Covid-19 Taught Us Something About Money, But Are Malaysians Behaving Any Differently?
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Say what you want about 2020. Unprecedented. Different. Challenging. Yet, when it comes to the way Malaysians managed their money, the RinggitPlus Malaysian Financial Literacy Survey (RMFLS 2020) discovered that nothing much has changed. 

76% of Malaysians claimed that they are in control of their money (a slight increase from last year’s 69%). However, 46% (from last year’s 43%) of Malaysians also spend exactly what they earn or more, while 53% revealed that they would not be able to survive more than 3 months with their savings. The figures are more alarming among the youth (respondents under 35) as 60% of them admitted that they would not survive longer than 3 months.

“When the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced in March, we experienced a significant halt in our nation’s economy. It affected the income of many Malaysians who could not go to work, had to take pay cuts, or were even let go as companies were forced to downsize. For the past two years, we had hoped that our survey results would act as a wake-up call but it really was this tragic event in our lives that became the true test to our personal financial habits,” said Hann Liew, co-founder and executive director of RinggitPlus.

From the pandemic, 27% of Malaysians realised the importance of an emergency fund. The automatic loan moratorium also pointed to this sentiment as the Association of Banks Malaysia (ABM) reported that over 7.7 million borrowers took the loan moratorium. Meanwhile, 16% of the RMFLS respondents admitted that they are not prepared to resume their repayments. 

On a brighter note, the pandemic also caused a shift in their spending behaviours. 88% of Malaysians have stated to be consciously choosing contactless or cashless payment methods. In fact, 90% of the respondents say that they have e-wallets on their mobile devices. 

“We would like to thank our partners – Financial Education Network (FEN), Experian and Nanyang Siang Pau for their support and knowledge sharing to make our survey better. The results certainly have given us a more in-depth understanding of how Covid-19 has affected the nation. We hope that when our economy slowly recovers, Malaysians would take their finances more seriously so that we can all be more prepared in case the next rainy season ever comes,” Liew added.

The RMFLS is in support of the financial literacy efforts driven by FEN and the implementation of the National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2019 – 2023 (NS) to improve financial well-being of Malaysians. The NS aims to elevate financial literacy and promote responsible financial behaviour and rational attitudes towards financial management. “FEN is committed to work collaboratively with partners across the public and private sectors to achieve the NS’s inclusive and sustainable desired outcomes”, said FEN. In addition, the survey, which helps to assess Malaysians’ financial literacy and resilience during the pandemic, will further help RinggitPlus and its partners to better understand, develop and promote effective financial education initiatives to Malaysians.

This is RinggitPlus’ biggest survey since the inception of RMFLS in 2018, with 10,628 respondents nationwide – from which stratified sampling was conducted to achieve a more representative sample of the Malaysian population.

RMFLS 2020: Key Findings

  • Compared to last year, Malaysians haven’t changed their personal finance habits much.
  • 53% of respondents cannot survive more than 3 months with their savings, if they lose their job, showing no improvement since last year’s survey.
  • E-wallet adoption continues to grow. 90% of respondents share that they have e-wallets. A combination of government incentives as well as concern with physical cash handling in the time of Covid-19 are likely drivers of this behaviour. 
  • Malaysians are more receptive to online transactions. 39% of our respondents do more online transactions now. Covid-19 could be the catalyst for higher and faster adoption.
  • The automatic loan moratorium has had a positive impact on certain income groups during this trying time, as 14% of the respondents manage to save RM2,001 and above, compared to last year’s 9%. 
  • The moratorium also introduced Malaysians to new financial terms such as “loan moratorium”, “debt restructuring”, and “Rescheduling & Restructuring (R&R)”. 61% of respondents admitted that they do not know or are unsure of what R&R means. 
  • For the youth (below age 35) specifically, 64% of them do not know what R&R is. 
  • Majority of Malaysians (70%) continue to claim that EPF savings alone is not sufficient for retirement. However, 45% of them have yet to start planning for their retirement.

Click here to download the full RMFLS 2020 report.

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