Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Achieve Your Targets

In today's The Star Metro Classifieds (31 July 2007), an article written by Lorraine Pirihi shares that one of the main reasons we fail to achieve our targets is because we lack proper personal management skills. The society at large believes that the number of hours we work equals to being productive and thanks to this mindset, people are always complaining that they do not have time. I personally believe that each of us always have time, it's just that we do not manage our time properly. The notion of long hours equals to being productive is utter nonsense since we usually spend most of our time working on unproductive activities instead of our actual goals. As Lorraine aptly puts it, "it is a matter of defining your priorities" and once we have an effective system to manage ourselves, the common rant of "not having enough time" will be a thing in the past. Have a good read and cheers!


Blind, But Standing Tall

The power of attitude and positive thinking never cease to amaze me. These two elements always bring out the best of every individual and it beautifully proven and illustrated in biographies of successful people. One should take note that most of these successful characters were almost never born with a silver spoon. Many of them had to endure countless hardship which most of us will probably just throw in the towel and give up. Through the experiences they accumulated in life, they emerged as a better and stronger person instead of being cowed into straying off the pathway to success.

One of such remarkable individuals had his story featured the Sunday Star (29th July 2007). The protagonist of this article, Lee Sheng Chow, beautifully demonstrates that being blind was never an obstacle. It never stopped him in obtaining a degree, starting a massage business and have a family of his own. As if a cruel joke was played on him by God, he and his vision impaired wife was blessed with a daughter who has cerebral palsy but Sheng Chow never once blamed God. Instead, he had the grace to thank God for for the blessings he had receive and ask for His forgiveness each night! To me, that was the most amazing showcase of faith in the Lord and the power of positive attitude towards life. I salute Mr.Lee Sheng Chow for his awe-inspiring faith and attitude and I will always take his words,"Never, never, never, never, ever give up" to heart. Do take the time to download this article and read. I hope it will inspire you as much as it inspired me. Have a good read and cheers!


More Than Just Surviving

In the Sunday Star's Fit4Life section (29 July 2007), I chanced upon this article by Loh Foon Fong which shared the experience of two breast cancer survivors. The general population generally assumes that breast cancer only afflicts older women but Siew Mei Quin was diagnosed with cancer in her mid-30s. She even shared that through this experience, she became a positive individual! (I have said many times, your attitude on life will make a difference). The other survivor, Wong Mee Yee, had mastectomy (total removal of the breast) at the age of 52 and now she's actively involved in dragon boat races all over the world. It is amazing that both these women took things in their stride and through this harrowing experience, they came out stronger and more positive than before. It is my hope that readers of my blog would realize the importance of having a positive outlook of life and have regular breast examinations as it was illustrated by the survivors, early detection and treatment is the best cure for breast cancer. Have a good read and cheers!

Managing Risk Is Key In Volatile World

The Star Metro Classifieds (28th July 2007, Saturday) published an article by Marc Ronez from the Asian Risk Management Institute (ARiMI). I found the article very interesting as it dealt with corporate risk management which is something very new to me (I am still learning the ropes of individual risks!). This article gives a general overview of the elements involved Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) which involves having the right risk control system and processes, financial vulnerability, sensitive to surrounding changes as well as proper adaption of new technologies. Despite all that is said, the author also acknowledges that it is not easy to develop and implement an ERM programme successfully. However,it doesn't mean that budding entrepreneurs/businessmen should procrastinate in implementing ERM. As we are well aware of, knowing and realizing the risks involved are different issues altogether. To know is to be aware of but to realize is to acknowledge and take concrete steps to address the issue altogether. Have a good read and cheers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When People Get Angry

When People Get Angry by Daniel Theyagu featured in today's The Star Metro Classifieds (24 July 2007). In my previous entry Dealing with Anger, there were seven suggestions on how to manage your personal anger. This article in this entry provides suggestions on how to manage others who are angry. The author categorized them as customers, bosses and colleagues and friends. Despite what's said in here, I personally think that the most important criteria one must have before diffusing the anger of others is to control one's temper. If one can't even contain his/her anger, I doubt he/she will be able to negate the anger of others. Have a good read and cheers!

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Good Friend Becky!

This is the first time I am doing this so I have no idea if I'm doing it right. For this entry, I would like to express my gratitude to my dear friend Becky. A small and petite little lady, she moves around in a black "yet-to-be-pimped" Kelisa. However, having a small frame doesn't mean that she's a push over! Oh yeah, she loves her 3 year old nephew to bits! (She's spoiling him with toys and heaps of love). Being the youngest in her family have certainly molded her into a loving mum. Though she's only 2 days older than Yours Truly, she treats me like her son and I'm so humbled by the love she showers on me. Due to her abundant love for me, she brought me to Secret Recipe couple of months back in Metro Prima Jusco and introduced me to the awesome Ice Cream. We went-dutch on that outing but we vowed to have another round of Secret Recipe Ice Cream sometime soon (I hope she'll treat me this time!).

Becky, Thanks for introducing me to Secret Recipe Ice Cream! You know I love ya!

21 Steps To A Great Retirement

This article on financial planning will be the last article that is going to be featured in the Sunday Star Focus section. The last article, published in The Sunday Star Focus pages F28-29, gives a general overview on how an individual should plan for their retirement. The articles featured are starting to sound like a broken tape recorder since it emphasizes on saving young, wealth protection and creation, etc. However, do take note of the message they're trying to relay across as retirement planning is a must and shouldn't be taken lightly. Have a good read and cheers!

Women's World: Check This

Last Sunday's The Sunday Star (22 July 2007), Dr. Nor Ashikin Mokhtar wrote an article on women's health check. It was featured in the Health At Large Section page SF7 and it covers the various tests available for women such as mammograms, pap smears, ECG, etc. Women folk out there, do download and read it as regular check ups can and will save your lives. Cheers!


Good Leaders Take Blame, Give Credit

In last Saturday's The Star Metro Classifieds (21 July 2007), an article on leadership was featured. The header says it all. Do give it a read and if you're a manager or soon-to-be-one, do take to heart that good leaders do take blame and give credit (Even though it's rare!). Have a good read and cheers!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Emotional Trauma...

A week ago, my buddy, TKF's dad was admitted to Kuala Lumpur Hospital early in the morning because he had difficulties in breathing. At that point of time, I was in Penang for work. Coincidentally, I was going back to KL on that day itself. It took me the usual three and a half hours drive to get back to KL and I immediately rushed to the hospital. During my visit, his dad has recovered considerably though he was still hooked onto a breathing apparatus. Looking at his report, the initial diagnosis was pneumonia. It was a huge relief. However, as it was only an initial diagnosis, the doctor instructed TKF's dad to stay for further tests and observation. Monday came and his dad was transferred to another ward. I called TKF and everything was fine. Three days later, I gave him a call again to see if his dad has checked out of the ward and TKF solemnly broke the news to me; his dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. The news shocked me. Sh*t. It was so sudden and it reminded me what I had kept inside for so long...

Two and a half years ago my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. My whole family was in shock and we went through a lot during my mum's year long battle against this disease. Back then, I kept it all to myself without letting a single soul know and life went on as usual. I returned home as often as I could but each time I went back, my mum's condition deteriorated. I accompanied my mum to her treatments whenever possible and even join in the weekly prayer meetings we have with our Catholic friends in our home. However, it was a losing battle. In October 2006, my mum completed her chemotherapy and she went back for a check up in November 2006. To our horror, the subsequent check up showed that instead of being cured, it has spread to the lungs and the doctor immediately sent my mum back to chemotherapy. Not long after that it went from her lungs to her brain and subsequently her back bone. From being able to walk on her feet, she was reduced to using a walking aide and in the later stages, she could barely walk due the the excruciating pain (despite having strong pain killers) and she had to use the wheel chair.

On the fateful day of 27 February 2006, I received a phone call from my dad in the morning telling me that my mum was hospitalized because she couldn't breathe. Dropping whatever I was doing (back then I was doing my final year project) and I rushed to Damansara Specialist Hospital Intensive Care Unit where my mum was warded with my beloved Adel (I didn't have a car back then and Adel drove me there from Cyberjaya). Till today, I can vividly remember how anxious, worried and helpless I felt when I saw her lying on the bed. She was on morphine drips to help ease her pain but even then I could see that she was in pain. It was a painful sight as each breath she took looked as though she was desperately and agonizingly gasping for air. Once a tad chubby woman, she was reduced to half of what she was and since it was an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), we were only allowed limited time with her. Every time we left the hospital, each phone call we receive always kept my family and I on the edge because we will be praying hard it was not from the hospital bearing bad news. Can you imagine the anxiety we had to go through?

The next five days was literally hell. The doctor already told us that my mum will not make it and all they could do is to provide her 'quality-living' for her remaining days. I was grateful that most of my close buddies came each day to provide moral support. After four agonizing days in the hospital, as fate would have it, my family finally gotten permission to station one family member in the ICU room to accompany my mum and I was the chosen one since I need not report to work the next day. Due to some miscommunication, the night shifts' supervisor didn't receive the orders from the doctor and she booted me out of the room despite my protests (I never blamed her because she was only doing her job) and I notified my dad immediately. After much argument (profanities everywhere!), the nurse finally let me back in and less than five minutes I was back in the dark room saying my prayers for my mum, I noticed her pulse started to drop drastically and I immediately called for a nurse. The nurses did what they could as and I was told to leave the room. All I could do then was to call my family. A brief moment later, a nurse came up to me and asked me to go in. They summoned the doctor on duty but before he arrived, the senior nurse looked at me, shook her head and told me to say my last words. I couldn't help but cried like a baby as I told my mum these exact words in Cantonese,

"Do not worry mum and go in peace as the three of us will take care of dad..."

The moment I finished uttering those words, my mum shed a tear and took her last breath... She was gone. It was 0019 on 3rd March 2006 when my mum returned to the Lord. Till this very day, that scene and the feeling of helplessness and anxiety was carved deeply into my memory. This is why I can empathize with TKF as he is going through a similar circumstances. To my buddy TKF, my prayers are with you and your family. Stay strong my friend regardless of what is to come.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dealing with Anger

Part of the ongoing self help articles featured in the Star Metro Classifieds, this Wednesday (18 July 2007) gave seven tips on how to manage one's anger. I never knew drinking warm water with a tinge of lemon has a calming effect on the body. LoL. Anyway, have a good read! Cheers!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Negarakuku

One of my friends forwarded me this YouTube clip. It's in Hokkien and Mandarin. It pokes fun at Malaysia Government and police. Have a good time watching this clip ~!

Do They Think I'm That Stupid?

From : +6281944234522
Congratulations! Anda memenangi CEK TUNAI RM 11.000 from MAXIS. info sila hubungi perkhidmatan MAXIS 006281342325777 http://www. hotlink. com. my

That was the SMS I received during lunch today. The moment I read the SMS, I couldn't help but literally laugh out loud. (LoL) Who in their right mind would fall for such a stupid SMS? Let me point out the flaws of this text message. First of all, the language used is a mixture of Bahasa Malaysia and English which I doubt Maxis would be make such amateur mistakes such as 'Anda memenangi CEK TUNAI RM 11.000 from Maxis'. Secondly, the reward of RM11 (it's RM 11.000 not RM 11,000) doesn't attract me at all. In fact, I would pay that sucker RM 11 to stop him from sending me such stupid text messages.

Moral of the story: If you want to con others, please use proper English/Bahasa Malaysia and ensure your punctuation is correct. After all, we are educated Malaysians you know! LoL

The Sky's The Limit

Last Saturday's (14 July 2007) The Star Metro Classifieds featured this article written by Nido Qubein which talked about being the star performer of a company. All of those criteria listed here are already known to most of us such as being a go-getter, share knowledge, team player, etc but I doubt many of us realize the importance of it. Nonetheless, I would like to emphasize the benefits of sharing knowledge. I have not been in any office politics due to my early exit from my previous employment but the short three months I was there, I have seen so many minor matters that have been blown out of proportion due to selfishness. It doesn't take a genius to know what resulted from that and relationships were strained. You have nothing to lose from sharing what you know with others cause it will only reinforce what you already know and it will strengthen the bonds between you and your peers. Plus, those who share their knowledge freely with others who will gain more as others will return always the favour. Hey, you don't expect others to do unto you what you have NOT done unto others right? In short, sharing helps you reaffirms what you already know, build better relationships and reduces the need to 'implore' others to assist you since those you helped are more than willing to return the favour. So what is there to lose by sharing? Hmm... I think I'm getting too carried away. You get my point. Do download the article and read. Cheers!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shiny or Shabby Golden Years?

This time on The Sunday Star's (15 July 2007) Focus on Financial Planning, the case used here is about a middle-aged couple ,Daniel, 54 and Debra, 51, whom did not have proper financial planning since young. This article paints a rather bleak out come even if they started a 'crash course' in planning for their retirement. Just imagine this; to cover up for their shortfalls, they have to invest RM 9,500 per month in order to have sufficient funds for their retirement and Daniel would have to delay his retirement till the age of 64 (I wonder which company will be so kind to continue his employment. After all, they can always hire a younger individual with lesser salary and perks and he/she can still do the same job...) and now they would have to really save aggressively (compared to what they would need to save 10 or 20 years ago).

However, like the article indicates, the purpose of painting this bleak scenario is not to depress the readers but to highlight the importance of having proper financial planning since young to avoid such issues in the future. It takes a little sacrifice today to have a comfortable living in the future or do we wait till the very last minute and lament at how stupid we were for not saving enough? Now, that's food for thought...


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stand Out, Get Noticed

Metro Classifieds in The Star (12 July 2007) featured an article teaches us to stand out and be remembered in order to succeed. Regardless of whether you're in a large organization or in the sales/service industry, being outstanding and enabling others to remember you is a 'must-have' criteria. I love the way the author, David Avrin, puts it bluntly in the last paragraph (very aptly I must add!),

'Remember, the greatest enemy of success in business is anonymity. If people do not know who you are, they cannot buy what you are selling!'

Have a good read! Cheers!


How To Strike A Balance

Once again, The Sunday Star (8th July 2007) Focus page F28 and F29 featured an article on financial planning. This week's case study revolves around a married couple Charles and Claire with a net income of RM15,000 and two young kids. The scenario revolves around planning for retirement and education fund for their children. Have a good read! Cheers!


Aftermath of Breast Cancer

Whenever I see articles related to breast cancer, I always take note (No, I'm not a breast freak!) and see what it has to say. As most of you know, I lost my mum to this dread disease that's why I feel somewhat 'attached' to it. Hmmm... now I'm on a crusade against breast cancer!(LoL. That's a bit over dramatic!) Basically this article discusses on the various breast reconstructive methods available and it was published on The Sunday Star Health At Large section page SF6. Have fun reading! Cheers!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wedding bells...

On 7 July 2007, I would believe that hundreds of couples nationwide registered or had their wedding reception on this supposedly auspicious day. My colleagues and I were saying, everyone was attending someone else's wedding on that day itself. Being part of the 'crowd', I attended the wedding dinner of Your's Truly's good friend, Pui Fun at her sleepy hometown of Ipoh. Since I wasn't from Ipoh, I had no idea where the restaurant was and after some last minute (and somewhat chaotic) arrangement, I met up with Audrey Ting (whom I have not met for years since we went into our own majors back in MMU) and both of us found our way to the venue ahead of time (with the much needed help from the bride herself). It was a simple wedding reception which only her relatives (the bride's side of the family) and close friends attended.

The wedding dinner started at 8pm sharp after every guest was seated. Surprisingly, the dishes served were quite good and being a Chinese wedding dinner, the guests were quite loud especially the older uncles and aunts who had a few rounds of liquor. Seated at the table with Yours Truly were three of Pui Fun's ex-house mates from MMU, Audrey, Joyce, Yong, Eugene and Siew Goh. The drinks we had started out pretty mild as we had soft drinks until Audrey started the ball rolling by having the first glass of beer. Soon, Yours Truly followed suit and with the combined power of influencing of the both of us, we eventually made everyone seated at our table to indulge in some warm beer (No thanks to the incompetence of the restaurant staff). Not too long after the dinner started, the bride and groom proposed a toast and true to our Chinese wedding style, we shouted out "Yam Seng" thrice and both star of the night went from table to table to chat with the guests. This was when all of us realized that we didn't bring a camera and we had to settle with camera phones.

From left: Eugene, Pui Fun, Yours Truly and Yong

From left: Siew Goh, Joyce, Pui Fun, Audrey and Leong (Pui Fun's younger brother)

Soon after the photos were taken, we continued with our dinner and the wedding reception ended at 10pm sharp (that's a record for me as the dinner started off relatively on time and ended early!). This was followed by a brief gathering at the bride's house before we left for Penang at about 1130pm. Throughout the night, it was so clear that both the bride and groom were brimming with happiness. It was certainly a joyous occasion for the married couple and her friends as Pui Fun has come a long way since her University days. Those whom have known her as much as we did would know how much she struggled with her previous relationship due to issues which I will not discuss here. Now, she is the first amongst our batch to settle down and start a family which I really envy and respect. This is a big contrast to the trend our generation is moving towards now; careers come first and the act of starting a family comes secondary (which is why many young adults are pushing their marriage into their 30's).

To Lyk Wuai and Pui Fun, I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this entry to you. May you be continuously be blessed with health, happiness and abundance in life. I'm truly happy for you have finally found your true happiness which eluded you awhile back. God bless the both of ya!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Insights Into Wealth Cycle

This is another article regarding financial management. It was featured on Thursday's (5th July 2007) The Star Starbiz section page B10. The four cycles listed in this article are wealth creation, wealth enhancement, wealth preservation and wealth distribution. However, the article also highlighted that most individuals often neglect the wealth preservation and distribution cycle which could result in their accumulated wealth being wiped out in a single blow. Like the famous Robert T.Kiyosaki said," It's not how much you make, it's how much you keep, and how many generations you keep it." Cheers!

Worklife Issues

It's amazing how many of us take for granted the wonderful articles featured in the Star. I have heard many of my friends and colleagues alike complain that newspapers are dull and boring (other than the Comics Section) but I beg to differ. Each day of the week, the Star Metro Classifieds Central Edition always provide articles that helps us improve ourselves in numerous aspects of our life. I just read the articles entitled "Perfect Your Balancing Act" (The Star Metro Classifieds 4th July 2007) and its subsequent section "Missing In Action?" (The Star Metro Classifieds 5th July 2007) which are written by Anna Murphy. The author emphasizes the few important aspects of our life which are; Career, Family and Friends, Leisure, Continuous Education, Spiritual Growth, Community Work as well as Finance Plan (She didn't touch on Health though... Wonder why?) Do take your time to read it as I truly believe and concur that success is not measured by excelling in one of the areas but to be successful is to have a balanced life that excels in all areas. Cheers!



How To Invest In The Right Business

The article "How To Invest In The Right Business" was featured on Wednesday (4 July 2007) The Star daily in Starbiz page B9. It was written by Ooi Kok Hwa who is a licensed investment advisor. This article discusses on the things one has to go through before actually investing in the company to minimize the risk. One has to understand the business you plan to invest in such as the turnover rate, type of products/services offered, integrity of the management and the margin of safety the business provides. Do take note that this is only a brief overview of how to invest but for the uninitiated, this is a good simple article to get you started into the world of shares and investments. Cheers!



Monday, July 02, 2007

Save First and Spend the Rest

Once again, in yesterday's edition of the Sunday Star, they featured an article on financial planning. This time, it deals with retirement planning for young working adults at the age 24/25. The figures projected here has factored in all the necessary costs and to be honest, it is quite shocking to see that if Adeline (my beloved) and I were to get married this year, we would have to prepare a whopping RM 3.8 million retirement fund if we were to retire comfortably (we're talking about the fund to offset our daily necessities and this does not factor in the cash required for vacation/leisure purposes). Please go ahead and save this article to read and I hope this will jolt you into taking steps for retirement planning.

Note: This article was featured on The Sunday Star, 1st July 2007 in Focus Section (Page 29-30)



Sunday, July 01, 2007

Trapped by plastic

This is an article featured in The Star Weekend Focus 30 June 2007. It describes the danger of using credit card if one doesn't have the necessary discipline.

A survey carried out by a local university has shown that 11% of bankruptcy cases were due to credit card debts and 8% of bankrupts were aged between 20 and 30.

When her parents announced they were going to cut her off financially, Sarah, 27, a flight attendant, was literally floored.

“For 27 years they picked up the tab for everything from cigarettes to cereals,” she admits.

“But when they found out Derek (the boyfriend they weren’t particularly fond off) and I were living together in the apartment they had been footing the rent for, mom and dad went ballistic and revoked all monetary privileges,” reveals Sarah.

“I had charged four credit cards to the tune of RM11,000, and that debt alone was overwhelming me. I couldn’t imagine having to pay all of my own bills, plus the credit card debt.”

Cut yourself loose: If your plastic has landed you in credit card hell, it’s time to cut it out of your life (model posing). — RAZIQ ABD SAMAT/The Star

In the end, Sarah took some pretty extreme measures and paid off her debt in four months.

“I hauled every single thing I owned out onto the lawn and sold it. When I was done, my possessions amounted to just two boxes of clothing and one box of personal papers and mementos. Then I called up each credit card company to work out deals, and a lot of them let me ‘settle’ my debt for slightly less than I owed or at least cut me some slack on miscellaneous fees and interest.”

Many young people are making similar credit mistakes without the safety net of wealthy parents to fall back on. In school, you have home economics classes that teach you how to bake a cake and how to make your own orchid plant holder, but no one ever sits you down to explain responsible credit maintenance.

A shiny new credit card promises the young adult a whole new world, but no one thinks about the potential pitfalls. Credit facilities allow people to spend money they do not actually have, but will eventually come into. Problems arise when you spend more money than you will come into.

“Credit cards are a good tool when put to the right use. A consumer doesn’t need to bring along a lot cash to purchase goods or services. For a business person, he has less receipts to compile when it comes time to submit his income tax return form, because most of his business expenses would appear on one credit card statement,” points out Hazel Ong-Archibald, 35, an agency manager with CIMB Wealth Advisors.

“The disadvantage is people can get so carried away with the concept that they can pay later that sometimes they forget to live within their means.”

A collection agent tells me the plight of one debtor he was assigned to track down: in his first year of owning a credit card, the man charged RM12,000. Twenty years later, the poor chap still hadn’t managed to settle it. Now, as a result of several late payment charges, interests, etc, his bill has ballooned to more than RM20,000. He was 56 years old.

“When I mentioned bankruptcy, he didn’t seem to care. It had become that bad. I felt awful asking him to pay up,” the collection agent says.

As Shannon, 24, a web designer, discovered three years ago, credit is not free. Like many others, she started out using her card reservedly – the occasional RM60 lip gloss, for instance, which she paid for immediately upon receiving the bill.

But then along came Christmas.

“I remember thinking to myself: I can barely get by on my measly salary, how am I supposed to buy anyone presents?” Shannon recalls.

“My three-month-old credit card seemed like the best invention in the world, so I swiped for all my presents.”

The next thing she knew, Shannon was staring at a bill of RM4,000, twice her monthly take-home pay. She panicked, and then she saw the minimum payment box – RM200 – and breathed a sigh of relief. Three years later, she still hasn’t managed to settle her outstanding balance.

“I’m being hit with interest every month,” Shannon laments. “I felt really good being able to give everyone nice presents for a change. But I didn’t know that good feeling was going to cost so much.”

According to Ong, if you only pay the minimum, you would be charged an interest of 1.5% per month or 18% per year for the outstanding balance.

“The interest payment compounds over time, and that is how many people get trapped in credit card debt,” she explains.

Some retail outlets tout zero interest, easy payment schemes using a credit card. But there is a catch. Say you want to snap up a new sound system. Instead of signing a slip for RM3,000, you sign an agreement saying RM300 will be charged to your card every month for the next 10 months. If the cardholder does not pay in full when the statement comes, then her purchase under the “Zero interest payment” scheme will be subjected to 18% interest per annum.

On top of that, there is usually an administration fee for signing up for the scheme.

Sabrina, 30, managed to service the first three instalments on a RM1,500 sofa bed, but then met with some other incidentals and couldn’t make the payments on time anymore. At the end of the 12 months, she was paying interest rates on seven months for her new sofa.

“Then again there was no way I could afford to shell out RM1,500 out of the blue just like that,” confesses Sabrina, a stylist.

Easy payment schemes like these offer a lot of convenience but it takes a great deal of discipline to make it work for you. While those who take up hire-purchase loans are protected under the Hire-Purchase Act 1967, there are no specific laws to protect those who take up easy payment schemes.

The rate of interest for the easy payment scheme is likely to be higher than that of hire-purchase since the Hire Purchase Act puts a limit on the maximum interest rate that can be charged. If you always have an outstanding balance on your credit card bill, these schemes are definitely not for you.

Banks these days are practically throwing cash and free gifts at consumers, but stay alert to changes in the terms and conditions of your credit card agreement and read the fine print.

One bank sent out cheques of RM5,000 to cardholders. Once the cheque is deposited into the cardholder’s savings account, a handling fee of RM150 is charged. Interest of 18% per annum on the outstanding balance is charged if the cardholder does not settle the monthly payment in full.

Sometimes, as customers approach their limit, the credit card company may offer to raise the limit to encourage increased spending and debt. To reel in young professionals aged 25 to 29, some banks even lower the qualification criteria.

At 18% per annum, a credit card loan is way more expensive than other types of consumer lending. You can become a bankrupt if your debt mounts to more than RM30,000. Until you are discharged as a bankrupt, you will not be able to apply for a loan.

A debt management speaker once said: “Just keep one card in case of emergency, and even then, keep it frozen in the refrigerator.”

Although this had everyone laughing, he emphasised that he was serious. So, if you have a credit card for every bank in town, it’s time to pick up the phone and start cancelling.

With interest rates at nearly 50% less than those of credit cards, some personal loan packages by banks are being viewed as an ideal way to settle your credit card debt as you repay the personal loan in fixed instalments over a period of time.

“You must, however, pay off the debt with discipline and not allow it to compound again due to an inability to service the loan repayment,” says Ong. Otherwise, you could find yourself in the same boat as Preetha, 28.

The legal assistant took a personal loan to settle her credit card debt of about RM10,000 and kept the card. As you might have guessed, it wasn’t long before she started using the card again.

“It started innocently enough,” recalls Preetha. “I used my card to pay for lunch, promising to repay it as soon as I made a withdrawal. But I never did.”

With a fixed commitment to her personal loan, Preetha found herself only able to pay the bare minimum on her credit card. It wasn’t long before she ran up a RM1,000 debt on her card, and she knew it would keep rising. She had no choice but to cut up her card.

“I’ve managed to bring it down to RM700 so far. As soon as it’s down to zero, I’m cancelling the card and getting a debit card instead – no more excuses then!” she promises.

Debit cards have become quite fashionable these days because they are virtually risk-free. Basically, they work like a prepaid card: You deposit RM1,000 in your account, and you can do up to RM1,000’s worth of spending.

You simply cannot overspend unless you top up your account. With MEPS Cash and other debit card facilities, people can learn to curb their spending, live within their means and stay out of debt.

Source: Consumer Association of Penang in the book Money Matters for Young People (2006).