There seems to be a misconception that being financially free is the ability to pay your monthly commitments and loans. Well…not really. Though you may be able to pay for your house or property mortgage, car loans, investments (if any), utilities, food, other commitments, you are not really financially free. You are actually cash flow debt free.

To be financially free is to be completely debt free. If you have property loans, motor vehicle loans, credit card debt outstanding; work at settling them soonest possible.

Your income as an employee, regardless of how high up the rank or ladder you are at, is never guaranteed. Incomes of businessowners are never guaranteed, too. Outstanding debts remain…guaranteed. Repayments are expected as scheduled.

The “trick” is how to manage or balance your income vs expenses. Not too long ago, you would hear the phrase, “How to balance your cheque book, or for the Americans, checking account“.

One of the biggest headaches we have is what to spend money on. Spend with money we don’t have.

Wait a minute. Spend money we don’t have? “How is that possible?” , you may ask. There are many different types of credit made available to us everyday. Often enough, we did not apply for this credit but it is already preapproved. So, why not take it?

Taking pre-approved loans poses several problems. One is, since we had no intention of applying for a loan, we did not have a need for it. Here lies the problem. Now that we have the loan, we have to look for something to spend on. So, what the financial corporation that lent you the loan has done is: pass the buck. It had cash that it needs to make money from. It lends you the money and earns an interest from it. You now, have to figure what to do with the money.

You may most likely end up spending the funds on unnecessary things. You may beautify your home with home renovations. Or go on that expensive holiday just to take some pictures and post on social media: “I was here”. Note that spending on these activities in itself is not wrong. However, if you did not plan for it…

Here lies the danger…. you may get offers from various financial lending institutions, all at the same or around the same time. The enticement is that these loans are easy money. You may be approved for several of them at the same time.

You are now attracted to get that super luxurious vehicle or travel business or first class on a holiday. You may also get attracted to investing in various investments. All these you would not have done otherwise, based on your income and living standards.

Another point which can be considered as the most important point, is that you have to pay back the loan with interest. It would be good that you work out your income less 10% savings for future, all your existing commitments, living expenses and just-in-case expenses to see if you have any money balance to pay for the monthly repayment over the duration of the loan/s.

A good safety net to have is that you have cash the equivalent of the loan on standby in the event if the loan has to be cashed in earlier than the stipulated period. This could set you in the “financially free” category.

You are going to ask, “Why do you then need a loan if you have the cash?” This is a topic that can be discussed in a future article.

Who is financially rich and free: The man who lives in an expensive part of town, has several flashy vehicles, wears branded clothes, patronizes expensive restaurants and has to worry about payments? Or, the man who lives in an medium to up-market part of town with a small mortgage balance or none, drives around in a 10 year old, fully paid for vehicle, not flashy in branded clothes and patronizes fine dine restaurants that serve great food, not necessarily too expensive, and can smile, laugh and sleep easy at night without having to worry about finances?


The purpose of this article is to help readers come to a realization that if the world does go into a recession this year as predicted in news and reports from all the media over the last year or so has informed us; that we, be prepared and are able to weather this period of uncertainty. Put your views and comments in the comment section for discussion.

There is a misconception that being financially free is the ability to pay your monthly loans and commitments.


Peace only settles in a person when it is invited in by that person. With peace, comes happiness and joy. Without peace, life is empty no matter how much that person may try to replace it with wealth and status.

The key to peace is to promote the purest love of mankind. All activities motivated by love and conscience can be said to be the purest form of peace.

Peace is a choice.

Give peace a chance.

Writer, Author, Storyteller



The sun was the first to be up, bright and early this morning; casting its cheery rays of sunlight across what was already the winter scene for the entire neighborhood.

The bright sun, quite rare for it to be seen at this time of the year, was unashamed to be out first and beat all the other weather conditions to the starting line of the day.

The winter scene usually comes in black, grey, brown and its of white; all mushed together. This does provide some opportunity to capture once-in-a-lifetime shots.

Now, with its showering of its rays and with different intensities of brightness throughout the neighborhood, it turned what would have ordinarily been just a picture to one of picturesque.

Alas, the sun went back to its winter hibernation not long after its dazzling “performance”. The picture that became picturesque, remains as a photo and as a memory.


Here’s a secret: HAPPINESS IS A DECISION. You choose to be happy.

Happiness is also a “feeling”. Feelings come. Feelings go.

When you make a conscious decision to be happy, you are in control of your feelings, too.

It takes guts…It takes grit…It is sheer mental control.

Happiness is available in endless abundance. It is there for the taking.

Happiness is just a decision away.

Writer, Author, Storyteller



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!


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


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.

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:

fig.1 milspousemoneymisson


“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

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 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.

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 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)

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