Personal Finance: How Easy Is It To Shore Up RM50,000 in Savings In Malaysia?

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How long does it take for someone living in Malaysia to save up to RM50k in savings? 

With the rising cost of living, stagnant salaries, and recent events, I asked four people from four different walks of life how long they figure it’ll take for them to shore up RM50k in savings. 

Nate, a fresh Law grad: Indefinitely

Image via Unsplash

I am a 23-year-old paralegal working in a law firm and I get about RM2k a month. As a fresh grad in Klang Valley, I am severely underpaid.

I think RM2k is woefully inadequate for the work I do and the living costs in KL. A lot of my peers are still receiving parental help in one way or another, like monthly allowances or a place to live or a car to drive around.

 It helps that my job pays by the week so things move easier. Everyone at my job gets paid monthly and my pay comes up to about RM471.90 per week. 

If I was to be truly frugal to the point of eating oats for breakfast, budgeting to within RM10/day for lunch, and cooking dinner, I probably can break even.

Being paid weekly gives me less stress at the end of every month. If you’re smart you can stagger certain payments of bills to certain weeks. For example, I’ll pay rent in the first week (about RM500 with rent and utilities), week 2-3 pays for petrol/phone bill, and week 4 is saved up for rent on week 1. 

My financial planning has worked out pretty well so far. However, I would not have much in the way of entertainment, so there’s virtually no way for me to save anything. 

Therefore, at this stage, I have zero savings.

Even though I am barely scraping by, there’s a certain pride to it. I am standing on my own feet when everyone else my age is mostly still relying on their parents.

I’m not exactly sure if I’m going to continue in this career path for the long term. My short term goal is to pass my CLP and continue on for pupillage so I can be called to the Bar. 

I do see myself continuing in the industry for the next 3-5 years at least. That’s what I would say is a natural career progression. 

Alternatively, I may consider going for a master’s degree to improve my skills and then move into other fields such as HR.   

As for my life goals, I’d say I’m a person who is easily content. I always say half-jokingly that I would like to retire on a farm in Yorkshire or something, but I think that really sums up my life goals: to make enough money to be able to live comfortably without worry. 

To that end, I plan to invest once I earn a sufficient income. Home and car ownership don’t appeal to me as much, so I’ll likely get a car on a needs basis and put off ownership for as long as feasible to do so.

Mimi, a Disinfectant Consultant: 20 Years

I make RM3.5k a month as a consultant to a company that sells disinfectant products. 

Even though I am making RM3.5k a month, I still think it’s not enough. In my opinion, they do not pay me enough for the amount of work I do. I think in order to live comfortably, I’ll need about RM5k. 

My monthly expenses are quite high. My car loan, insurance, electricity bills, petrol, and food take up the biggest portion. 

When I was a fresh grad, my pay was RM3k. It was high because I was an engineer. However, in my opinion, as an engineer, RM2.8k would be too low.

With the fluctuation of the cost of living right now, I think a fresh grad’s salary should be about RM3k. Even though the market price right now is RM2.8k, not a lot of people are paid this amount. 

The salary for fresh grads should increase with time. It’s really too low. People are struggling to survive. With the economy rising, the number of fresh grads should rise as well. We can’t have the cost of living rising but not people’s salaries.

With my current earnings, minus all of my expenses, I’ll be able to save between RM100-RM200 per month. Although it’s not a lot, I’ll still have some money saved for a rainy day. If I save RM200 per month, I’ll need about 20 years to save up to RM50k.

Currently, I’m focusing more on upgrading my skills. I’m currently pursuing my masters degree in pharmaceutical engineering in China, but due to the pandemic, my studies have been greatly affected. I’m stuck in Malaysia and I have no choice but to extend my graduation. 

After graduation, I’m looking at an income range of about RM8k to RM10k. I intend to work in Malaysia after I’m done with my degree. I’m not interested in pursuing a PhD because I’ll be content with what I’m going to have once I have my master’s degree. 

Leelah, a Copywriter: 1 Year

In this current economy, having just one job is not enough to live a comfortable life in KL, especially if you’re not from here and have to depend on yourself fully.

I am currently a full-time copywriter and a freelance translator for two other translation groups. 

I make enough to support myself with just my freelancing gig but my parents said it would be easier for me to apply for loans with a full-time job. That’s why I applied for a fulltime job on top of my two freelancing gigs.

On average, my three jobs will get me around 6-7k a month. I might even get up to RM8k in a good month. Usually, I will use about 2k for my bills and expenses. The rest I will put into my savings so it will be around 3k-4k. If I’m disciplined enough, I’ll only need 1 year to save RM50k.

During the three months of MCO, I did not do any shopping at all except for necessities like food. In those three months, I managed to save up to RM10k. The only thing I bought during the period was a new phone and that was it. 

I do not have a car loan nor a house loan. I only have PTPTN loans and insurance. I am not from KL so I have to rent a house here. My rent is RM750 including utilities. 

I take the MRT to work and since there’s the MyRapid30 unlimited travel pass right now, I only spend RM30 for my commute monthly.

For lunch, I’ll either tapao zapfan (take away economy rice) or I’ll bring my leftovers from dinner the night before to work. I cook every day so I get to save on food. 

Basically, my monthly expenses are not that much. However, I am saying that from a place of privilege because of the amount of money I make monthly. Of course, I have to admit that sometimes I will still use some of the money in my savings to splurge a little but I will never spend all of my savings. 

The reason I am saving up so much and I need to do it quickly is because I intend to pursue a master’s degree in the United Kingdom. The jobs I have right now are for me to save up money. I don’t have a plan for my career for the moment yet as I’m focused on saving up for my studies. 

After I save up enough for my studies, I intend to keep both of my freelancing gigs to make up for the cost of living once I’m over there. However, with the pandemic going on, I won’t be able to go there and it gives me more time to save up for more money. 

Having a master’s degree and a PhD are my life goals. I will do anything I can to make them come true. It’s not easy having three jobs at the same time. I’ve been doing this for slightly more than a year and I’ve already broken down from stress once. 

I never have time for leisure and it’s always deadlines after deadlines every day of every single week of every single month. 

However, when I look at my bank account at the end of the day, it’s all worth it if it means I’m one step closer to my goals. 

Madam Chong: It took 40 Years

The cost of living and the economy is so much different in my time compared to right now. Young people now have it so hard. Everything is getting expensive but their salaries still remain the same. 

I have been working in the same company for 28 years. I went from a small administrator to the manager in those years. 

I am from Tawau, a small town in Sabah. The cost of living in East Malaysia is not as high as in West Malaysia, especially in a small town.

Back when I first started in this company, I got only about RM900 per month. 30 years ago, that pay was considered very high.

In comparison, when I started my very first job, in the 80s, my salary was only RM450. Then, in my second job, I got RM700 per month. Back then, there was no such thing as minimum wage. Some people even get RM300 to RM400 per month, but with the living cost back then, it would be enough to get by.

This amount won’t even be enough to pay rent right now, but back then, it was quite a lot. 

I was already married when I got into the company, so I lived with my husband and in-laws. I did not have to pay rent, my husband drove me to work, and I ate at home. The only thing I had to pay was the monthly utilities, but it was shared between my husband and me.

With my savings, I did buy a low-cost terrace house. The house loan was RM400+ per month for a house worth RM30k. Eventually, I sold the house for RM50k. With RM400 going to my house loans, I only had about RM500 so I didn’t really have much savings back then.

For my lunch at work, if I ate outside, it would be about RM3 to RM4 for a huge portion. However, most of the time, I would go home and eat because my house was near to my workplace. 

Living in a small town, you did not have much to spend on. We did not go shopping like the young people nowadays. So there were not a lot of expenses. 

With the standards back then, it’ll take me a very long time to save up to RM50k. If I even get to save RM100 a month, it’ll also take me more than 40 years to get that amount.

I’m already 54 this year and what’s next for me will be retirement. Hopefully in the next few years so I can enjoy my retirement life and have my children take care of me. 

After this pandemic, I want to travel and see the world. I’ve been working so hard for my entire life and I deserve a little treat.

In Conclusion

Having RM50k in savings depends on one’s salary, their monthly expenses, and their living arrangements. It can be agreed that fresh grads nowadays are not being paid enough to survive. 

The cost of living is getting higher and higher but salaries still remain the same. In order to survive, one might even need to get more than one job just to be able to live comfortably and without worries.

For more stories like this, read: On Facebook, Poverty, and Empathy — Why Life Is Not as Simple as a Carwash Story and I Was Broke and Divorced at 38. Here’s How I Survived.

Have a story you’d like to share with In Real Life Malaysia? Submit your story here.

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