I LOVE the concept of self-determination. I believe in it, 100%.
Heck, I even collect self-determination quotes, such as:
- Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right
- You are the master of your own destiny
- If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door
- Refuse to be refused
The quotes are useful – whenever I feel demotivated, I’d look for them so I would ‘snap out of it’ and get back to working on whatever problem I was facing.
But I have to admit that often, due to reasons beyond my control, even my best personal efforts won’t be enough, and I will have to cut my losses and move on to the next venture.
On these occasions, I have likely spent money and time (which costs money AND opportunity cost) which I’ll never get back. Thanks to my savings and/or other support systems, I can absorb these losses.
But not everyone can.
And that’s the subject of today’s article – everyone will face tough financial situations, but which ones are tougher to overcome than others? I thought of 4 situations:
#1 – When you can’t get ahead because you face SYSTEMIC discrimination
You already know this. Some members of society face more challenges than the rest as they don’t have access to certain services and privileges. According to the Social Protection & Human Rights Organisation, people who face the most SYSTEMIC discrimination include:
- Indigenous people
- Informal and precarious workers
- Older persons
- Persons living with HIV/AIDS or other chronic illnesses
- Persons with disabilities
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- Rural workers and rural populations
You don’t need me to tell you how belonging in one in those categories can make it hard for you to work and earn a living wage. Not impossible, of course, but tough? YES.
Identities can also overlap and compounds the barriers. For example, can you even imagine how hard life is or an older person with disability who works in the informal sector???
The University of San Francisco has one of the best campaigns to highlight systemic discrimination. Think of your life now and what you are enjoying. If you don’t have to think about it, it’s a privilege.
There are a million and one examples of systemic discrimination in Malaysia, but I want to use this space to highlight an issue I learned most recently: the unfair contract system, which keeps our frontliners the hospital cleaners earning extremely low wages (thanks Lee Jun for the info).
#2 – When you depend on Narcissists, Psychopaths and Machiavellians
The second tough situation is extremely important for you to be aware of, so you can identify and take action to have a better financial life. You might assume that most people are good (and they are), but you have to remember that people with dark personalities exist.
People who are Narcissists, Psychopaths and Machiavellians – the Dark Triad – live among us and wouldn’t think twice before cheating, manipulating and generally taking advantage of people around them. It’s not even their fault, they are simply ‘wired’ that way.
It would really SUCK to have them as your boss. This is a more common scenario than you think – after all, people with Dark Triad personalities are over-represented in business and leadership positions…
Even having them as your colleagues suck. See below: 15 Signs You Work with Narcissists, Psychopaths and Machiavellians)
It doesn’t just apply in working life. In personal life, it’s also hard to make good financial decisions when you have familial ties to Narcissists, Psychopaths and Machiavellians.
I used to be ‘oh it can’t be THAT bad’, but I fell into the Raised by Narcissists Reddit wormhole and… yes, it is that bad. Children have shared how their parents emotionally guilt them into making bad financial decisions (like taking a loan or buying them expensive things), to ‘repay them back for raising them’.
Based on my (very little) research and reading on the subject, the best advice on dealing with Narcissists, Psychopaths and Machiavellians is to simply avoid them.
If you can’t avoid them, then PLEASE learn how to set boundaries. If you haven’t, quickly learn how to say no.
#3 – When you have low media literacy
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. But why do people keep getting scammed anyway? According to Prof Dato Salleh Buang in a letter published in NST, ‘there were 4,764 Macau scam cases involving losses of over RM232 million, and 2,433 arrests’ between Jan and Sept 2020.
THAT IS AROUND RM48.7k IN LOSSES PER CASE!!!
Why does this happen? There are many contributing factors, and many will be quick to just give the one-liner ‘lack of education’ answer, but nope that’s not it, even highly educated people have fallen to these scams…
I think it boils down to media illiteracy – the inability to identify and defend ourselves against messaging with ill or misleading intent.
And because it is impossible to review millions of messages out there, it really is up to us to learn media literacy ourselves.
Through media-literacy, we can deconstruct what we see by figuring out who created the message and why. We can identify the techniques of persuasion being used and recognise how media makers are trying to influence us. We notice what parts of the story are not being told, and how we can be better informed.As quoted in The Star by Datuk Dr Paul Selva Raj, Secretary-General of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association
Some of it is obvious (‘Get 100% profit in 3 days!!’), some of it is not; dark patterns are not only used by scammers but also by companies, including by the financial industry.
Media literacy is immensely useful – for example, I want you to see the ‘buy now pay later’ services for the bull that it is; a way to take advantage of people who struggle with delayed gratification.
I mean, seriously. Do they really think it’s awesome of them to offer people who don’t qualify for credit cards a way to get that expensive item they can’t afford but want? I’d understand if it’s offered for things like groceries or rent, but clothes and travel?
#4 – When you are part of the Sandwich Generation
And last but not least are the people who just can’t save up because they are financially supporting both their parents AND children/younger siblings. It’s tough.
Who helps them?
Like I said in the introduction, yes to self-determination yada yada yada, but who helps people who need it the most – the ones who are stuck in these 4 tough financial situations? Is the help received enough?
And a question to myself – how can I support – in my own personal capacity since I can’t solve it all – my fellow Malaysians as I improve my own financial health? Is donating money the best I can do, because I lack the courage to do the activism?
I don’t have answers, and I’m still thinking and figuring it out, but I’m very interested to hear how you personally approach this subject. Please give inspiration as well – how do you help people in financially tough situations? Share in the comments, I want to celebrate you.