Financial Advice for Fresh Graduates in Malaysia
First lesson in ADULTING.
If you’re about to graduate or have recently graduated, first of all – congratulations! Learning never really stops, but with that Diploma/Degree/Masters/PhD in hand, you are now academically qualified with a certification that will help you kick-start your career. But what does it take to be an adult? Is it paying that first rent without the help of your parents? Commuting to work every day and managing your own career? Making decisions without seeking the counsel of your closest elders first?
The truth is, there’s no single lesson you can learn or single moment at which you’ve officially become an adult. It’s through experience, added up, that leads you to more accountable maturity — and this can happen at any age. One of the first things everyone has to do as they begin adulting is plotting out a money plan. This is also one of the most dreaded tasks, but it doesn’t have to be. If hearing the word “budget” gets you about as excited as the idea of poking your eye out, consider this:
So here are some hot tips to start building a healthy financial life.
Build your emergency fund.
In your first year of full-time employment, you may be tempted to spend all your hard-earned money, but start the habit of saving early. Pay yourself first by automatically putting aside a portion of your income towards your savings. Save enough to create a three-month financial buffer and grow that into a six-month financial buffer in your second year of employment.
The emergency fund prepares you for any financial setbacks or unforeseen circumstances that may require you to spend a little more than usual – such as a dental operation or bust tires for instance.
One of the best ways to do this is by continuing to live your student lifestyle for as long as you can. If you live at home, continue doing so to avoid having to pay for rent. Keep a lookout for cheap eats and bargains, and live within your means. Don’t get into debt! Hopefully, you will grow addicted to how quickly your emergency savings fund is growing and will continue to save money!
Did you know that when a financial setback occurs, only 18% of Malaysians have enough savings to survive three months while only 6% of Malaysians can survive six months! A setback that might cost only RM1,000 creates difficulties for 75% of Malaysians, and that’s a segment you do not want to be a part of. Start saving and be a part of the 6% that is prepared with a six-month financial buffer.
Understand the concept of lifestyle inflation and resist it.
This means you don’t try to compete with your friends or keep up with the Joneses. Don’t try to live where your friends are living, where they are flying to, what cars they are driving, or what they are eating and dining. This is one of the surest ways to deplete your bank account and it is not going to make you happy in the future.
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Buy a second-hand car (only if you must)
A brand-new car depreciates as soon as you drive it out of the showroom. and it is also a huge expense to take on as soon as you graduate. That money could be better spent or to save in other ways. If you must buy a car however, a second-hand car is a more practical choice; you will pay a lower down payment for a used car and a lower loan amount – which means lower monthly repayments to your car loan.
Pay off any debt as quickly as possible.
Debt is toxic for fresh graduates as you’re just starting out in your career. This is because any money that you intend to save is worthless for as long as you still have debts that charge a higher interest than your saving accounts. The only exception would be debts that have less than 1% annual interest.
Apply for a credit card and start building your credit score.
To keep an excellent credit score, you need to ensure you pay off your credit card bill in full every month. Do not accumulate outstanding debt so be sure to monitor and track your credit card spending to ensure that you are able to pay it off in full. Do not use it as a financial tool to pay for items that you cannot afford to repay in full! Refer to CTOS to keep track of your credit score regularly and track improvements to your score.
Practice lifelong learning.
Do you hate your job after the first two weeks? Give it time and don’t give up too quickly. Show perseverance and give it at least six months. The knowledge you will gain from your peers and mentors coupled with on-the-job experience will help you are you develop your skills throughout your career. Practice the art of active listening, because when you listen you have the opportunity to learn new things.
“Spend what is left after saving, instead of saving what is left after spending,” – Warren Buffet
While many preach about setting up a budget, and we have as well in many of our articles, we know that most times we don’t actually do it. So instead, remember that nugget of advice from Warren Buffet. Consider saving as spending money on your future self. Surely, your future self is a worthwhile cause?
Also important: Don’t forget to live a little!
As a student, you will have plenty of free time but little money. When you begin working, you will have plenty of money (ideally) but very little free time – at least until retirement. Don’t forget to live a little and spend some of your money on a great experience between the time you graduate and the time you land your first job.