How much should you earn to be considered ‘financially OK’

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I talk to my Dad sometimes about financial stuff. For fun, I asked what amount people my age should be earning to be considered ‘doing financially well’.  In short,  what figure is a ‘good income’.

He said RM10-15k a month for single people, and people who have families need more.


I nodded to look cool but inside I’m like,  “wtf Dad got meh people pay that much nowadays??” followed by internal screaming and slight pangs of depression over my actual income right now. For the record, I’m earning ok as a freelance writer. I’m just not pulling 5 figures (yet!)

To him, this is not even a luxury lifestyle, just a normal life without stressing over money. And maybe a trip or two a year. And covered in insurance. You know, a comfortable amount.

At first I was annoyed by my Dad’s figure,  but then I started calculating my ideal income amount per month. For me,  it would probably be…  RM20k a month? If I earn more than that I won’t know what to do with it tbh.


  • RM2.5k for accommodation (includes bills, the fastest internet,  insurance, damn nice mattress, occasional cleaning service, fixes if something ever goes wrong etc),
  • RM5k for monthly savings,
  • RM3k to add to a car fund (I like the idea of paying my car in full, no interest),
  • RM2k towards travel fund,
  • RM1k to be fully protected with insurance,
  • RM3k for parents,
  • RM1.5k to just donate or give as presents,
  • RM1k for food and going out,
  • and another RM1k for just whatever else I need (toothpaste and stuff).

See? RM20k already.

But I’m also comfortable at what I’m earning now,  so idk, it’s very hard to say. I’m grateful with my income but at the same time a part of me is like, dammit Suraya why are you not earning more?? It’s a very dangerous thought.

How much do you guys think a mid-20s professional in Kuala Lumpur should be earning? Note that I say ‘should be earning’,  not is actually earning. All of us wants to earn as much as possible, but if you have to give a number to that,  what would it be?

I’d love to hear your own amount, and your breakdown. Comment here, on FB,  or on Twitter okay!

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  1. Get your Dad to give you some advice on how to attain that income.
    …what dads are for!

    Then work on it, try new things, think outside the box.

    1. With that “confortable” RM20k a month salary, I can assure you that you will not be able to close your eyes even for a second to rest.

  2. Your dad have very high standard of living! For me, RM6,000 is enough to live comfortably with free housing. Breakdown – 1k transportation, 1.5k food, 1.5k fun money, 1k savings, 1k for everything else. Of course, I don’t fancy branded bags. I guess one should earn at least RM10,000 if they do.

    1. Is it? Well he raised 5 children, so I understand where he’s coming from. I appreciated his input – I’m too comfortable in my income bracket now and I need to hustle more for my future!

  3. Hi Suraya

    Just stumbled across your blog recently and I’m someone in my late 20s and my ideal income at this point in time would be about 15-18k. I earn half that almost and whilst it is a very good wage for someone my wage and given that I technically work only 30 hours a week (I spend 10-20 hours a week at home preparing for my week), KL is such an expensive city (definitely need a car/insurance/filial money/eating out), basic necessities is taking up most of my wage as is, and seeing how cheap it is to travel these days dont help either ! Love your blog by the way! Keep up the good work.

    1. Hey Doz,

      I know what you mean. People think that RM5k and above is a good salary, but if you think of all the necessities it’s barely enough! You have a good number to aim for. Mine is RM10k/month now. At first it was daunting but now that I got used to the idea I can never go back to RM3-4k salary!

      Thanks for the compliments, too!!

  4. Omg, this is crazy! I don’t know how people live in KL. Personally, I’d love to, but it’s so expensive! I live in Penang (at home, of course, jimat a bit), and my ideal income would be bout RM 10k. I earn half of that atm, but I’m finding that it’s a very comfortable life, as long as I don’t have to move out of my family home (deal with that later).

    Current reakdown: RM 500 for parents (ideally RM 1k when I earn more), RM 800 for food, RM 200 oil/gas, RM 500 miscellaneous, and everything else for savings.

    1. It’s expensive but there are ways to save 🙂 I lived in the heart of KL with just RM3500 salary last time. Stressful but can la.

      I like your breakdown, shows how much you value good food 😛 Me too haha

      1. My parents are currently earning RM60k per month (9-5 job). Still struggling as they want the best education for me and my siblings. *sigh*

  5. I do follow yr blog for a few years while searching about PRS, which i have yet to set up.

    My current target before 30 years is to earn RM10k/ month. I manage to make 50% from raw salary, but with OT i can make another 15%. I try to save almost 50% salary every month.

    I have some investment returns but those are not much currently. I think a good way is to drive for Uber/Grab on weekends. My friend tells me he makes around RM1k profit from driving casually. I have to try this soon. Another way is to start selling things on Lazada or Carousel, but i dont know what to sell yet.

  6. Lets calculate it the corporate way. Assumption you start work at 22 y/old which i think is average age for a degree holder in Malaysia, you get one promotion every 2 years (whether in the same company or you jump jobs to get a pay hike- which i personally think is a achievement if you work for big FMCG/Corporates in KL (Think Nestle, L’Oreal etc), and those years you did not get a promotion, you get 5-6% increment to adjust inflation.

    Assumption the best case scenario, you work for a big corporate and your starting pay is RM 3,500 (would be maybe 2.5-3k if you work for smaller firms).

    Year 1 – 22/y old – RM 3,500 Executive
    Year 2 – 23/y old (+6%) – RM 3,710 Executive
    Year 3 – 24 y/old (+20% promotion) – RM 4,452 Senior Executive
    Year 4 – 25 y/old (+6%) – RM 4,719 Senior Executive
    Year 5 26 y/old (+20%) – RM 5,663 Asistant Manager
    Year 6 – 27 y/old (+6%) – RM 6,003 AM
    Year 7 – 28 y/old (+20%) – RM 7,203 Manager
    Year 8 – 29 y/old (+6%) – RM 7,635 Manager
    Year 9 – 30 y/old (+20%) – RM 9,163 Senior Manager
    Year 10 – 31 y/old (+6%) – RM 9,712 Senior Manager
    Year 11 – 32 y/old (+20%) – RM 11,655 Group/Regional Manager

    If you follow the normal route, you can only hit 5 figures after 10 years (and that is with the best case assumption you get 6% yearly increment year on year for years you dont promote, you promote once every 2 years which is rare and you get 20% raise per promotion, which is also hard to get. With that, congragulations you can earn your first 5 digits after 10 years of working if you choose the corporate route.

    Which is a key reason i quit corporate and join a newly formed company. I worked hard, and this is only my 4th year of working, and my base is RM 7,500, with allowances of RM 900, and with commision, able to hit up to 14,000 per month. Thus, general advice is take the road less taken, take the risk and you will be rewarded well. Other way is of course start your own business, but if you dont have enough capital or connections, find a start up, show the owner you can find money for him/her, and surely you will be rewarded 🙂

    1. Hey AC,

      Thanks for your comments. The salary projections – that’s what tends to happen if you stay in the same company, isn’t it? Job-hopping to better-paying jobs is a better strategy, it seems. Certainly worked for you. It doesn’t pay to be loyal nowadays!

    2. 1.RM2.5k for accommodation (includes bills, the fastest internet, insurance, damn nice mattress, occasional cleaning service, fixes if something ever goes wrong etc),

      I would say 1.6k for basic living expenses in a city. Live frugally. Clean your own abode, cheap mattresses is okay.

      2. RM5k for monthly savings

      200 to 800 the most for most Malaysians. 5k is a pipe dream

      3. RM3k to add to a car fund (I like the idea of paying my car in full, no interest),

      Just get a car loan with interest at 2.4%. That 3k better to invest at 4% to 7% per annum. Plus don’t need to buy such an expensive car. The most 250myr to maintain a car loan and additional 50 per month for car repair services. Total 300.

      4. RM2k towards travel fund,

      Not a basic necessity. Can do without it until you get a stable job/higher pay.

      5)RM1k to be fully protected with insurance,

      Get a medical insurance for myr 250 to get that tax relief. Skip life insurance. Your life ain’t much to cover (insurance agents can use scare tactics to get you to sign up)

      6)RM3k for parents

      Most acceptable range is within your savings too.

      7)RM1.5k to just donate or give as presents

      Skip this. It’s a waste. Pure friendship don’t need money to maintain it. You can walk in a park with a friend to have a good time.

      8)RM1k for food and going out,
      RM1k for just whatever else I need (toothpaste and stuff).

      Tied into living expenses up in top

      Total 2.5k to 3.5k. The problem is people don’t live within their means.

  7. I am already 30 and earning 5k per month only, working in a company that i am not able to leave (family business). I was once thinking that by the age of 30 i could probably earn about 10k per month but this is not the case. I started to found out that all my friends are getting high paid while i am still the same even holding a high position in the company as Senior Manager but with low salary that i can’t even argue for. ( I work for my father in law) Live is not easy, with the experiences and lot of professional certs that i am holding now, i could easily find a job that could pay me 10k per month. Economy is sinking down and we own lot of money from the suppliers and contractors, I am so depressed as well to my family members. My entire dreams car, dream house is just a dream. A dream that started to left me far far away. Goodbye my dreams and I have to suffer in the reality again.

    1. Thanks for your honesty Alfonso. Family business is so tricky. Hang in there buddy.

      By the way. Just want you to know. You’re not obligated to stay. You can be selfish and find better opportunities for yourself.

      Yeah, I know, easy to talk, hard to implement. But at the end of the day, it’s your life. Don’t regret your life.

    2. To be honest, your situation is much better than me.

      I’m 40. About to lose my job due to restructure. Guess how much i earn?

      3K. And that’s before EPF and PCB deductions, so i actually bring home less. So you can expect my savings is also not ‘there’ since i only earn this much, and expenses are high even when i live a minimalist life on Penang. I can probably expect someone going to jump out and lecture how i’m a failure in life. (3K at 40? FAIL)

      If there’s one, and only one, thing i can advice you to do, do this: Be frank, and talk to your father in law. Don’t have to be loud, rude or even demanding. Be honest, tell him how you feel, and how you would like things to be changed.

      I did the mistake of not ‘man up’ to ask for pay raise in my 20+ years on working in the same company. So don’t repeat my mistake.

      Who knows, your father in law might be secretly waiting all this time for you to show him how much of a man you can be – after all, you married his daughter.

  8. I am currently 25 years old, graduated about 2.5 years ago and took about 5 months break and started working. 2016 annual income was about 25k, 2017 RM 88k and for 2018 about average monthly income 13k ( commission based).

    If I were to compare my peers, people would say you are doing so good considering your age.
    At first I am proud of myself but reality hits me hard then I realise its actually not enough. I think the main reason I put a high expectations partly because I compare to my dad and some of successful people that I am expose. Also thinking about future starting a family, houses, commitments etc. EXPENSES AND INFLATIONS ARE REAL. With my current job I may hit 20k monthly by next year if everything goes well but after that I think it will be stagnant considering I am employed. For me to go even further I need to start my own business as also advised by my dad but I have the fear hence I am just saving as much as I can, splurge once a while and putting some into investment .

    Should I be start worrying about this ? Is this quarter life crisis? there are too many uncertainties. I feel I need to grow but my current job good pay happy repetitive basically comfortable . I am still bachelor and I could take a leap of faith run wild but I fear I may not get the previous stable income.

    1. Hey Gen Y,

      You’re thinking either-or: either work or run a business. You can do both, you know.

      What business do you want to do? Start carving time into your schedule to work on it.

  9. hi sis Suraya, thank you for your article. And I love to read the comments on people’s expectation for their “ideal and comfortable life” and their expenses breakdown. Living in the heart of KL as a fresh grad earning less than RM2k per month, it is not an easy job. But over the time, I learnt to prioritise what comes first and live the rest of the month hanging on to the dear money. It is scary, I told you.

    just wanted to share my breakdown of my priorities with the salary of RM1.8k+/- :
    – rental (RM300)
    – savings (Rm250)
    – pet cats (RM150)
    – siblings (RM200)
    – contingency fund (RM300)
    – food + daily spending (balance ~RM600)


  10. I was digging up my old FD certificates to be digitalized tomorrow and had a “what am i doing with my life moment” and started randomly googling about savings. ANd here i am 2-3 years late to your blog post in a pandemic.

    Just want to give some input on the government sector since ive not seen it yet.
    I’m a doctor currently in gov service. Employed since 2012. Currently training to be specialist (no extra $ there).

    Most people in my shoes wouldve started working at 24-26 years old earning a measly Rm5000/ month (yes good starting pay, but 4 years late to employment) and after about 10 years would be earning about 8000 to 10000 a month (non specialist) or 10 – 15k a month (specialist)

    Being in the government sector, the chances of being transferred across the country is 99% hence its very difficult to save anything especially in the first 3 years. The cost of uprooting especially with family eats up alot of savings. Personally, ive not stayed in a state longer than 3 years since being employed.
    Barring any major financial issues in life, one will usually start to accumulate some sort of savings (10-20% of wage/month) after 5 years.

    With my $x000 a month (4 figure)
    15% – immediately put in FD or some long term investment.
    30% – (usually) Pay off outstanding card and utilities
    30% – rental and car loans
    25% – all other expenditure

    Usually have about 1000-1500 a month left a month to be carry forward before the next payday.

    Apart from ministers and politicians, i think doctors (and teachers) are the highest paygrade in the gov sector. Even that earning 5 figure is like a dream that never come true. Thats why so many in gov opt for pension because it is almost impossible to save enough for a comfortable retirement.

    Dont be a doctor if you want to be rich XD

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience as a govt doctor here, Tommy. The part about moving (+moving costs) didn’t cross my mind at all, what a lifestyle, what an amazing sacrifice (but also an opportunity to ‘travel’ and *truly* see Malaysia).

      Will fight for doctors and healthcare professionals rights. You take care, wishing all the blessings

  11. I’m 25 years old and I have 2 years of working experience in exhibition design industry with the salary of RM2500. Then, I hoped to an airline company as an executive designer which pay me RM3000. Is a totally different industry tho.

    I’m quite surprise when people said big companies can pay at least RM3500. Or maybe is my mistake for not asking for higher pay, because I’ve interviewed many companies out there and they couldn’t pay much…or perhaps is because of creative industry…

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