“What’s your best money tip for Malaysians so we can do well this year?”
Every January, I ask this question to a bunch of personal finance influencers. And of course, this year I’ve got 20: some 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 tips in the below areas:
- General Personal Finance
- Investment (Including Properties)
- For Women
- For Young Malaysians
- Bonus: The Malaysian Fintech Landscape
I hope you’ll find something meaningful this year.
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 and someone I really admire.)
Whatever your financial goals, your top priorities should be to manage your debts and improve your financial standing. Focus on avoiding consumptive debts, which are debts on things that reduce in value. This will help you pursue other more important personal and financial goals.
Meanwhile, improving your credit score helps you get better approval rates for credit products in the future.
2. KC Lau, founder of KCLau.com
(I’ve been reading KC Lau since I was a clueless university student more than 10 years ago. He’s a legend in the Malaysian personal finance space.)
You want to build some real passive income in 2020. We see many people chasing after new stuff, exotic schemes, high-return ventures, etc. in the name of building passive income streams. But many will be disappointed.
Real passive income comes from owning assets:
- real estate that commands reasonable rents
- businesses that produce cash flow
- intellectual properties that earn royalty
Buy some this year. Or create one yourself!
3. Suzardi Maulan, IFP a.k.a. Pakdi, Investor, Financial Planner and Trainer
2020 is the year for Malaysians to adopt fintech to manage our portfolios. Cheaper cost, better choices, and more opportunities. For a start, you may look at robo-advisors, peer-to-peer lending, and equity crowdfunding, (or maybe even Digital Asset (Cryptocurrency) Exchanges).
With starting capital as low as RM 100, now everyone can invest!
(mr-stingy’s note: For some of the above investment platforms, you can even get started with just RM 3)
4. Roshan Kanesan, Producer of BFM’s Ringgit & Sense Show
Start investing so you can tap into the power of compounding interest. Thanks to birth of ETFs, the last decade saw cheaper and more accessible investment platforms: like StashAway or MYTHEO. That said, whether you’re looking at pure ETFs or robo-advisors, with market valuations this high you might want to employ a dollar-cost averaging strategy.
To ensure you’re consistently investing, consider automating — so you don’t miss a deposit or “accidentally” use up your regular investment amount. (Pro Tip: Set it up so the money leaves your account right after your salary comes in.)
However if you’re not completely comfortable with that, consider increasing your monthly EPF contribution. Just keep in mind there’s less flexibility here and you generally won’t be able to touch the money until you’re 55 (which can be a plus if you don’t trust yourself to leave your investments alone).
5. Julian Ng, CEO and co-founder of Akru
Learning about what stocks to buy, which property is hot, what currency to speculate in, and trying to master general investing technicalities like a fund manager is so passé. The FIRE movement is on fire precisely because they don’t try to be fund managers. It’s all about getting the right mixture of assets on the one hand and how you can ramp up active employment/freelance income on the other. Ultimately it’s about how we can gain meaning and contentment from our experiences.
On that note, think about how non-financial factors can have financial impact. Learning to cook is going to put a lot more money back into your wallet and your happiness, because a great steak can be had at home for less than RM 20. Mindfulness and meditation help us not desire unnecessary stuff — which according to Seneca is the quickest route to wealth.
6. Stev Yong, Founder and CEO of MyPF
(MyPF is an award-winning financial education platform dedicated to help Malaysians simplify and grow their personal finances. And it all started from a blog by Stev back in 2013.)
Considering the unpredictable economic and political landscape globally, asset allocation is more important than ever. One cannot simply sit on the sidelines or try to time the next downturn/recession. This is because you’ll be missing out — paying opportunity cost — when you’re not investing idle Ringgit.
Asset allocation needs to be done between equities, bonds, property, cash/FD, and other asset classes. Diversify between asset classes, countries/markets, sectors/industries, individual holdings, and over time.
(mr-stingy’s note: You can read more about asset allocation in my simplified article here.)
7. Divvy, Founder of Dividend Magic
(Divvy is only 31 years old, but already has a six-figure stock portfolio worth more than RM 455,000. He writes about stocks, dividends, and was the first Malaysian I knew to openly share his stock market portfolio.)
The world’s financial markets are doing well right now. 2020 would be a good time to continue saving up while waiting for buy opportunities.
As always, long-term, fundamentally sound investing would be the way to go. No matter the assets you’re investing in, remember to always stay invested. And remember to keep a cool head when the markets start to get choppy.
8. Eza Ezamie, Co-Founder of Majalah Labur
(Eza is the co-founder and COO of Majalah Labur, the country’s premier Bahasa Malaysia website about investing.)
Everyone seems disappointed with the recent returns from the big boys: EPF, Tabung Haji, ASB and the rest.
But the question is: “Are you willing to learn the skills to earn more?”
Are you willing to lose some, in order to gain some?
There’s no use in membawang about others; it’s time you take full control of your own investments in 2020. And it all starts with knowledge: start reading those investment books, going to those investment seminars, and opening yourself up to the many kinds of investment vehicles that are available.
Just make sure you use “extra” money to invest that you can afford to “burn,” and not money allocated for your expenses.
9. Wong Wai Ken, Country Manager, StashAway
(Ken is the country manager for StashAway, the first licensed robo-advisor in Malaysia. Every time I sit down with him, I feel like I’m learning something new about the financial world.)
Year 2020 may be challenging for investors because of volatility from major events like the US presidential election and Brexit deadline. Recession fears are on everyone’s minds, despite markets hitting new highs. Should you remain invested or keep cash? Some thoughts:
- Cashing out too early and missing out on market gains before the drop is as bad as losing money during the bear market. Remember that bull markets don’t age, so it’s not a “sure thing” that after 10 years of a bull run, markets will go into bear market territory.
- You can still get modest gains during a recession: from bonds, REITs, gold, and defensive equities (e.g. consumer staples and healthcare).
- As bear markets last anywhere between 18-36 months, you’ll never know when the upswing would be, and you’d miss out on benefiting from the “V-shape” recovery.
And here’s how to have a portfolio that can withstand corrections:
- Diversification: research shows diversified portfolios lose less money in a bear market, which means they perform well long term. So don’t forget protective assets like bonds and gold.
- Dynamic: Your asset allocation has to change to suit the economic environment. When in a recession, change your allocation to be more protective. When the economy has recovered, switch your portfolio to growth assets. Holding on for dear life is not an investment strategy.
- Long-term focus: If you’ve set your sights on a long-term investment goal (e.g. retirement or kids education), stay disciplined if the quality of the underlying investment hasn’t changed — even if you experience mild losses.
Stay invested in the market, and don’t try to time your entry and exits in the short term.
10. Charles Tan, Founder of Kopiandproperty
(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…)
Waiting for the property bubble to burst in 2020? Forecasted GDP growth for Malaysia varies from 4.3% to 4.8%. So actually, no recession is expected.
However, property overhang (properties that have been completed, but remain unsold) is still high, thus market sentiment is not yet positive. If you’re looking to buy, negotiate for a better price with sellers. Developers are also giving their best offers for unsold units.
Remember that property investment is a long-term decision. Happy deciding.
11. David Mawer, General Manager of iProperty.com.my
(David is the general manager for iProperty, Malaysia’s #1 property portal. I’ve used iProperty for >10 years now, and thought it’d be cool to get a tip from them too.)
It’s easy to spend time researching your dream holiday or reviews about the newest place to eat… but if your new year’s plan is to buy a property in 2020 here are my top tips:
- Research before you buy. Read property content and blogs, research the area on iProperty for what’s available, sold prices, rental yields and capital growth of similar properties. Get active at property fairs, meet quality agents and developers to view some available properties — and you’re off to a good start.
- Don’t financially overextend, use digital tools like home loan eligibility calculators, to know your chances of getting a home loan.
- Think long term.
All the very best finding your dream property in 2020.
12. Suraya Zainudin, Founder of Ringgit Oh Ringgit
(Suraya’s Ringgit Oh Ringgit is the best personal finance blog in Malaysia today. Extremely relatable; great reading for both men and women.)
One of the best things I’ve done for myself is to stop being so self-sacrificing, especially when it comes to doing thankless, unnoticed, unpaid care work — either at home or in the workplace. You know the tasks: cleaning, planning, scheduling, stocking up, preparing for others. If refusing those tasks is not an option, I look for ways to outsource, automate, or at least create a system where we take turns instead.
Even though I still struggle with feelings of guilt (the indoctrination runs deep and early), the extra time not doing this work has allowed me to read more books, attend more workshops and networking events, and focus on my own projects. Which ultimately resulted in increased earnings and life satisfaction. Super worth it IMHO.
13. CJ Ong, Founder of Small Change
Don’t use money to make yourself feel good. “Retail Therapy” is an all too common outlet for us to relieve stress. When done in moderation, that’s fine. But if you’re chalking up debt to make yourself feel better, it’s a problem.
Combat emotional spending by applying the 48-hour rule. If you see something you like, don’t purchase it immediately. Give yourself 48 hours to think about it.
14. Dawn, Founder of SG Budget Babe
(Dawn writes about achieving a financially-free lifestyle (including family/kids topics now!) at SG Budget Babe. I really wish more women would deep dive into personal finance, so hopefully Dawn’s thoughts inspire you.)
There will be lots of uncertainty in the markets for 2020, given the current economic climate and US political issues that will have global impact. Hence, look out for opportunities in the stock market when the share prices for solid companies go down.
At the same time, focus on building up a side income-generating gig to make yourself recession-proof.
15. Suyin Ong, Founder of Suyin Invests
(Suyin hosts a YouTube channel about what people can do to build good relationships with money — so they’re free to lead great lives. She claims most of her viewers are guys, but I asked if she had any specific money tips for women.)
Focus on building great HABITS. Daily, consistent habits can unlock the many doors to the financial success we seek.
Wanna save more? Pay ourselves first. Wanna earn more? Actively seek new income streams and negotiate our salaries. Wanna grow wealth? Schedule 20 minutes daily to learn about an asset class. Good luck!
16. Anna Haotanto, Founder and Advisor of The New Savvy
(Anna is the founder and former CEO of The New Savvy, a financial, investments and career platform for women in Asia.)
My first money tip is to invest for the long term: for more than 10 years.
Secondly, I’m also investing in myself this year — to upgrade and learn new skills. And lastly, remember to build an emergency fund. (mr-stingy’s note: Aim for 3-6 months of monthly expenses in your emergency fund.) It’ll help you tide hard times over until you can start working or receive some form of income again.
for Young People
17. Farid Bahrudin, Guru to Young Graduates
(Farid Bahrudin regularly shares money and career tips for young graduates to >100,000 followers on Twitter. Follow him at his personal account here: @faridbahrudin)
1. On ASB (National Fatwa: Harus), If You’re a Bumiputera
When PNB declared the 5.5% income distribution and bonus for 2019, some investors panicked and wanted to withdraw all their money.
But ASB is a special kind of unit trust where the price doesn’t change: if you invest RM 100, your capital is preserved at RM 100. It doesn’t fluctuate, and 5.5% dividends are still good — especially since you bear (almost) zero chance of losing money. What other investment can give similar returns like ASB?
For investors using ASB financing, please understand what you’re doing.
2. On Unit Trusts and Robo-Advisors
Buying unit trusts using DIY platforms is much cheaper, but if you don’t know anything about unit trusts and which funds to buy, please engage with a licensed financial adviser to help.
If you’re too lazy though, consider automated investment platforms called robo-advisors. A few recently received approval to operate in Malaysia by the Securities Commission. Robo-advisors automatically invest in funds for you based on your personalized risk profile.
Technological advancements make investing easier. But only invest in things you understand. And using money you’re not going to immediately need!
18. Faiz Wahab, Licensed Financial Planner, Speaker, Writer
2020 will be a challenging year for investors. But it’s a good time for youngsters to start investing, especially when the (Malaysian) stock market is at the bottom. They have a lower entry point and less downside. Be ready when the market rebounds, you might just make a lot of money.
Investors should also seek for alternative investments — to have a well-diversified investment portfolio. However, if you don’t know how to handle your investment portfolio yourself, you may go for less-risky investments. Making less money is better than losing money. Another option is to seek help from a licensed financial planner.
19. Chin Yi Xuan, Founder of No Money Lah
(Yi Xuan is the young founder of No Money Lah, where he writes about adulthood issues openly — like money and happiness. He’s an economics graduate from Universiti Malaya, and currently a full-time trader and investor.)
Focus on building consistent financial habits, regardless of how insignificant they may look.
If you can only save RM 100/month, do it anyway.
Starting small and simple makes it easy to sustain a healthy financial habit. Little, consistent effort can lead to a massive impact on your mindset and long-term financial health.
20. Mohd. Kauthar Rozmal, Editor, Researcher, Writer
(Kauthar shares his unique perspectives about personal finance, investing and the economy for young Malaysians at @mohdkautharr.)
Young Malaysians should embrace technology in managing their personal finance and investments. Through fintech, investors can save a lot on fees. For example: unit trust investment through agents would cost you 5-6% fees, whereas on online platforms the fee ranges from 0.5-2% only.
Investors can also try robo-advisors such as StashAway and Wahed Invest, which are based on the latest technology.
Explore, save and invest more.
Bonus: the Malaysian Fintech Landscape
Vincent Fong, Chief Editor of FintechNews Malaysia
(FintechNews Malaysia covers insights on financial technology locally, and from all over the world. I asked Vincent if he had any tips for Malaysians to benefit from all the latest fintech developments here.)
Keep abreast with the latest news: from robo-advisors to digital token offerings, Malaysian regulators have been introducing new forms of investments nearly every year. Understand the nature of these new ways of investing, their risks, and how they fit into your overall portfolio.
All the best!
– – –
mr-stingy’s Closing Thoughts
One theme that really stood out this year is the recommendations on financial technology, especially in investing. If you haven’t used the latest apps and websites to help manage your money yet, please give them a try. Technology helps you save, budget, and invest well — but perhaps more importantly — frees up time for the things you love.
Apart from that, the feeling I get is similar to last year: the world’s financial markets have been doing well for long, but many are worried about instability and economic recessions.
We’re just a few weeks into the decade, but have already seen signs of war between USA-Iran, which threatens to destabilize the whole Middle East. Meanwhile, huge parts of Australia are being decimated by fire — likely accelerated by climate change. We’ve had a good 2010s, but our world is changing dramatically.
My hope is that everyone of us thinks long term, or at least starts looking beyond quick hacks. Forget about getting rich quickly, or unethical ways to make easy money. Focus on timeless principles — like saving, budgeting and long-term investing — which would have worked in 1920, as they will in 2020. Because when times get tough, quality endures. And opportunities arise for those who are ready.
Happy New Year and welcome to the Terrific Twenties. I wish you great success with money, and an even richer life beyond that.
– – –
Article contains affiliate links, meaning if you sign up for something I might get a small fee — but at no cost to you.