IS IT WORTH THE TRADE-OFF?

A new 330i BMW sits in the porch next to now; quite famed metallic deep scarlet-red, mid-sized Mazda CX-5 4wd SUV (sports utility vehicle) in the porch. The porch had to be big and wide enough to accommodate both vehicles fully, parked side by side each other, protecting them from the “harsh” weather of the sun and rain.

The 2-storey house was built around 15 years ago. Though a mid-sized inter-link building; it is gated by a stainless steel designed auto-gate. Since the purchase of the house, extensive, expensive renovations had gone into it. The original house as it was before the renovations; was very much looked after and did not need renovations. But then, what would their new neighbors think of them? What would their societal friends think of them? How would they had to then maintain their status membership in the “ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER” club? Ouch!

The front main walls of the hall was moved up front, much closer to the gate, leaving just enough space for a fairly large vehicle to park inside the house compound (porch area). That is why both vehicles could only be parked side-by-side of each other. Due to this, the normal size gate had to be replaced to practically fit the full width of the house.

Next, the rear of the house was pushed right back to the fence. This included the floor above.

With the front walls pushed closer to the gate and the rear walls pushed back to the fence boundary; the built up area became much bigger. Bigger hall, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Next, fixtures and fittings had to be top-notch – fancy lightings, over-sized wrap around tvs all over the place, even on the ceiling with the use of the Samsung “Freestyle” projector; air-conditioning in every part of the house, including the store (the fancy word is “utility”) room (no not really).

There was a maid’s room included. How thoughtful. The maid would have to either be very thin and pint-size or really tuck it in, to fit inside that room. From what seems to be talked about, the maid only needs a place to sleep, not live in opulent luxury. After all, the reason for her to be there…is to work.

The new owners of this property, a family of four – businessman, housewife, son who is just starting his college education and daughter who has just started middle school; moved in after the renovations were completed.

The active and busy lifestyle of this family of four is that they are out of the house (home) most of the day. They get home late on most days, and have to muster energy and strength to get into bed, fall off to sleep and began “life” the next day by doing what they have been doing day in, day out; all over again.

In the meantime, pressure has been mounting on the businessman. While his orderbooks have been filling up, the supply chain for his products have been affected by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Europe, the looming possibility of a world recession and other factors.

The Central Bank has raised lending interest rates today – the third since May. The tightening of cashflows has forced him to tap into his reserves. He hopes to recover financially sooner than later as his reserves is not a “spend like there is no tomorrow” position. Nevertheless, it is important to look good and keep up with the Joneses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How many of us can relate to the above? We try to impress people who don’t matter and don’t really care. We worry about finances all the time, have many sleepless nights – we don’t have peace of mind. Is it worth the trade-off?

As a very wise man said once before: “It is important what your spouse and children – your immediate family, think of you”. Others don’t matter. This wise man dropped out of lower secondary school. With his street wise intelligence, he went on to build one of the largest office equipment businesses in the country. He has also made a name for himself in the automotive accessory business.

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and not be stressed out on how to settle bills? It is up to us to take stock of what really is important to us and take decisive measures to put things in perspective. Seek help on how to go about regaining that “peace of mind”. That “peace of mind” is awesome!

Bunker-riley

NOTES:
The above lifestyle example may work for some people.
It is always advisable to be up to speed on person’s financial position.

A FINANCIAL STORM IN A TEACUP?

Recession, here, recession in that country, recession in the world – this has been topping the charts of newsrooms and various forms of other media for months now.

istock / indiaTimes

Currencies like the USD$ continues to rise and strengthen even further on one end of the currency scale, while currencies like the Malaysia Ringgit (MYR) continue to tank. Malaysia is largely, a trading nation and uses the USD$ in most of its trading transactions.

Then, we watch, hear and read about countries that have succumbed to tough times, the latest being Sri Lanka where it is strapped for cashflow which technically means it is bankrupt. Or so, as per what is told to us by the media.

To be more accurate, a country never goes bankrupt. When a country fails to repay its debts, it defaults on the loan. Second, the government, defaults, not the country.

Sri Lanka has its natural resources and trade, amongst others; that contribute to its economy. When you think of Sri Lanka or its name of the past that it was famous by, “Ceylon”; you think tea. “Ceylon tea”. The government of the day of that country defaults in its financial repayment obligations.. An incoming government that takes over from the government of the day, inherits these financial obligations. It has to turn the economy around.

“Recession” – reasons to picture black skies, tornadoes or typhoons in economies. The economists and financial analysts – the “knowers of the financial future” rush to outrace each other to majordomo the bleak news of a world recession.

My beef is that all these financial experts predict with certainty or can I say “know for sure” that the world is heading for a steep fall off the cliff, i.e. recession. The keyword here is “predict” because in the interviews they give over the media, they always say, “I think” which in simple layman’s language means, “for sure, I am not sure”. Therefore, it is as it states: prediction or theory.

There are signs, sure…cost of living continues to rise, so does the negative prediction charts.

Let’s say that signs do show that the world is heading for a recession. We are on a collision course with recession. How much time is spent trying to prevent it from happening or trying to cushion or lessen the impact?

The focus should then be on preventing the recession, or the very least, “minimize the impact”, don’t you agree?

What is a recession? According to Investopedia, a recession is a significant, widespread, and prolonged downturn in economic activity. Because recessions often last six months or more, one popular rule of thumb is that two consecutive quarters of decline in a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) constitute a recession.

On the other hand, we hear another word being tossed around – “inflation”. So, what is inflation in economics? According to the Oxford dictionary, inflation is a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money.

Therefore, a recession makes the economy move much slower due to a decline in economic activity and potentially higher unemployment. Inflation would be the opposite, making the economy charge at full speed, sometimes uncontrollably, leading to price surges and a higher cost of living for the average consumer.

Which leads us to stagflation. Stagflation or recession-inflation is a situation in which the inflation rate is high or increasing, the economic growth rate slows, and unemployment remains steadily high.

A financial storm in a teacup?

What do we, as the everyday person; do from here? We have to be ready just in case it is not a storm in a teacup.

fig 1

Always have additional sources of income if possible and invest in any way you can for the long term. This may be an opportunity for us to explore some of our hidden talents.

While everyone’s circumstances will be different, there are a few key tenets that people should adhere to in nearly all situations:

  • Emergency Fund – It is important to have an emergency fund. This is money you have set aside that you can use in times of emergency. You should aim to have at least six months worth of living expenses saved in your emergency fund as a general rule of thumb. This emergency fund should not be touched unless it is for as it states; “an emergency”. It should also be easily accessible for that emergency, only.
  • Minimizing Debt – The next step to prepare for a recession is you have to try to reduce your debt as much as possible. This means paying off credit cards, car loans and the likes. Don’t add on more debt. Cut down spending. All this will take some pressure off you if a recession begins and your income starts to get squeezed.
  • Managing Your Mortgage – Finally, if you have a mortgage, you may be able to work with your mortgage provider to restructure your monthly payments, at least for a short period of time, somewhat like a moratorium. This could take some pressure off you if you are seriously struggling to meet repayments each month.

The baseline is to take a more conservative approach, having easy access to funds if needed and having minimal debt.

NOTES:
There are many helps available to help you with your financial planning. In Malaysia, one of the ways is Malaysian Compass Catholic NYFGW.
To find out more on Malaysian Compass Catholic NYFGW; and its next preview, go to this link: http://bit.ly/CompassCatholic

fig.1 milspousemoneymisson

FINANCIAL FREEDOM – IS THERE HOPE?

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” ~ Proverbs 22:7

Can it get any more profound than this? We do not really need to think hard into this statement because it is as plain and simple for all to see.

After 2,000 years or so, things really have not changed much for the “poor” man. He is still in debt. And the lender… well the borrower is still the slave of the lender.

What may have changed is the way that loans are so easily available. Advertising and marketing help us discover the need for loans that we never realized we needed before…Take a loan to renovate and extend the brand, new house that we just collected the keys for, and yet to move in to; buy that luxurious sports car for the weekend and an additional 4wd sports utility vehicle (SUV) for the new found hobby of mountain tracking that you never thought about doing until you saw the advertisement.

Or buy into that super luxurious time-sharing holiday that promises you paradise on earth. It does not matter that you will have to book this unit that you presumably own, months in advance; to finally find out that you cannot book it for a week or two in a stretch and that when it is available; you are not. You do not get a refund on this.

The magic of all magic statements when you are encouraged to use your credit card: “It is not like you are paying for it.” Well not immediately…until the credit card statement comes. Then, you will have to pay for all your purchases. And here, the credit card issuers encourage you to pay a partial amount – a bare minimum of 5% or 10% of the total statement; not to worry about the balance. It can be settled over the next 12 months or so…with interest.

Or, if you need immediate cash without wanting to go through the process of applying for it; you can just use your credit card at the ATM and withdraw that cash… of course, with a 5% fee… and then…pay an interest, most times at a high percentage, while repaying back this super-easy-to-get cash advance.

You acquire and accumulate all these things. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Then, there is keeping up with appearances when you start comparing with Tom, Harry, Christine, Jessica, the Joneses, “Bucket”… You find that you become an advertisement junkie – dressed from head to toe in branded attire, including your underwear. The best part is YOU PAY TO ADVERTISE! How cool is that? It can become a race to out-do each other, even to the point of getting into financial trouble.

You find that you have to work hard, long hours; just to help support this lifestyle. The general perception of “financial freedom” is you earn enough or more than enough to pay the monthly bills. Most times than not; “contentment” is not in that equation.

Advertisers control our lives. What would happen if advertisements include a statement at the bottom, “You will have to pay for these products”. It’s like pouring cold water on a make belief world.

Is there a way out of this “false” happiness?

The recent Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the finances of people. They struggled to juggle what needed to be achieved and prioritize their financial obligations. Relationships suffered. “Where is God in all this?”, we wonder. What does God say about money and our possessions?

Good news. There are answers to your questions. Which then leads to more questions. Did you know that there are 2,500 verses in the Bible that deal with money and possessions? Yet there are fewer than <500 verses on faith and about 500 verses on prayer.

Compass Catholic ministry helps people break away from the grasp of worldly consumerism. In Malaysia, this ministry started just over two and a half years ago with a small group of 12 people.

The programme, “Navigating your finances God’s way (NYFGW)”; is a 9-week Bible study, Catechism and Church teachings. In addition to the Bible study, participants also complete personal, practical applications including:
> How to track your spending habits
> How to pay off your debt
> What to do in time of a crisis

Your takeaway from this is financial freedom, “peace of mind.”

To find out more on Malaysian Compass Catholic NYFGW; and its next preview, go to this link http://bit.ly/CompassCatholic

So, where do you go from here?

Sarah Lazarovic

The advertisements and promotions on how life is in the world of luxury, will continue. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are offered a humongous spectrum for choice. Wow!

Can we re-take control of our lives?

THE WHITE FLAG FORGOTTEN

The pounding of a wall on the house in front of mine; a loud grinding or what seems like a sharpening of metal plates in another house nearby; another house towards the north-east of the direction I am facing at my workstation; with a hammer-drill, hammer-drilling into a wall or something like that. One could be forgiven to think that this is a major construction site. It is not. It is just that there are quite a few houses in the midst of major renovations. ‘Tis the season?

Then, one can be forgiven (again) if they were to ask, “economic tough times, inflation, possible recession?” Apparently not. With prices of things in general on the rise, construction and renovation are not spared from it. There is a massive labour shortage all around with home renovation contractors finding difficulty in getting workers. Yet home renovations are still in full swing. The unspoken ‘kiasu’ trait is in the air: “If you can do, I (also) can do; but better”. For the uninitiated, “kiasu” is the Chinese version (1) of the western saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses” (2); loosely translated.

Kiasu sounds better. It has a more aggressive “oomph” to its expression!

It looks like people are going on a spending rampage or revenge, being let loose from the confines of being cooped up at home during the Covid-19 pandemic which turned into an endemic on its way out.

One can be forgiven in thinking that this is a spending rampage or a spending epidemic with the many homes in just one area, being re-modelled or renovated.

This spending splurge is not just limited to re-modelling and renovation of homes, but also in cars, especially luxury cars, property investment and travel, too. For instance, until recently, there was an incentive for people to buy new vehicles in Malaysia. The government waived the sales and service tax on the nett selling price for both, completely knocked down (ckd) vehicles which is 10% and completely built up (cbu) vehicles which is 5%, thus reducing the overall price of vehicles by quite a bit.

It can be quite difficult to fathom or even believe that, not too long ago; around the same neighbourhood vicinity, some people were flying the white flag outside their homes. The white flag was a signal that homes were suffering from financial distress, with no money to buy food and basic house essentials.

These were homes in the middle to upper strata residential areas, too. This could have been due to many people having to take big pay cuts or were laid off from work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were not poor people. It was just that their monthly expenses outstripped their incomes which were reduced or stopped.

With the wonderful support of the generous public, and biding of time; they pulled through. The general takeaway lesson here was to live within one’s means.

Income seems flexible, non-guaranteed and cannot be taken for granted. Loans on the other hand, are most times not flexible. Once a loan is taken out, repayments have to be met.

When a loan has been taken out or a purchase made with a monthly installment repayment schedule, the onus is solely on the person to meet those obligations. It is a sale for the seller or financial institution. There is no “toui toui tak balek”. (3)

And, he has to meet those obligations, regardless of his financial situation. If he encounters any form of financial stress and may have difficulty in repayments even if it is for a short period of time; he will still have to meet those obligations punctually. As a chairman of one of Malaysia’s leading banks once said (could have said it many times before), “It does not matter to us if the customer had a spotless record in meeting all his financial obligations for the last 25 years, what matters most to us is ‘now'”.

Interest rates have gone up twice this year and is still expected to move up the scale at least a couple more times before end-December. This in turn, has caused the cost of most things, especially essential goods; to go up. Unfortunately, salaries and wages have not increased in tandem with the increased cost of everything else.

The question you may want to ask is, “Do I want to have a bigger financial risk exposure than I am in now?” Why is it a risk? We cannot really guarantee that we have the funds if a loan facility is recalled and full payment is demanded. Unless, if collateral is assigned to a loan making it a “secured loan”.

But collateral is becoming a rarity for personal loans as financial institutions want to charge a higher interest rate on unsecured loans. Overall non-performing loans (NPL) in Malaysia are low, with little risk to the bank.

Are we more prepared now for a “financial pandemic”? Have we forgotten the white flag era or will we re-visit it again?

Food for thought: Funny how the price of things does not come down when the reason for it going up in the first place, does.

NOTES:
1. Taken from the Chinese dialect Hokkien, kiasu translates to a fear of losing out, but encompasses any sort of competitive, stingy or selfish behavior. If you stand in line for hours just because there’s a gift at the end, then you’re kiasu.
2. Striving to achieve or own as much as the people around you: “If you want to keep up with the Joneses in this neighborhood, you will have to own at least three cars.”
3. “Toui toui tak balek” in Malay was used when we were kids to mean “it is not too late to go back on your decision”.

BANK OPR RATES ARE UP, SO ARE YOUR MONTHLY INSTALLMENTS

fig.1

Bank Negara Malaysia recently raised the overnight policy rate (OPR)[Bank jargon] for the second time by 25 basis points. That totals 50 basis points this year….so far. “Blah blah blah…” this is what many people will say when they see this. Maybe, it does not hit home for them.

What this means in layman’s terms is that cost of borrowing goes up. Examples are property loans and others that have a “floating interest rate”. This is an interest rate that is generally pegged to the OPR. To keep this as simple as possible, I will not go deeper into technicalities like Bank rates, etc.

In terms of $ & cents; like everybody else affected with these two increases; I received a notice in the mail from my bank informing me of my monthly installment increase by 15.30782%! Incredible, yes? While this hefty increase could be due to the bank’s recent exposure and not so shiny performance and “the buck stops with us”; I would prefer to focus on what we can do perhaps to reduce monthly cost increases such as these.

You can implement some or all of these:
– Going to and fro work: Pick the shortest route. Travel during non-peak hours. This helps reduce fuel expenditure.
– If your household has more than one car, use the most fuel efficient one more often.
Reduce the frequency of travelling out.
– Car-pool.
– Eat more meals at home. Cook in bulk and deep freeze. Have two or three varieties that you can alternate at each meal.
– If you have to eat out, go to one that is less expensive, not necessarily compromising on the quality of food or starving your tastebuds. I will touch more on the perception that paying more is always better in my upcoming article.
– Reduce electricity consumption: Switch off all electrical appliances when not in use. Use LED bulbs and energy saving appliances.
– Shop around for better loan / mortgage packages and switch if viable.

This list is not exhaustive.

These may not seem much in savings. If you are conscious in tracking your income and expenditure; the above measures can definitely go a long way to mitigate the rising costs of households.

fig. 2

Inflation. What about it? Very loosely put: inflation is too many people chasing after too few an item. Desperate people are willing to pay more or are forced to pay more, just to get that item. Which leads to companies coming out with “limited editions” to hike the prices up. Then, there will be 2nd, 3rd, 4th limited editions or colour specific limited editions.

We can control inflation in our own very small way by controlling our expenditure.

This is a good time, as any; to re-look into how you, we, us, can manage finances efficiently. There is a short 2 hour per day x 1 day per week x 9 week programme available in Subang Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; to help learn to manage finances more efficiently. (1)

NOTES
A floating interest rate is one that changes periodically, as opposed to a fixed (or unchanging) interest rate.
Floating rates are carried by credit card companies and commonly seen with mortgages.
Floating rates follow the market or track an index or another benchmark interest rate.
Floating rates are also called variable rates.

Inflation is action of inflating something or the condition of being inflated for example: the inflation of a balloon
In economics, inflation is a general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money. So, policies are put in place, aimed at controlling inflation.

1. Catholic Compass
fig.1 PropSocial
fig. 2 IQI Global

A MAN’S HOME IS HIS CASTLE

A man’s home is his castle, his sanctuary, a place he can be himself. Here, when I say “man”; it applies to a woman or child, too. So, it is believed to be.

When he goes outside to do battle with the world which is his work (a person that come to mind is Hagar the Horrible [cartoon comic strip], a Viking, whose work is to go out and battle. He is both a fierce warrior and a family man—with the same problems as your average modern suburbanite.) and comes home after that, he would and should expect a sense of peace, of rest, of comfort.

Wikipedia

A man’s home is where he leaves the outside world, outside, by turning off (easier said than done… I hear yer), his escape as you may.

If he is married and has children, they will bring him joy. His young kids may clamour all over him for his attention, wanting to share their joys of what they did in the day.

In my “hey” day, when my daughter Laura, was 3, 4, 5 years old; she would come and sit in my chair beside me in the living room, just to be with me. She would do the same with her mother, my wife Jeannie; too.

The recent Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years, saw an invasion of sorts by corporations, when employees, entertainers, even businessmen; had to work from home.

While working from home, the line separating work from after office hours becomes blurred.

It may have been seen as a novel idea to work from home at the beginning. Employees thought that by being closer to their children at home, they would have additional time with them. Employees were relieved that they did not have to travel to & fro their offices or workplaces, thus avoiding the usual traffic snarls that would greet them each day on the road, thus saving at least an hour, each way at the very least. It would mean they could sleep in just that little bit longer before getting ready from work and they would not come home fatigued by the traffic jams they would meet on their way home.

But then, people who live or co-shared their homes with employees working from home; could not really do the things they would normally do at home, when these employees were away, working in their offices and elsewhere. Employees were expected to have their homes “turned over to their companies”, during meetings like zoom and Skype meetings. This meant noise and distraction free from co-habitats and children.

Working from home also meant that there was no reason not to squeeze in additional online meetings by two or three hours. Which meant more internet data and electricity usage – the cost all to be borne by the employee. What more, if there were several people working from home at the same time? “Work from home” would spill outside in the porch and garden.

If only there was a balance?

When the shift was made for employees to work from office again signaling that the pandemic had become an endemic, there seemed to have been a sigh of relief from all round. Most employees were happy about getting back to the office, even bracing the long traffic jams to the office and back. Children and other members were happy to have their homes back to as it was.

All in all, there has to be a clear line drawn between work space and home space. The ideal is to get the best working environment for the employee which in turn improves productivity; and a home, where one gets to rejuvenate, and at the same time, be with the rest of the family, not just physically; but also to share their lives with them.

WAVE OR PIN?

A few days ago, my wife, Jeannie; and I, were at what is generally our usual past time – shopping at our favourite shopping mall: Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur (1). On a good day, the mall is about 30 minutes away. On a not-so-good day, it can take us an hour. Noooo… neither the mall nor our house are location movers. It’s the traffic that determines how long it takes to reach there😉 and vice versa.

HAVE CREDIT CARD CAN BUY MURUKKU

Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards from financial institutions – opulent status recognition, where everyone will bow before you and jump to your every whim by not asking “why?” but “How high?”

The owner of The Embershoppe in Petaling Jaya, C. K. Lim; is one special dude. He remembers all his customers by name, even after only having visited his tobacco shop once. I think remembering each and every person’s name is a special gift. That is peak customer service!

When you receive an email or letter or message through the phone from the card issuer bank, they begin with, “Dear valued customer…” So much for the opulent status recognition. You would think that owning one or more of these Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards which usually come with a high credit limit; the financial institution would surely know you by name. The only times they will know you by name is when you have to pay the monthly statements they issue you or when they have something to sell directly to you. Otherwise, you are just a series of digits and characters.

So, we come back to the topic of the credit card. When Jeannie and I are in Mid-Valley, we quite often stop by at the booth that sells kacang putih (3), murukku (2) and Bombay Mixture (4). We usually buy 2 or 3 varieties of this awesome snacks. The price ranges from US$1.50 (RM6.50) to $US2.40 (RM12.00).

This time round, we picked one of my favourites – roasted kacang with brown skin priced at RM6.50 for 300gm and “Bombay Mixture” (the small thin type) mixed with some kacang which was priced at RM12.00. I gave the seller a RM50 note and waited for the change. The guy did not have change and asked if I could pay using a credit card.

I said, “What? Buying kacang putih with credit card?” Surely, this is a joke. It wasn’t. I was so surprised. Has it come down to this where you pay for the cheapest items with credit card?

Spicy “Bombay Mixture”, with peanuts and other condiments included.

There are many of you out there who will think that there is nothing wrong paying a small amount with a credit card. Sure, I get that. Here when we talk about credit cards, let us include debit cards, too. Whether physically (famously or commonly known as the plastic we carry around with us) or stored on phones and other electronic devices. I think about a habit this most probably will become.

Many e-wallets with stored amounts have automatic top-up of funds either direct from a personal bank account or a credit card.

Now, think about this. If you were to carry cash around; you may be a bit more careful in spending. When cash is low, you probably will wait for the next opportunity when you have enough cash, to buy the item.

But what happens when you have the use of the credit card for all sorts of small payments and lose track of your spending? Your credit card statement together with your other expenditure like gas / petrol, dining out, movies, shopping, etc; could come up to a fairly substantial amount. It will be ok if you settle the statement in full.

But what if you don’t? The temptation to just pay the minimum is there. The balance outstanding in the statement, is carried forward to the next statement month with a compounding interest. In Malaysia, credit cards come with an interest charge of 15% to 18% generally.

(1a)

Some people may take note of this possible large amount that is carried forward to the next month and will control their spending in the coming future until the balance outstanding is fully settled. The financial institutions know this and have come out with schemes to counter customers who are concsious of their balances, who take steps to clear this outstanding balances soonest possible and tie you down or lock your outstanding balance with an offer of a term loan sort of scheme, thus making the big balance amount “disappear” with a fixed period and so-called low interest to settle this amount. What you don’t see, you may forget. What you don’t see, may not hurt you.

Therefore, in the third month onwards, the big balance disappears but is replaced with a monthly payment. So, then, your credit card is “freed of the big amount”, thus allowing you to spend more. They “prey” on customers who do not keep track of their spending. But guess what, the earlier big balance you had has not actually disappeared but is termed as “unbilled amount”.

So, the credit limit with your credit card has now expanded to a bigger limit. Multiply this by all the other credit cards you may have. It can become “4th stage cancer of credit” where people are in such a bind that catastrophe could set in.

To find out more on how to overcome “4th stage cancer of credit” or avoid it; email alan@leatherpotato.com
The “4th stage cancer of credit” problem is generally the same for everyone, but getting cured from it may be unique to each individual.

Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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NOTES:
1. Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.

2. Murukku (Malayalam – മുറുക്ക്, Tamil – முறுக்கு) is a savoury, crunchy snack originating from the Indian subcontinent. The name murukku derives from the Malayalam/Tamil word for “twisted”, which refers to its shape. In India, murukku is especially popular in the states of Andhra PradeshTamil NaduKarnataka, and Kerala. It is called murkulu or janthukulu in Andhra Pradesh. It is also popular in countries with substantial presence of Indian and Sri Lankan diaspora, including SingaporeFijiMalaysia, and Myanmar (Burma). Murukku, called sagalay gway (စာကလေးခွေ; lit. ’baby sparrow coils’) in Burmese, is a common snack and is used as a topping for a regional dish called dawei mont di. Murukku is typically made from rice flour and urad dal flour. Chakli is a similar dish, typically made with an additional ingredient, bengal gram (chickpea) flour. (wikipidea)

3. The history of the kacang putih (literally translated as ‘white nuts’) business goes back to the 1940s, when the British brought in migrant labourers from the Ettayapuram village in Tamil Nadu to Malaya. A few families settled down near the limestone hill in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh – until 1973, when the residents were relocated to Teluk Kurin B in Buntong after a slab of limestone fell onto a longhouse, killing 42 people.

It was in the new settlement that business kicked up. The new, larger homes allowed owners to set up retail storefronts selling kacang putih, as well as other fried Indian snacks like murukku and assorted fried nuts made using recipes from Tamil Nadu. Business was so brisk that the settlement’s unwieldy name was changed to Kampung Kacang Putih – and until today, remains as the heart of a growing kacang putih industry across the country.

You won’t find kacang putih sold by the kacang putih man
The kacang putih vendor didn’t start by selling different types of murukku, fried nuts and potato chips – they just sold one thing: actual kacang putih, which are steamed lentils (also known as kacang kuda). But selling that alone wasn’t enough, especially as demand started to slow down and the burdensome steamer needed to keep the lentils warm made life difficult for cycling vendors.
Eventually, they diversified their offerings to include snacks that were easier to carry around and had a longer shelf life – which is how we ended up with the modern-day kacang putih man selling everything else but the steamed kacang putih.
John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih

4. Bombay mixture. The Bombay Mixture is another type of murukku offering that’s mixed with an assortment of fried nuts, green peas and beans, and spiced with chilli, turmeric and cumin. ‘The Bombay Mixture is thinner, but is spicier and has more ingredients compared to the Chennai Mixture.
John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih

1a. Money Finance Advise

ALL OF ME… ♪BEE DEE BE DE♫ PA ♯

After years of chasing that elusive state of contentment by surrounding myself with things the world has to offer; I have come to realise that “happiness” in this aspect is artificial intelligence – fast to decrease, a continuous work-in-progress to stay happy, with more new things.

The things we acquire rapidly lose their shine and value because a new model, a new improved model to that one you just purchased but barely moments after you having left the store becomes an old model, one that is nearing obsolete; even though you were enticed to buy it because it was the latest.

Now, the ultimate has been launched, with many products adding the term “ultra” to them to give the air of exclusivity. Or the idea of the more you pay for the item; it must be good and will last forever. (1)

What about “Limited Edition”? You rush to buy it because there is that tag, “Limited Edition” tied with a product coupled with a meaningless number of limited to 10,000 pieces, etc? Just as you think and believe you have outsmarted, raced and beat nearly everyone else to get this priceless, limited edition item; the brand tweaks the product or launches it with a slight variant to the colour, and woohoo! Limited Edition 2 comes out! After that Limited Edition 3, 4, etc… So, how limited is “Limited Edition”?

Brands are in the business to sell and will not be limited to just a certain specified number if the product is selling well. It is a marketing angle.

Be warned: “Limited edition” is a way to entice you to part with more money for this item that you would otherwise wait for it to be on a discount sale. The final decision to part money from your wallet or bank account, including the use of credit cards; or otherwise (the reduction of your cash flow), is yours.

Can we put an expensive “price tag” or “Limited Edition” to friendship? True friendship? One that does not look at your status or the financial standing in high society or the number of properties, Rolls Royces, Bentleys, BMWs that you own, or the expensive restaurants that attract your palette.

If friendship has a price tag or “Limited Edition” to it; it’s value then lasts as long you are in a position to maintain your status. And this friendship comes with an attachment – it lasts as long as these friends can get something from you and vice versa. Barter trade friendship.

I would like to think of friendship as an acceptance of who you are as a person – no strings attached. Someone whom you can be comfortable with by just being yourself; someone who will be your friend even if it may chance a separation by time or distance….

While writing an article (2) for it to be included in the memoir of an old friend – the late Fr. John Gnanapiragasam (Fr John G.) (3); I kept thinking of a girl that I spent quite a lot of time with at a retreat for the CHOICE (4) team in the mid-1980s, with Fr. John G. as our spiritual adviser. She was the “baby” of the group, being the youngest. After 35 / 36 years, I had forgotten her name. But not her face. Not her full of life and smiles. Nor her simplicity and her innocence.

Then, I remembered seeing a name “Loraine” in a Whatsapp chat group – one gathering all the CHOICE graduates from CHOICE #1 onwards. Loraine looked somewhat like this person at the CHOICE retreat. Coincidentally. Loraine is also the cousin of my brother-in-law, Raymond Arnold.

I contacted Loraine and she told me that it was her sister, Sharon; that I was referring to. The floodgate of good memories opened wide open. Sharon resides in Germany. I am now in touch with Sharon. I think it was wonderful that we reconnected after all this time. Lasting impressions! Interesting to note that she met with my late sister, Jennifer; a few years ago.

Sharon on the right. Mid-1980s
Sharon in white, my late sister, Jennifer, Ray and Loraine. This was taken a few years back.

In one of the posts on my Facebook page, I came across someone with the “Wambeck” surname. I had a classmate by the name of “Anselm Wambeck” when I was in La Salle Petaling Jaya (5) from Standard 1 (Year 1) to Standard 3. It turned out that this person who posted on my Facebook page is Anselm’s cousin and put me in touch with him. We reconnected again after over 50 years. Below, is a picture that Anselm sent me – it was a picture taken at a tea party in Assunta Primary School Hall, Petaling Jaya in 1966. We had just received the sacrament of First Holy Communion.

No photo description available.
I am on the left, holding up my First Holy Communion certificate. Anselm is on my right.

When I moved to La Salle Klang, I made new friends in Walter James Danker, Duncan La Brooy, Eddie Lim Swee Huat, Mak Weng Kit, Michael Lee Pillai and many more in the first few days. Walter was a prefect. On the first day (Monday) of school, I got 2 strokes of the rotan (6) from the headmaster, Bro Michael; because Walter reported me for not wearing a tie. No one told me that I was supposed to wear a tie on a Monday. Funnily, it didn’t occur to me why all the other boys were wearing a tie. Duh!

Martin Wong, and his younger brother, Jerome; became our neighbours when they move into a house just opposite ours. We used to play cowboys and Indians so often.

When we moved house to Jalan Ladang, Klang (7) (which was 300 metres away from school), Eddie Lim, Weng Kit & his brother, Weng Hoon; and a whole bunch of other schoolmates; were in our house almost everyday, playing badminton, hockey, football, table-tennis, etc. We also used to catch fighting spiders and keep them in matchboxes.

Years after we left school, something like around 50 years or so; we had a gathering of our batch of guys. Many of our teachers attended, too. All our teachers knew us by name. They were and still are sharp. It was an incredible turnout.

The incredible turnout of schoolmates and teachers. The teachers are in the front row. Everyone had awesome stories of their lives over the 50 years. I’d have to write a series of books to capture everyone’s stories.

Our best friends include family. Irreplaceable!

The Atkinson family, 1981
This picture was taken 3 years ago. We had cousins from Australia with us.

We are family

NOTES

  1. The Rolls Royce and Bentley graveyard in Bandar Sunway
  2. “Fr John Gnanapiragasam – As I know him”, Roman Catholic priest, https://leatherpotato.com/2021/11/26/fr-john-gnanapiragasam-as-i-know-him/
  3. Passed away November 19, 2021
  4. CHOICE is a Catholic programme for single adults.
  5. Petaling Jaya, a town in Selangor, Ma;aysia.
  6. “Rotan” is cane in Malay.
  7. Klang, a town in Selangor, Malaysia.
  8. Luisa Salva is a very talented singer. Please help make this video of her and her other works viral.

♫ All of Me ♪ – Luisa Salva (8)

WITH A 1% CHANCE, DOES LIFE DESERVE TO LIVE?

In the past 20 months, the world or most of it; has seen, witnessed, experienced the ravage, savage and damage caused by a common enemy – the Covid-19 coronavirus. Mostly everyone has in one way or another been impacted by this virus. I said mostly everyone, not everyone. There were those who were in the right places or industries at the right time. They made money, some made obscene amounts. That is ok… I guess.

At the height of the pandemic, from what we hear and gather from various media reports (I don’t know if the information in these reports were verified); hospitals were overloaded with patients. Yet they were understaffed. News was floating around that medical personnel were instructed to not focus on those they believe were not going to recover, to let them go (gentler way of stating the obvious). I don’t know what the numbers were, if there were any.

The point I am getting at is when people are very ill, they depend on someone else to make the right decisions for them. All their lives they have been independent, when they become too sick; they have to make these adjustments. Now, due to the severity of the illness they have, they may not be able to speak. But, I believe, they are fully aware and know what is going on.

Immediate families or extended family members are the ones who usually take care of these ill people. They agree to take on the responsibility – a caring and noble gesture. They see to everything that needs to be done, right down to daily care. On top of that, they have their own jobs and families to take care of.

Over time, it can become a strain on these family caregivers. The person or persons in their care that are dependent on them, become a burden. The decisions the caretakers make, may be compromised. For example:

An elderly man is going for a medical procedure in relation with his prostrate health issue. This person, in his 80s; has a weak heart, diabetes and other health issues. The hospital has informed his family that after the procedure; it may lead to another medical procedure.

This second procedure is necessary for his health position to improve. The risk here is that after this second procedure, he may become brain dead or slip into a vegetative state.

The question here is: Should he do the second procedure?

I think he should. Even if he has a 1% chance of recovering to a normal life. Yes, There is a 99% chance he may become even a bigger “burden” if he does not recover. A decision has to be made for this second approval after that first procedure. That decision is usually a family member. A tough decision but it has to made.

If they decide “yes” for the second procedure; the person has 1% or more of a chance of surviving and recovering. That person deserves that right.

Decisions to make things easier for the caregiver should be the last alternative.

The odds of becoming a vegetable is high. But at least they tried all options available to them..

Compared with if they make a decision not to do the second procedure, he could soon die.

I think people should not be made to feel that they are a burden to others.

I am in no way, judging anyone. I understand that each person is different. Each caregiver, bless their hearts for even volunteering to look after the sickly people who are in need; have immediate family and work priorities; too.

When faced with a decision between a hard rock and the deep blue sea; pray for guidance in making the right decision.

Dedicated to the voiceless