Lim Guan Eng said today that a recent study by Agensi Kaunseling Dan Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK) found that 28 percent of working adults needed to borrow money to buy essential goods.
The finance minister added that the report showed that 18 percent of working adults have been unable to make any savings in the last six months.
"This is a worrying trend that must be addressed in this Malaysia Baru spirit.
"Statistics provided by AKPK also showed that the number of financial counselling cases provided by the agencies to Malaysians was highest in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru.
"This is attributed to the high cost of living in these main cities," he said at the launch of The Marketplace Fair in Penang.
The AKPK report also states that in most cases, individuals seeking counselling are mostly those who have been heavily saddled with credit card debt.
Lim also highlighted the lack of financial literacy among many Malaysians, pointing to the number of those defrauded of their savings.
Telecommunication fraud cases alone amounting to RM162 million, he said, adding that 8,313 cases of fraud were reported last year.
"It is alarming and a cause for concern that some Malaysians are still lacking in financial literacy and fall prey to these frauds and scams.
"The enormous amount involved also points to a lot of lost opportunities to invest wisely or accumulate wealth," he said.
"Given the alarming red flags, it is therefore crucial that we as a nation step up our financial literacy and increase our efforts to learn smart ways to manage our finances.
"We need to particularly invest in a regulated environment, instead of falling victim to get-rich-quick schemes or fraudulent companies and investment scams."
Among others, Bursa Malaysia Bhd chief executive officer Tajuddin Atan, and chief commercial officer Selvarany Rasiah were present at the event held at the Spice Convention Center in Bayan Baru.