Only 6pc working Malaysians can survive beyond six months without income, BNM says

The survey said debt levels are especially acute for Malaysians in the bottom-40 per cent category, averaging at 14 times their annual income. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
The survey said debt levels are especially acute for Malaysians in the bottom-40 per cent category, averaging at 14 times their annual income. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 — Malaysia’s central bank revealed today a mere 6 per cent of salaried Malaysians are able to sustain themselves for more than six months if they lose their jobs, the main source of their income.

In its Financial Capability and Inclusion Study 2015, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) found the majority of the over 3,000 Malaysians surveyed do not have a proper budget plan or practise financial discipline to manage their spending and debt.

“Malaysians tend to focus on short-sighted gratification,” said BNM’s director for consumer and market conduct Suhaimi Ali, who presented the survey findings during a panel session at a conference on strengthening financial resilience of Malaysian consumers here.

The survey, which Suhaimi said mirrors the country's population breakdown, said debt levels are especially acute for Malaysians earning RM1,500 and below, averaging at 14 times their annual income.

He said this is particularly worrying as a whopping 93 per cent of the survey respondents earn a monthly wage of RM3,000 or less individually while 93 per cent of the households earn RM5,000 or lower.

About 19 per cent of the respondents also said they felt they have too much debt, and only 26 per cent said they make full settlements of their credit card debts at the end of the month.

The survey also found that only 51 per cent of the respondents have a “rainy day” fund, while 76 per cent admitted to having difficulty to raise RM1,000 in emergency cash if needed.

Another panellist, Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) operations division general manager Nor Fazleen Zakaria said young adults are especially ill-prepared to manage their own finances, with many youths who have just joined the workforce saddled with heavy debts.

She said the profile of Malaysians who urgently need help with financial management are those with an annual income of RM48,000 or less and living in either the Klang Valley, Johor or Penang, aged between 25 and 45 years, married with dependents and of Malay descent.

For Malaysians living outside the three industrialised states, Nor Fazleen said the income range for those in urgent need of help goes down to RM36,000 or lower per annum.

Suhaimi said the signs are “quite worrying” but acknowledged that teaching Malaysians financial literacy must go hand in hand with a shift in cultural norms.

“If we are not able to evolve a society that practices good financial discipline, we will still have problems. It has to be a culture, otherwise you get old and won’t have a support system,” he said during the question and answer session.

* An earlier version of the story had erroneously cited the bottom 40 per cent as facing debt levels averaging 14 times their annual income. The error is regretted and has since been corrected to refer to the category of Malaysians earning RM1,500 and below.

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