LETTER | According to the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) study on 'money and mental well-being', during the pandemic the most vulnerable group that suffered the highest stress were those with the least amount of savings.
As the economy begins to recover, it is a good time for Malaysians to re-look at their finance and learn from their experiences to strengthen their financial footing post-pandemic.
Whether we had enough money for essentials or struggled to make ends meet, Covid-19 has undoubtedly changed the way many Malaysians earned, spent and saved their money.
Many important lessons were learnt during the pandemic.
So that this crisis does not go to waste, we need to learn from our experiences and incorporate new positive habits into our daily lives and not return to old bad habits.
For example, during the Covid-19 crisis, many adults limited their grocery trips, selected outlets where items were more affordable, selected products that were low priced, and were more cautious of their spending. Many eliminated impulse spending.
One habit that consumers can adopt is to continue to be more prudent in their expenditures.
In this regard, one of the worst spending habits that consumers developed during the pandemic was clicking and buying stuff online.
The convenience, the choices and the pricing made this habit too attractive. You push one button and the items end up on your doorstep a few days later.
Thus, there is a need to be more cautious and mindful in making online purchases.
Before you push the button, always ask yourself: Do you really need it? If buying becomes addictive, you might even want to consider removing the shopping apps from your phone.
A critical lesson that we learnt was the importance of an emergency saving fund. As indicated in the AKPK study, the group that faced the highest stress were those with the lowest savings.
Although each consumer may be facing different and challenging circumstances and thus may have different capacities to save, the most important thing is to save something and to save consistently.
List of debts
For now, consumers are fully aware that not having enough savings during this crisis would have had a devastating negative impact on their families.
Another key lesson from the pandemic is that we need to control our debts. During the pandemic, there were some moratoriums that enabled consumers to delay their bank payments.
However, getting debt under control should be one of the first things that we should focus on as life returns to normal.
Every consumer should list out all the debts including the total amount owed, the interest rate and the minimum payments and choose a payment method that best motivates them.
You should also re-look at your budget. During the pandemic, many consumers may not have the budget to buy or pay for essentials. Now is the time to re-evaluate your budget and put your goals back to work.
You might even add new short- and long-term goals. The focus is to keep a sharp eye on your savings, expenditure, and debts.
An important area of budgeting would be putting money aside or taking medical insurance to address your healthcare needs.
It is also a good time to re-visit your retirement savings. Many consumers rely solely on their EPF accounts.
Clearly, for many, the savings are not sufficient and one has to look at other options to ensure that there are enough savings to live a quality and dignified life after retirement.
We should not return to our old bad habits but incorporate positive financial conduct into our daily lives.
PAUL SELVA RAJ is the secretary-general of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca).
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.