Sunday, August 31, 2014

Financial Freedom: Penang kia vs. Chow Yun Fatt

Today is 31 August 2014, Hari Kemerdekaan. May be a good idea to sit back and relax to think about the meaning of freedom. Since this is a finance blog, the more relevant theme will be financial freedom. I came across 2 articles recently and it has been quite a talk of the town.

The first one was:

When even RM12,000 a month isn’t enough to get by in Malaysia

While Putrajaya talks up proposals to help the people mitigate rising prices with cost of living labs and possibly even more targeted subsidies, most Malaysians are looking at the prospect of expenditure exceeding their monthly salaries.

One of them is Caroline Wong, who believes her combined household income of RM12,000 is not enough to sustain a living in Penang, famed for its beaches as much as it electronics manufacturing sector.

The 34-year-old clerk lives with her husband, a sales manager and their young daughter are starting to feel the pinch despite earning an income that was once sufficient to live comfortably.“We are always eating in at home now and we can no longer afford to buy goods like branded clothing,” Wong told The Malaysian Insider in Penang's capital city George Town.

According to Wong, every month the couple have to fork out RM4,000 for the house and car, RM1,500 on food and another RM1,500 on daycare, baby food and milk for their child.
On top of that, there is RM750 on insurance and a family medical card, RM700 on petrol, RM600 on phone bills, WiFi and broadband, RM120 on Astro, RM140 on water and electricity bills and RM110 on a weekly housekeeper.

“We put aside RM500 every month for road tax and car insurance. Come May next year, we will have to spend another RM1,500 a month on our second child when it arrives,” Wong said.
- See more at:
It is quite wordy, so I just put them in a table.

The other article was:

He may be an international superstar having appeared in blockbuster productions from Hong Kong to Hollywood, but Chow Yun Fatt is still a frugal man deep down.
 According to a My Paper report, Chow, who is said to be worth S$126 million, claimed that he is still using a first-generation Nokia phone, and that he can survive on just 500 Chinese Yuan (S$103) a month.
Speaking at a public event, Chow jokingly gave a detailed look into how that monk will look like.
The breakdown of that survivalist month is as such: He doesn't need food for the month as he can survive on just water for 28 days, which will get him 1000 yuan of savings (S$206).

With that amount of money for the next month, he needs now to only eat a meal costing 10 yuan (S$2) a day, which can save him 200 yuan (S$41).
 The remaining 200 yuan is used for transportation.
He went on to explain the rationale behind his survivalist plan, saying that money should not be the barometer to one's happiness in life.

As long as one live his or her life to the max, he or she can be happy too no matter how poor, he added.

Full article: Follow us: @MsiaChronicle on Twitter

Again, if it is too wordy, this is how Chow Yun Fatt financial survivalist budget looks like.

BTW, if you decided to follow Chow Yun Fatt survival plan, this is how one will look like. It's too extreme for me but he got a good point.

So, what lessons can we draw from Penang Kia vs. Chow Yun Fatt? The first thing that jumped on top of my mind was: is Financial Freedom a myth? Is Financial Freedom is a cliche that over abused and over used marketed by personal financial planner?

There is a flaw in the argument itself? To say we need to achieve financial freedom mean we are already a slave or in bondage. On the contrary, in reality each of us already have financial freedom. The real issue is what do you want to do when you are already financially free.

In Chow Yun Fatt survival version, he said he is free with RM 526/month. However, our Penang Kia thinks RM 12,000 or having 22 times more than survivalist income is not enough to get by. Our Penang Kia was quite sure they are quite proud that they created a budget. They live within their means. When they say they cook and eat at home, that was their version of getting more frugal. All sounds too logical to many but there is a flaw. The problem that infecting city dweller is they are too obsessed with the concept of Quality of Life.

The version of Quality of Life that many have in mind was to live a scale down of rich and famous. Many did not realize they were brainwashed constantly by the media to conform into their image of success. When one cannot afford to drive Lamborghini, one picks Volkswagen GTi. One cannot afford to stay in high floor penthouse with 5,000 sq ft, one pays for almost similar cost/sq feet over-priced condominium with 1,000 sq st. Unconsciously, we may even have image of 10 servants and butler service, we want people to serve us.

By the way, do you know why Bollywood prospers despite of have some many poor people in India? Because it is a form of escapism. Part of the reason of why Hindi movies are so long, 3 hours, is because it will help people to forget about the pains and lost in fantasy for a while. Similarly, when urban dwellers confront with pressure of so called costs of living, they try to tell themselves that they need entertainment by gluing to Astro or pubs hence need more time by getting weekly helpers to do housework for them.

We go into justifying to have quality family time by going to restaurant but most ended up starring at iPhone and Galaxy without talking to each other. We talk but we don't communicate.

We buy more insurance because we are afraid of getting sick. We constantly looking at our beer belly thinking of having high risk of heart attack but rarely exercise. What is worse, we ended paying thousands of Ringgit swearing we will work out at Absolute fitness centre but constantly feeling guilty because we did not make good on our promise.

Many forgot the essence of life. I ask myself a lots - What makes life worth living?  Many put their energy in the wrong place. They focus too much at EFFECT and not CAUSE. Happiness is an EFFECT. Financial Freedom is an EFFECT. Many organized their lives as if putting a check mark on their to do list. Many spent way too little time on CAUSES.

Some of these images will remind me of the love of my mum. My mum will feel so happy watching me eating as if I was still 7 years old though I have a lot of grey hairs.

I remembered I was driving a car slightly better than this condition. But I was very happy and going into office with full of energy and enthusiasm.

I learn secrets from many wealthy people. They always live by pretending they earn a lot lesser. A person earns RM 12 k/month should live by pretending they earn RM 4 k/month only.


David Jb said...

Nice article thanks Turtle!

Low Paul said...

nice photos u have there!!!

thanks for sharing