It’s NORMAL to Feel Like You’re Financially Behind in Life

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Can I tell you a secret? (Almost) everyone you know feels like they’re financially behind in life.

At best, they are making peace with living the life they have to, not want to (I belong in this category). At worst, they are taking on loans and debt to live beyond their means.

And the reason for that is the average person now is exposed to ‘I have it all’ lifestyle, and expects to achieve THAT for their own life. And if they don’t (by a certain age too), they feel like a failure.

But you forget that those people with the ‘I have it all’ lifestyle are:

  • Already well into their late 30, 40s, 50s and already established their lives (surprise – people with money can buy products and services that make them look younger)
  • Part of the T0.1 (aka hit the birth lottery)
  • Faking it
  • Simply have sources of funds/incomes that they didn’t disclose (like still living with parents, or get allowances from them)

Why *do* you feel like you’re financially behind in life?

We could talk about how many Malaysians are underpaid. It is true that according to the Salaries & Wages Statistics by Department of Statistics Malaysia:

  • The median salary for Malaysians in 2021 was just RM2,250
  • Skilled workers earn the most median salary at RM4,471, while low-skilled workers earn the least median salary at RM1,601

However, that is only one part of the story. Unless you don’t have a lot of ‘wants’ in life, even earning RM10-20k a month is not enough.

Rationally, you know and I know that RM10k-20k a month is a lot of money. But…

Most people want a LOT of things

Think about it. If you are in your 20s-30s, here are some things that you probably want to achieve, all at the same time:

  • Buy a house (need 10% of downpayment), or
  • Rent a place (need a few months’ deposit)
  • Buy a car (even the most basic Myvi will cost at least ~RM1-RM1.5k a month after add all the petrol, insurance etc costs)
  • Get married (most people spend 5 figures on their wedding, some people even 6-figures)
  • Have child(ren) (minimum additional RM1k-2k per child per month, excluding big ticket items)
  • Travel (a few countries)
  • Indulge in your hobbies
  • Eat delicious food at nice restaurants
  • Pay off your education loan
  • Achieve 6-12 months’ worth of savings
  • Buy your favourite gadgets (at least phone and laptop)
  • Decorate/renovate your place to your liking
  • Help out family members
  • Develop strong circle of friends
  • Work on your mental and/or physical health
  • Achieve the perfect skin/body physique
  • Invest in a corrective/enhancement treatment (braces, glasses, etc)
  • Dig yourself out of a financial mistake

You can see that even ONE of those is expensive, right?

And you expect to hit them all by your mid-20s?? When you have just started working for a few years?

Sure, you can do some of them frugally, and maybe some doesn’t apply to you, but I bet you want at least 5 things on that list for yourself.

And maybe some of you are like, no Suraya, I don’t want any of those. Ok fine.

But as mentioned in my Actually, The Simple Life is Still Expensive AF article, even the simplest of life that someone dreams of – a life that is safe for you and family, with adequate protection and can afford you preventative care/gadgets – is already expensive for the average person.

Ok, so the life you want is expensive. Now what?

Keep calm and continue on

When I tweeted this out, I saw so many comments from people who feel validated. Some are in their 20s and felt like they have already failed.

My loves, you didn’t fail. If anything, you JUST started.

Keep continuing to do one good financial habit after another. Eventually, with enough effort and a little bit of luck, you’ll start seeing the fruits of your labour.

You’ll notice your savings and investment accounts will start growing.

You’ll notice you no longer worry when buying groceries or paying for minor emergencies.

You’ll notice you might even enjoy living the simple life, as you gain maturity and shift your life’s priorities.

If there is anything I want you to take away from this article, it is this: life is expensive, sure, but you can still be happy. There are ways to buy happiness even at low income level. You don’t have to wait until you’re rich to ‘have it all’ (what does that mean anyway) to be happy.

I hope this article helps, or at least makes you feel less disappointed in your current progress in life, if you are. I hope you realise everyone is faking it until they make it.

Again, chill and continue on. Others have their path, you have yours. You got this.

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  1. Hi. Maybe you won’t read this, but I have this looming curiosity on how will Malaysia fare in 2023. Yes, the Finance Minister has appeared multiple times on numerous platforms assuring everyone that everything is under control, but seeing the economic giants abroad are having problems of their own (latest is the UK), I am pretty sure Malaysia will be heavily impacted as well.

    Recent price increase of groceries doesn’t necessarily instil any confidence towards the promises made by the Finance Minister that everything will be alright. I believe it’s merely to avoid any panic from the masses because if there is panic, public spending will be significantly reduced, slowing the economy even more. To add further uncertainty – the general election that will be held soon would mean that policies will be changing before, during and after the election and that will deter foreign investors from Malaysia.

    So, what I want to ask is do you think Malaysia will be okay next year and if you think it won’t, what will you be doing to face the upcoming recession?

    1. Hi concerned citizen,

      Of course I read the comments 🙂

      I sense a lot of anxiety over the uncertain future here. There’s not much I can comment on the macroeconomics and govt policies and trade (‘vote wisely’ is oversimplified, yet true), but I can say from personal side, all basic personal finance principles apply – make more than you spend, spend less than you earn, invest for long term.

      Personally, I am improving my skillsets to earn better income, while adjusting my lifestyle. I plan in advance so I can pay for whatever expensive I have to pay for.

      I do want to address the anxiety part. Recessions will come… and go. In fact, expect a few in our lifetime. It can mean life can be a bit harder, but not necessarily, and one can still experience joy in every situation. Keep up your efforts and it’ll be fine, you’ll see.

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