KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — A recent survey by Manulife shows that 68 per cent of Malaysians currently have debt, the highest proportion of all eight markets surveyed in Asia, and more than double the regional average of 33 per cent.
The survey, the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index, was based on 500 interviews in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
In a statement, Manulife said the average debt for Malaysians was RM56,000, which is nearly 10 times the average monthly personal income, mostly due to daily living expenses (60 per cent), with rental payments (44 per cent) and children’s education (37 per cent).
"Worryingly, much of the debt is long-term, with a quarter of those in debt not expecting to be able to pay it off for three years or more.
"The high debt levels reflect poor financial management, with investors failing to effectively manage their cash flow," it said.
While 89 per cent of the surveyed Malaysian respondents track their expenses regularly, 44 per cent of investors spend 70 per cent or more of their monthly income every month, suggesting they are not acting on their tracking by curbing expenses.
Manulife Holdings Bhd Group Chief Executive Officer Mark O' Dell said investors need to better manage their finances and track expenses to prevent them from incurring too much debt, especially considering the backdrop of more volatile financial markets and slowing economic growth.
"Without effective debt management, Malaysians are less likely to achieve their long term savings goals, which could jeopardise their future financial security," he added. — Bernama