Question: Is it easy or hard to save money in Malaysia?
Answer: It depends on your salary or income. If you are making less than a living wage, then how to save money from salary – everything goes to necessities. So here’s a disclaimer before we start:
You can only save for rainy days if you earn enough
This article is for those of you who are earning more than your expenses, your financial commitments. If you are not, I’m sorry to say but you have no choice but to earn more, either from earning side income or from jobs with higher salaries.
Forget all the ‘how to save more money’ advice – first of all, you probably are already good at budgeting, because you NEED to. Secondly, you can’t frugal your way out of low-income lifestyle. If unexpected emergency situations don’t kill you, rising cost of living will.
I realise this is easier said than done for some folks. Unfortunately, the system is not fair and unlikely to change. But the good news is your situation CAN improve. Keep up the effort, you can do this.
Where to keep your savings
Okay, let’s assume you earn a good salary and/or have low expenses, and you know you need to save up 3-6 months’ worth of expenses so you can eventually reach financial freedom. Where do you put the money? What are your options?
There are 6 places you can consider. I’ve ranked them from best to meh.
Note: I didn’t name this article, Best Places to Invest Money in Malaysia. It’s Best Places to Save Money in Malaysia. Emphasis on saving money. Therefore, all the options on this list MUST either be cash or can be quickly converted/sold into cash without losing much value. In investing-speak, we call this ‘liquid’.
(p/s – According to Google image search, ‘liquid investment’ is also a tap that drips dollar signs, coins and banknotes. I can confirm this depiction is 100% accurate.)
With that clarified, let’s go ahead and rank the best places to save money in Malaysia. The ranking order is decided by myself, but let me know if you have opinions – open to compelling arguments.
#1 – ASB / Tabung Haji
Personally, I use my ASB (Amanah Saham Bumiputera) as my primary out-of-reach savings account. Whenever I get extra money, I keep it there instead of leave it in my bank account so I ‘forget’ about it.
Unfortunately, ASB is not available for non-Bumi. The next best alternative for non-Bumi is ASM (but it’s really hard to get), and #2-6 in this list. EDIT: Thanks Wan for reminding me about Tabung Haji, which is usually used by Muslims to save money for hajj, but is open to anyone from any background.
ASB and Tabung Haji are examples of mutual fund/unit trust (technically considered different things, but used interchangeably in Malaysia).
Aside from those two, I’d say other mutual funds/unit trusts are not as great for savings purposes, because they:
- Lock up your money until retirement – case in point, EPF and PRS (Private Retirement Scheme, kinda like secondary, optional EPF)
- Charge you a lot of fees. Many unit trusts and mutual funds will impose a combination of these 9 types of fees.
How to withdraw ASB online
Withdrawing money from ASB is easy. You can go to the bank or to the post office and make a request at the counter, or use the more convenient method – submit the request to withdraw ASB online from myASNB portal or app. It’s a simple enough process yet mafan enough to do that (hopefully) you’ll only take your savings out only if you really want to.
#2 – High-interest savings account (HISA)
In addition to #1, you can make use of high-interest savings account offered by various banks to keep your money.
The money in there is not really locked away – a blessing and a curse tbh. If you find yourself ‘dipping’ into your own savings account too often, then may I suggest you:
- Open an account with another bank and hide the debit card, or
- Use other methods in this list
But otherwise, many people find high-interest savings accounts a good financial tool for saving money. Some people open separate savings accounts for:
- Marriage fund
- Car fund
- Travel fund
- Fun fund
- And more
Which high-interest savings account to get? Suyin here gives 3 options, up to 3.25% per annum.
Personally, I use the Maybank2u Saver account but only because I’m an existing Maybank user and I’m lazy to open accounts in other banks. Every month I get a tiny bit of interest just for keeping extra funds in there.
#3 – Fixed deposit[EDIT: As of 2021, rates for fixed deposits are at their lowest, historically speaking. Better use option #4, cash management platform]
The third best place to save money in Malaysia is fixed deposits or FDs. It’s funny because here, ‘locking up’ your money and not being able to access it for a time period is not a bug, it’s a feature. If you need a financial tool that will PENALISE you for taking out your own money before the contract ends, then FDs is for you.
Selecting one is super easy. You can use financial comparison platforms to make comparisons. Ideally you want the one that offers the highest interest rates, but keep in mind how long you’re locking your money for, and the minimum deposit you need.
iMoney makes it easy to find Islamic FDs too. You can just enable the button in the red box, the one that says ‘Show Islamic Products Only’
#4 – Cash Management Platforms
Cash management platforms are like fixed deposits, except WITHOUT the lock-in clause. As of the time of writing, there are 3 options for cash management platform: Stashaway Simple, Versa Asia and Touch N Go E-wallet’s Go+
All three are good options. Personally, I like Touch N Go e-wallet’s Go+ the most, but only because it’s the only Syariah-complaint option. However, I DON’T like it linked to Touch N Go e-wallet = the temptation to spend the money instead of saving it is too strong!
#5 – Gold
I wouldn’t have included gold here as an option if not from this contribution by Sams, in the 4 Things You Can Do If You Need Money URGENTLY in Malaysia article.
Sams – (I would) take my gold bar – purposely bought for emergency situation like this – to Ar-Rahnu. With them, I’m able to get a loan worth 60%~70% from the the current market gold price. They charge 0.07% per month in fees (note: fees may vary).
I’ve done this a lot when I need to renew car insurance, repair car breakdown, cover medical bills and more. By using Ar-Rahnu or pawnshop service, always try to redeem your gold as fast as possible, to avoid more charge (‘upah simpan’). The good thing about this method, you are able to get your gold back once you redeem it thus maintaining your asset.
Example calculation: 10g gold bar 10g x RM190 x 60% = RM1140 | Fees – RM1140 x 0.7% = RM7.98 per month
Otherwise, keeping gold *on top* of #1, #2 and #3 is not a bad idea too. If you happened to buy your gold at a good time, then you’d make a nice profit when you sell it. Not guaranteed, but there is that excitement.
Gold savings or gold investment is… a bit polarising, in my observation. People either love it or hate it. Read up my various articles on gold investment if you’re interested in it, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind.
Personally, I love the experience of owning gold. Like many people, I bought some gold with the ‘trader’ mentality – heard that gold prices went up from the news and just wanted to make a quick buck. Over time, it prepared me for price flunctuations and taught me how demand/supply works in the world market.
If it weren’t for gold, I wouldn’t be brave enough to dip my toes in higher-risk, higher-rewards investments like stocks and even crypto. But that’s just me.
#6 – Keeping foreign currencies
And last but not least, you can also keep your extra money in other country’s notes. Especially ‘valuable’ ones like the US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen and British Pounds.
How it works is simple: simply keep them somewhere safe. If you need the cash, you can simply go to money exchangers and convert them foreign notes back to RM. If
you’re good at macroeconomics luck is to your favour, the USD you kept may have strengthen against the RM.
(You can compare rates from different money exchangers online. Try and avoid banks as their exchange rates are not the best)
#7 – Keep your money in cash
Once, I witnessed a young woman breaking down at an LRT station after she was informed her room was broken into and all her savings were gone. You probably have experienced this yourself, or know someone who had their money stolen this way.
I did, too, when I was younger. Hid some money in my room. It was stolen by my own family member.
(I’m embarassed to admit I used to steal my mom’s money as well. Mak, Aya minta maaf!)
Please be careful when you save money with methods #5 (Gold), #6 (Foreign currencies) and in cash (RM). Please keep them safe, or avoid them totally, especially if you live in a high-crime area. Use the other methods in this list.
How to save money from salary
Generally speaking, there are two types of people:
- The ‘save what’s left’ type, and
- The ‘pay yourself first’ type
If you’re having trouble saving money despite earning a good income, then it’s in your best interest to be the second type.
Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty and blame yourself for ‘not being disciplined enough’ to save money. Willpower alone can only do so much – you are bombarded with so many ‘attacks’ and incentives to get you to spend. For example, that company’s marketing campaign may catch you at a bad time and hey, got Buy Now Pay Later somemore.
Where would YOU save your money?
Are there any other good places to save money in Malaysia? Which methods do YOU personally use to save your money? Do you double up your savings with investment, like I did with ASB? Do you have bad experience with any of these methods? Do you agree or disagree with the ranking?
Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!