. Years later, suddenly we realise that the property price has appreciated, our salary has risen and we wanted to upgrade. This first property could now be rented out for income or sold for profits. Just do not believe anyone telling you to buy a property and you can get RM100,000 to spend… Sigh… That’s disaster waiting to happen.

Coffee need not be luxury. Not just coffee but also our meals daily. Also our choice of shampoo. Also our choice of TV size. Also our choice of sofa. Many more but I hope we start to realise that if I choose to drink cheaper coffee, that’s over a thousand ringgit saved per year easily. If I save RM5 per meal per day, that’s another RM5,000 plus saved per year. If we choose to buy that unbranded sofa versus that branded sofa, the savings could be another few thousand. By the way, if the sofa could last 5 years, that’s already great. Lasting 10 years still do not make paying many thousands extra a clever choice.

Hope this explains a bit that our life and our money depends on us and really just us. Putting the blame on anyone or any institution is just shifting the need for us to change for the better. Fact is, many are overspending. Question is, what are we going to do about it. Answer is not how someone or some institution can change because even if we assume one day it could change, time is not on our side. Cheers.

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Charles Tan The Founder The Writer Kopiandproperty
Charles Tan

Charles is Founder of He writes from his investment experience for the the past 20 years in investments including property, stock, unit trust and more as well as readings and conversations with many property gurus in the industry. is an independent property blog which is not affiliated to any media company, property developer or even real estate agencies.


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