PETALING JAYA: Few Malaysians know enough about managing personal finance, and most care even less about it, making them vulnerable to the proverbial bolt from the blue.
According to RinggitPlus co-founder and director Hann Liew, the ability to save, to invest and to be resilient to financial shocks are the three pillars of a person’s ability to be financially secure.
Yet, he told FMT Business, a 2022 survey showed that Malaysians struggled to do well in all three pillars.
Liew, who studied mathematics at the London School of Economics and then joined Barclays as an investment banker, hopes to change all that.
Malaysians on the brink of financial disaster
The Malaysian financial literacy survey of 2022 by RinggitPlus showed that seven out of 10 respondents saved less than RM500 per month. Some do not save a single sen.
This is the worst it has been in five years, Liew said.
Compounding the problem is the increase in the number of people who have lost the little savings they have to scams, or been hoodwinked into putting all their money into too-good-to-be-true investment schemes.
Liew said true financial resilience is the ability to see the fear or greed-based scam for what it is and not fall for it.
Advocating for financial literacy
A strong advocate of financial literacy, Liew and his team have identified various ways to help Malaysians take control of the management of their money.
He noted that the young are not the only ones facing money problems.
“Surprisingly, even professionals up to their late 30s continue to face financial difficulties. Education in financial literacy seems to have failed to reach many, even lawyers, engineers and doctors,” he said.
He pointed out that while the national agenda is to create a highly-skilled workforce, a key aspect, which is knowledge in saving, investing and protecting wealth as one prepares for retirement, is missing.
This is the hole that Liew and his partner Lucas Ooi hope to plug with RinggitPlus.
A merger of two websites
In its current form, RinggitPlus is a merger between the version founded by Citibankers Yuen Tuck Siew and James Barnes in 2012, with Liew and Ooi’s SaveMoney.my.
“Back when fintech was not even a word yet, RinggitPlus was just a small internet business in financial services,” Liew told FMT Business.
Those were the days when one still had to walk into a bank to get a financial product.
Fast forward to today, the merged entity has become the tool to find the best banking products to help Malaysians make the most of their personal finances.
Spreading the word
But Liew and Ooi’s objective extends beyond helping their customers find the right credit cards or loans best suited for them.
He is hoping to make Malaysians financially literate “from Day One”, and one way to do it, he said, is to get stakeholders to invest in education at the tertiary level.
In a collaboration with Saito University College, a digital financial literacy module has been introduced to help students become more financially astute when they enter the workforce.
“This can bring a positive change to a student’s life,” he said.
Liew believes that with a financially literate workforce, money problems that households face today can be solved within just one generation.
Over the last decade, RinggitPlus has helped its more than a million customers nationwide get the right credit products for themselves through research.
This year, the plan is to extend its services to cover savings and deposit products through its new service called “Save”.
“Through ‘Save’, we will help customers compare interest rates for savings and help customers pick the right money market funds to invest in,” he added.
While RinggitPlus stands to gain from a more financially literate Malaysia ultimately, Liew said, the country can begin to resolve structural issues that have led to high indebtedness and the inability to achieve a financially-sound retirement.