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FAQs & Guides

Frequently Asked Questions and Guides to save, spend, invest and earn money in Malaysia. Youth-centric.

The Comprehensive Guide to Cost of Birth Control in Malaysia

Hello women and men who live alongside women. Today, let’s learn about the options and costs of birth control in Malaysia.

This guide is divided into the following sections: 

  • Section one: preventative (how to avoid getting pregnant), 
  • Section two: access to emergency contraception (where to get morning-after pill), and
  • Section three: how and where to get an abortion in Malaysia (I don’t want you to get to this stage but I’d rather you not die with DIY methods, so)
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[SPONSORED] Verify Touch ‘n Go eWallet & 3 More 5-Minute Security Hacks

Let’s be frank here – ewallet and digital security is not the sexiest of topic to talk about. Therefore, let’s appreciate Touch ‘n Go eWallet not caring to be ‘sexy’ and choosing to feature it anyway in their educational video series, Cashless Confidentials.

In this article, we have brainstormed and came up with 4 actions you can do in 5 minutes that will significantly reduce your risk of losing money from scammers and hackers. It’s fast – you can do everything during lunch break. If you’re busy now, bookmark this article so you can pull it out later.

Note: If you consider yourself a Millennial or Gen Z, what you’re about to read below might sound like common-sense digital security practices.

However, keep in mind that they can be completely alien to your parents and grandparents, who are more susceptible to digital-based scams. I need you to read this so YOU can help them navigate this topic okay.

#1 – Activate Touch ‘n Go eWallet Money-back Guarantee Policy

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Guide: How and Where to Invest in ETFs in Malaysia

Some questions I get with surprising regularity nowadays are (1) is ETFs a good investment, (2) is ETFs in Malaysia good, and (3) do I personally have investment in ETFs.

And the answer to that is, so far, (1) yes, (2) depends, and (3) not yet.

Let’s go deeper a bit into each of the questions.

Is ETFs a good investment?

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Pros & Cons List of 5 Popular Investments in Malaysia

In this article, I’m going to give you a condensed but concise pros/cons list of five of the most popular investments in Malaysia: fixed deposits, mutual funds/unit trust, stocks, gold and properties/land. I’m also going to give you the tried-and-tested strategies that work well with each type of investment.

Why these five? Simple – because the overwhelming majority of us will start our investing journey with one of them first.

Let’s get right into it.

#1 – Fixed Deposit

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[SPONSORED] The Beginners Guide to Warrants in Malaysia

On 27 April 2019, I attended my first warrants-specific talk.

The event was called Demystifying Structured Warrants, which is apt tbh. I’m a complete beginner in this financial instrument. I know almost nothing about it. 

This was my second engagement with the Kenanga Investment Bank, after writing about the Market Outlook Symposium 2019: Smart Investing or Dare Betting? investment event back in January 2019.

I’m happy to report I liked two out of two Kenanga-organised events so far. Good content. No fluff, just lots of good info. Then they gave free food some more.

Like the first article, this is a sponsored post, but all opinions are mine. It’s great that I can share what I learned about warrants from the event, as someone completely new to the world.

#1 – What is warrants?

This is the textbook definition:

warrants in malaysia

Does that make sense to you? I kinda sorta understand… ish. It’s a very theoretical financial instrument. I feel like I’m learning quantum physics.

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The Real Answer to ‘How Much Should I Spend On A Car?’

How much should I spend on a car? I’ve thought about this question many, many times.

The answer is simple: whatever is the amount, I should make sure that I can afford it. Like every other purchase.

But it’s also not that simple, because if it is, how come 1 out of 4 bankruptcies in Malaysia is due to car loans?

If you’ve been wondering how much you should spend on a car and avoid it being repossessed by the bank, here are some answers. Thanks to all contributions from the RoR audience!

#1 – How many % of monthly salary to go towards car payment?

How much should a person spend on a car, actually?

Some said 15% of monthly salary just for the car instalment:

Tasya OmarIdeally, the monthly loan repayment should not be more than 15% of the monthly income. Of course, not everyone gets RM5k as their first salary. If one is disciplined enough to put aside RM800 per month – RM500 for monthly loan repayment, RM300 for the upkeep/ spare parts and whatnot – I think that should be ok.

Some said no more than 1/3 of their pay:

Jonathan Goh – Not more than 1/3 of their pay or the monthly repayment. If people follow the principle of partitioning their monthly wages, they will have enough to cover the petrol and car maintenance.

Let’s say a guy who brings home RM3k after deducting EPF. His monthly car payment should be RM1k. Now if he is savvy he will get a Myvi with a monthly payment of RM800. He now can save RM200 for the car in case of emergencies/auto insurance

Some base it on annual income, too:


(Effectively 8.33% of monthly salary for car instalment, and no more than 15% of monthly salary for all car expenses)

Amirah Nazarudin – I followed that the car price can be equivalent to 36 months of your salary, at most. I heard this advice after attending a seminar 3-4 years ago. Couldn’t remember who it was.

But to me, a car is a liability. I’ll try not to spend so much on it. Having Proton is good enough. If I do want to splurge I’ll go for Toyota or Honda.

(Effivetively up to 25% of monthly salary for car instalment)

So… it looks like it’s common to spend between 8-33% of your monthly salary on car payments. That looks like an okay amount right? You still have 67-92% of your salary to play around with.

No, not really, because…

#2 – Car ownership costs much, much more than you think

Your car instalment may be as cheap as a few hundred ringgit per month, but you need to pay for a bunch of other stuff too. Depending on variables like your car model and frequency of usage, you have to at least double or triple the car instalment amount.

You need to pay for the road tax. The car insurance. The car service and maintenance and car washes. The petrol and tolls.

Additionally, and unfortunately, car ownership is a major contributor to unexpected expenses too. Throughout the duration of car ownership, many will have to shell out money for major repairs after getting into accidents, to replace batteries and alternators, to fix the aircon, to get new tyres, to settle unexpected summons, and more.

So not only you need more money than you think for car-related expenses, it is essential to have emergency savings.

This prompted this rule of thumb by a RoR audience:

Viknesh Victor SekaranMy rule of thumb is to only buy the car you want if you wouldn’t think twice about the cost of changing all 4 tyres. For example, Vios continental tyres would cost around RM1k+ to replace. You can get more familiar with tyre prices by Googling the tyre specifications

#3 – The lower the cost of car ownership, the better

So by now you know that if you have RM1000 extra in your monthly budget, you shouldn’t get a car with RM1000 monthly instalment. You should instead get a car that costs, say, half that amount, or even less. Because you’re going to need the other half for the other car-related expenses.

There are two ways to reduce the cost of car ownership:

(1) Get a basic car with minimal cosmetic add-ons

Andaq FithryI spend very minimal on the basic. No extra, no accessories, no mods. Extra is want, not need. At my age, I don’t want to spend money on strut bars, gt-wings or performance kits. Those are extras. I’d rather spend on other kinds of extras like flood insurance, windshield coverage, etc.

(2) Buy a secondhand car and pay it in full

This works really well if you have savings. By paying for a car upfront and in full, you’re eliminating 5-7 years worth of monthly car instalment payments.

It’s a popular strategy among personal finance bloggers, too. Here are some that I know:

You can also combine (1) and (2) – that would significantly lower the cost of car ownership for sure!

#4 – What if the dream car that you really, really want is out of your budget?

My dad is a car guy, and while I don’t understand his love for cars, I know that it’s something that makes him really happy. I like seeing him happy.

I think it’s okay to want your dream car. If you can’t afford it now, then the solution is two words: delay gratification.

These guys suggested saving up and making a huge down payment for the car:

Calvin Boey – (To get your dream car,) delay the purchase by a year or two, place the money aside and put a huge downpayment.

Samuel JinI think owning a car you will really like to drive is important regardless of the price because modern vehicles are depreciating asset anyway. Save up enough to pay more on the downpayment so that instalment won’t be huge burden afterwards.

While these guys suggested avoiding car ownership first:

Moses Francis – Personal take is, if single you no need a car. You can just rely on Grab and trains. I’ve sold my car and never been happier. I believe the relationship status matters too (with car ownership). Especially if a person is married – they might have some emergencies with kids and can’t rely on Grab or public transports.
Caleb WoonFor me, I used a simple calculation. If the total amount used for public transport and ride-hailing such as Grab is less than the cost of owning a brand new Perodua Axia (petrol, instalment and other fees), then I won’t get a car yet. 

Last words

You may think that a car purchase is a practical decision. But let’s not forget it is also an emotional decision.

You may have these thoughts yourself:

  • I am cool and edgy, so I should get that cool and edgy car so everyone knows it (me).
  • I need freedom and convenience. And the ability to go anywhere I want. (me).
  • I have a family. I don’t want people to think I can’t provide for them.
  • I need to impress my clients. A cheap car won’t cut it.
  • I am single. Need to show potential partners that I have money.

All of the above are valid points. The car you choose does reflect your personal identity. You do want your family to be as comfortable as possible while travelling. Some clients you’re hoping to conduct business with do care about wealth and status.

But all of them may also push you to buy a car that’s out of your budget. And cause your bankruptcy.

Instead of ending this article with ‘don’t buy a car that you can’t afford to pay’ tone, I want to ask you this instead: what car do you want and why do you want it? What exactly about it is appealing for you?

Let me know in the comments section. A little bit of soul-searching and self-awareness exercise will do you good 🙂

Selling Online in Malaysia: My Book Sold Well So Here’s A Case Study

In February 2019, I released my first book, Money Stories from Malaysians Volume 1 after almost a year of working on it.

It made RM9.5k within 2 weeks.

selling online in malaysia

… Actually, it made over RM10k. I received some generous donations as well. For example..

I know. I didn’t believe it at first. Just stared at that text for a long time, digesting what just happened. And that’s not the only donation I received too. Including this amount, I can safely say that I’ve recovered all upfront costs, and then some.

To show you my gratitude, I would like to break down the details and behind-the-scenes of selling online in Malaysia in this article. My product is a book but you can apply the knowledge to anything else. Hope it’ll be useful for you, for your own ecommerce shop (now or future).

#1 – Calculating cost price – Beyond the printing cost

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How to Avoid Islamic Inheritance Laws in Malaysia

There are many things I love about Islam. But the default faraid laws or Islamic inheritance laws is not one of it. Islamic inheritance laws stipulate that male relatives shall receive at least twice the amount of female relatives (of equal standing). The determinant factor is literally… genitals.

Islamic Inheritance Laws is Not Fairly Implemented and That Sucks

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DividendMagic Taught Me How to Read Financial Statements and Buy Stocks

If you’re into Malaysian stocks, you must have heard of Leigh from DividendMagic, the 28-year old financial blogger. Leigh’s investment of choice is dividend investing, and in his blog he freely (and anonymously) share the stocks he keeps (and sells) and how they perform over the years.

I told Leigh how stocks have always been intimidating for me, and asked if he could teach me how to read financial statements so I will know what information to look out for in that long-ass document. He said yes 🙂 With his permission, I’m sharing what I learned with you people too!

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Guide: How to Publish a Book in Malaysia (& Its Costs)

To keep our expectations clear, I’ll start off the article with this statement: most people don’t earn that much money from publishing books.

In fact, if your sole aim to write one is to make money from it, and you’re in a fairly tight financial situation, I’d recommend you to try other ways to make money from freelance writing. If you’re adamant, then your best bet is to pick and write about topics that tend to sell well in Malaysia, like religion, finance and self-help.

That being said, if you have always wanted to know how to publish a book in Malaysia, for personal or professional reasons – self-satisfaction, to establish yourself as a subject matter expert, to leave behind a legacy, to call yourself an author, etc – then it’s a worthwhile endeavour to take.

In this article, I will cover the processes involved in publishing a book in Malaysia (but not HOW to write a book – that one different story).

Step 0: Write the manuscript

For new, never-before-published writers, you will probably need to write that book first, or at least finish a few chapters. You probably won’t get anyone to agree to publish your book without something to show for it. ‘Hi I have a book idea in my head’ won’t work.

Sometimes, the publisher may be able to commit to publishing a non-fiction book without the manuscript. However, this privilege is only reserved for selected people, such as authors who have written commercially-successful books and authority figures with a large following.

I’ll go ahead and assume you have not been published before, but would like to. Let’s go on to the first actual step.

Step 1: Choosing the publisher (or not)

So you wrote your first draft, got it edited, collected feedback from beta readers, worked on it a bit more, re-edited it, and repeated this process again and again until you’re satisfied with your manuscript. Now you’re ready to publish it!

You have three options:

  • Option 1: Traditional publishing. Aside from the writing part, they will do everything for you – edit, format, proofread, print, distribute, do marketing*, you name it. In return, they will take a 90%** cut. That means if your book sells for RM29.90, you’ll get RM2.90 or 10% from each book.
  • Option 2: Half/Half publishing (also called Vanity publishing). You will be paying companies an upfront fee to turn your manuscript into a book. By the end of the arrangement, you will have your final-version book. You get 100% of the profits from the book sales, minus the upfront cost and whatever expenses you incur while selling it.
  • Option 3: Self-publishing. You do everything yourself, either DIY or outsource people to take over specific tasks (designing the book cover, for example). You get 100% of the profits from the book sales, minus the upfront cost and whatever expenses you incur while selling it.

IMPORTANT: Companies categorised under Option 2 (Half/half / Vanity publishing) frequently use the term ‘supported self-publishing’, ‘assisted self-publishing’ or ‘guided publishing’ to encourage writers into engaging their services, which makes things a tad confusing. The biggest difference between option 2 and option 3 is using a company vs doing it yourself.

*Note: You are expected to do some marketing on your end as well to boost book sales

**Note: All numbers are based on current book publishing trends in Malaysia. Specific publishers may use different figures or structures.

Each publishing option has its pros and cons. Let’s explore them.

Traditional publishing

Examples of traditional publishing companies: MPH, Gerakbudaya, Buku Fixi

Traditional publishing is great for:

  • Wide distribution – They tend to be big names, and have branches at many locations thus maximising reach for your books. Also, being ‘endorsed’ by these brands will greatly increase your credibility as an author
  • Least work – Your job is to write, and market the books afterwards. That’s it.
  • No upfront cost – All you need is brain power and writing tools

Traditional publishing is NOT great for:

  • Profit cut – You only get 10% of book sales
  • Customisation – The publisher usually get the final say on editing, design, book cover, and things like that
  • Some genre not accepted – To minimise the likelihood of low book sales (and therefore losses for the company), traditional publishers may not accept some types of content

Note: Always check the publisher’s page and check the submission requirements BEFORE you send off your manuscript. Make sure to give them the information they need, or chances are you won’t hear back from them.

Half/half / Vanity publishing

Examples of half/half / vanity publishing companies: NotionPress, The Inspiration Hub, Snappars Publishing, Argent by SilverFishBooks

Half/Half / vanity publishing is great for:

  • Outsourcing some work out – Depending on which package you select, they can help you sort out editing, formatting, cover design and printing (other services may be available). Example of packages with transparent pricing (Singapore).
  • Book and Ebook distribution – Some of them can help you place your books at bookstores, as well as help you turn your book into an ebook and list them at ebook-selling networks

Half/Half publishing is NOT great for:

  • Consistent quality – They may do a good job, they may not. The only way to find out is to find their past customers and ask for an honest review. Here are some things to note.
  • People without capital – You will need to pay a hefty sum upfront. Check out Anna’s cost comparison post below

Self-publishing

Self-publishing is great for:

  • Complete control – You get to choose what subjects to write about, how you want the final version to look like, who to hire (book printer, editor, etc) and more. You will also learn how to publish a book (or ebook, or both), from start to finish, during the process
  • Maximum profit – No one gets to take a cut of your profit without your consent

Self-publishing is NOT great for:

  • Those without marketing skills – Unless you just want to keep a stack of books in your house, the selling part is all up to you
  • Those who just want to write and not deal with the business side of book publishing – it takes a fair amount of organisational skills and discipline to do everything by yourself

Technically, you can create and publish a book with zero cost if you do everything yourself (minus printing costs, unless your work is purely digital).

There are plenty of online tools, guides and resources that can help you write, edit, proofread, design, format your book and more. You can also sell your work via free online selling platforms, including directly from your social media profiles.

However, you might want to invest some money to make your book look more professional and attractive to your target audience. Some to consider:

  • Book cover design
  • ISBN registration (How to apply for ISBN in Malaysia)
  • Professional editing and formatting
  • Illustrations
  • Marketing materials and tools
  • Website/landing page
  • And more

Notes on book printing:

  • As a rule of thumb, the more copies you print, the lower the cost-per-book
  • Custom (book size, shape and measurements, etc) might incur higher charges
  • Keep the colours minimal for reduced printing costs

Which publishing option to pick?

Which option(s) are the best? Up to you. If all you want to do is write, pick traditional publishing. If you want to test your business and marketing skills, try the other options.

You may also do a bit of mix and match. For example, you may go with traditional publishing for the physical book, but self-publishing for the ebook version. There are ebook distributor platforms in Malaysia where you can submit and list your ebooks for sale.

E-Sentral, the largest of such platform takes a 50% cut from each ebook sold. You can also choose to list your ebooks in your own platforms (websites, etc), or platforms like Smashwords, Amazon Publishing (35-70% cut, depending on pricing) and Google Play (50% cut). Related:

Step 2: Reading the contract

If you go with the traditional publishing or half/half / vanity publishing route, you will probably need to sign a contract.

Make sure to read and understand what you’re signing. Some may include clauses that prohibit you from selling on other platforms. Some limits your rights to your own work. Some are time-bound. Get a lawyer friend to help you decipher the document if you must.

When you’re happy with what you’re getting into, go ahead and sign that contract 🙂

Step 3: Do the work, if any

Depending on what’s required of you, work with whoever you need to work with and do what you need to do to get your manuscript finalised into the final product, a book.

Step 4: Market the book and collect royalty/sales

By this stage, your book is out! Congratulations!

From here onwards is the fun part 🙂 The company(ies) you enlist with might have payment schedules, and all you have to do is to wait for the money to come in. Obviously, with some marketing effort on your end to encourage demand for your book, you can ensure continuous sales and maybe even re-prints (for physical books).

If you choose to sell your books yourself without the help of a book distributor, then marketing and sales are more important than ever. Don’t forget to factor in expenses in your book prices, or you might be selling your books at cost price or even worse, make a loss!

What’s next after this step? Write another book and do it all over again!

Acknowledgements

I know nothing about how to publish a book in Malaysia if not for the kind contributions of our local writers and members of the Malaysian Writers’ Society. My sincerest thanks to Gina Yap Lai Yoong and Anna Tan (click the names to see their writing portfolio).

Published writers, I need your input here to make this article even better. Please comment tips you know about publishing a book in Malaysia. What worked for you? What didn’t? What could’ve been better? Let us know!

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