55pc of Malaysians embarrassed about their financial situation

KUALA LUMPUR: A survey by RinggitPlus has found that more than half of 3,211 Malaysians surveyed feel anxious, frustrated, or embarrassed about their current financial situation.

According to the survey 71 per cent of respondents could only save less than RM500 each month, while 67 per cent state that their emergency savings can last them for three months or less.

Meanwhile, 55 per cent of respondents admit to spending equal or more than what they earn each month, essentially living from paycheck to paycheck.

About 32 per cent of respondents believe their financial situation is worse than in 2022.

The RinggitPlus Malaysian Financial Literacy Survey (RMFLS) was conducted in three languages, English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Chinese, covering all Central, Southern, Northern and East Malaysian regions. The survey sampled 3,211 respondents aged 18 and above.

"While these figures certainly look demoralising – they are largely unchanged when compared to our findings last year – they are quite unexpected. Given the global economic headwinds, Malaysians should be worse off in their financial habits. Instead, this year's survey results tell us that Malaysians demonstrated surprising resilience by taking charge of their finances: a remarkable 94 per cent of respondents took proactive measures to improve their financial situations this year," RInggitPlus said in its statement today.

The top three actions include cutting back on leisure activities, eating out less frequently, and diligently tracking expenses.

Another key finding of the survey is that nine out of 10 of respondents reported encounters with potential scams or fraud attempts this year.

Separately, the RMFLS survey also revealed a cultural shift in trust when it comes to financial matters: 68 per cent of Malaysians turn to social media for financial insights ahead of traditional sources such as friends and family.

"This raises a unique concern in an era of misinformation and the growing emergence of unaccredited "financial gurus" online."

"These findings are a strong indicator that the definition of financial literacy has broadened. Besides traditional financial concepts, digital financial literacy now also encompasses measures to safeguard personal and financial information online and to identify reliable sources of information," RinggitPlus said.

The survey also highlighted that Malaysian women are more exposed to financial shocks due to a combination of low work force participation and a growing wage disparity.

It found that 75 per cent of female respondents save less than RM500 per month, compared with 66 per cent of men. In addition, 69 per cent of female respondents can survive for less than three months with only their savings compared with 64 per cent of men.

Only 44 per cent of female respondents have started investing (compared with 56 per cent of male respondents) and similarly, 51 per cent of female respondents have financially started planning for their retirement – 10 per cent fewer than male respondents.

The survey also challenged the prevailing notion of Gen-Zs prioritising instant gratification and living for the moment, suggesting that Gen-Zs may be more financially responsible than believed.

In fact, when compared to the national average and other generations, there are no statistically significant differences that convey a lack of financial responsibility and literacy among Gen-Z respondents. For example, 68 per cent of Gen-Zs save less than RM500 a month, compared with the 71 per cent national average or 70 per cent of Millennials.

The survey also reveals that 48 per cent of Gen-Z respondents have already started investing, a promising sign for building wealth over the long term given their young age.

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