A Young Malaysian’s Dilemma

A young Malaysian laments on the vicious cycle of survival young adults are caught in and the slim, dim chances of getting out to lead a life more meaningful.

The typical Malaysian student

The typical Malaysian student

Here’s a brief introduction to my (young) adult life. I went to university at the age of 18, right after my SPM. Dad scraped some cash to put me through foundation studies. I started my degree course at the age of 19. I then took a PTPTN loan and completed my degree at the age of 22. I got a job, moved up the ladder a couple of times, and here I am four years later.

Here I am, in debt.

I’ve been in debt since I was 19. So are most Malaysian teens who try to pursue their tertiary education upon leaving public school. I’m the average Malaysian youth from the average middle income family with average savings. I drive a second-hand national car with problematic automatic-windows which also increased my debt. I have an insurance policy that I pay monthly to ensure that I die in a warm bed in the event of any mishap; although it chips away at my savings account at the moment.

Now comes the interesting part. I plan to get married in a couple of years, so I obviously am going to need more cash. Then as the family grows, I need to buy a house to live in with my wife, kids and parents. Obviously I can’t find a decent home that’s cheap as most houses around the Klang Valley are priced in excess of RM350,000.

Assuming I manage to scrape RM50,000 from somewhere, I would still have to be gloriously chained to a bank with a debt of RM300,000 that would take 30 years to pay off while eating away half of my salary. Then of course I have to buy a brand new (and reputable) car as my current one will probably break down one day, which would easily set me back with another RM50,000 loan at the very least. Now add all that to my PTPTN loan – that is probably another thousand ringgit a month heading to the banks.

Where does this leave me? Dead broke – that’s where.

Lack of value

For a progressive and modern country, is this how our youths’ future will be? I’m sure many youths out there will find similarities to my situation here. I got into debt before I reached the age of 20, and it’s likely that I will be in credit until my 50s. What lingers in my mind is whether will I ever be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour and I spend my earnings on myself, rather than throw it all away to the banks?

The government may measure our success by the number of people being able to afford a home and how many of us actually own a vehicle, but did they include a “happiness quotient” in its statistics? I feel burdened of all this debt that I have to incur, and it seems like there isn’t a way out of this. I certainly am not happy nor do I feel that everything is a-okay.

Let’s look at things from the beginning. Many amongst us cannot get into public universities. Many of those who opt for private higher learning institutions have to borrow money from somewhere to get their education. You borrow money to study, and then work your bottom off to pay off the loan. If you don’t borrow, you can’t study, and your best bet for a job is at the city council, doing menial jobs. A vicious cycle.

What about housing and property? I earn twice the amount that my dad earned at my age, yet I cannot purchase my own property as he did 30 years ago. He bought a property with 11% bank repayment interest rate and I can’t buy one with even 4% repayment interest rate. Why? The property prices are inflated beyond comprehension. A good example (that I know of) is a property development in Klang along the KESAS highway. Upon launching early this year, it was priced at RM338,000. Last month it was RM374,000. At the time of writing this article, it’s RM389,000. I do not need anyone to lecture me about property valuation because I certainly don’t need statistics and technical jargons to try to justify the meteoric rise of property prices.

How many of us are free from debt? Forget about credit card debts or personal loans that people take to fulfill superficial materialistic wishes. I am talking about the basic needs in society: education, housing, healthcare and transport.

Is our nation so broken until a youth in his 20s has to be burdened by thought of how is he going to carefully plan his finances for the next 30 years? I agree that financial planning is an integral part of modern life, but to push it to this level where you are burdened by the simple idea of surviving in your homeland is absolute madness.

Life is meant to be lived. How many of us can claim that we work because we want to, not because we have to? Where is the quality in your life – if you have to spend ungodly hours at work, then braving the traffic jams, only to come home to work on your “side gig” to earn that little bit more to pay for the domestic help service that cleans your home while you and your partner are at work?

How many hours are we able to sit down and chat with loved ones without being distracted on matters that are supposed to be trivial?

The fact is, most of us are caught in this cycle. We sit down to think about this yet we seem so helpless. Scrap that. We are more prone to arguing about who gets to call god what and who gets to enter houses of worship. We prefer to picket about artistes’ “inappropriate dressing” and love to create badly photoshopped images of politicians. Our debates are on racial rights and how the press misquoted our words.

Naysayers will accuse me of not doing enough research and coming out with statistics and jargon. They will say that I should work hard to break free and attain my own freedom. God knows I do try as hard as I possibly can. And I don’t want to research on loan statistics and banking regulations as I speak from my heart. So too, do many Malaysians. For most of us, there is simply no time to look for answers because that time is needed to keep moving to stay afloat in life.

For us youths, we are just starting our lives. And boy, the burden is already feeling heavy.

LB: Kavilan Nakaswaram works with computers, has a penchant of looking at things from a different angle and believes that Bruce Wayne should be elected as PM of Malaysia. He has done his small share of blogging and usually puts out a point laden with sarcasm and humour . He currently blogs satire and parody at My Seed Stories and tweets nonsense as @kavilan

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Kavilan works with computers, has a penchant of looking at things from a different angle and believe that Malaysia should be ruled by Bruce Wayne. He has done his small share of blogging and usually puts out a point laden with sarcasm and humour . He currently blogs satire and parody at My Seed Stories (www.myseedstories.com) and tweets nonsense at @kavilan (http://www.twitter.com/kavilan)

Posted on 21 October 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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