FRESH graduate Danial Hakim (not his real name) isn’t repaying his student loans right now.

Instead, they’re in deferment as he earns a bachelor’s degree in economics at University of Malaya.

Currently employed at a multinational company, Danial, 24, didn’t graduate from university with much debt — about RM24,000, he says — but he’s considering putting his loans back into repayment.

With his current salary of RM3,500, he is able to plan and manage his finance accordingly.

One of the decisions many fresh graduates will make is on how to pay their student loans once they graduate and get their first salary.

Ignore the debt, and it could swell into an eye-popping amount after graduation. Tackle it, and other bills and expenses might go unpaid.

To date, there are 1.3 million National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) borrowers who are in the process of settling their study loans.

The corporation revealed that the outstanding loan amount from these “good” borrowers currently stands at RM10.9 billion.

PTPTN had to deal with about 600,000 loan defaulters as reported by the media, involving loans worth RM7.9 billion.

However, the corporation has recovered only an estimated RM8 billion over the past 20 years, resulting in about 1.3 million defaulters being blacklisted under the Central Credit Reference Information SystemS).

This has brought about hardship to the defaulters as they are unable to secure loans for other purposes, let alone jobs to repay the outstanding debts.

Being a student is all well and fun, but the second you finish your studies, you’re no longer protected by the warm and cozy nest your parents have provided you since childhood.

Once you graduated, you’ll have to start thinking about the hows and whens of managing your personal finances, and what you will face at the end of your studies.

HIGHER ED speaks to fresh graduates who share their experiences on gaining employment, paying off student loans while trying to save to build a good credit score.

SAVING the FIRST PAYCHECK

Nurul Shuhada Razali, 24, realised the importance of saving your income as she believes one should start from the day they receive their first paycheck.

“I always tell my friends if they start saving from the beginning, no matter how big or small the amount is, they will be able to use if for future planning. For example, for marriage or travelling, purchasing property and many others,” she said.

Nurul Shuhada added that it was very hard at the beginning as she couldn’t save constantly, but she knew that she had to start somewhere, somehow.

“The way that I save money is by transferring some of my money to another bank account, which I seldom use, to make sure that my savings and expenses are separated.

“Apart from that, I have this group chat called ‘Geng Kutu’, which helps me save more money.

“I pay RM100 per person every month in a group of 10, so when it’s your turn, you’ll be able to use it whether to pay for your car services, road tax and even shopping for luxurious goods,” said Nurul Shuhada, who graduated from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).

Peer pressure is normal for fresh graduates, said Nurul Shuhada, but it is how you tackle and handle the situation that matters.

“Some of them spend on luxurious items, like branded handbags, watches, clothes, shawls and many other things. I don’t know how they do that with a basic income of RM2,000.

“But some really do well in saving money. I was astounded when I found out that some of them managed to save up almost RM1,000, which is half of their salary,” she added.

Like many other university students, she also received a study loan during her university years.

And now that the time has come for her to pay back, Nurul Shuhada has just settled her outstanding loan by deducting from her Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) account 2. Next, she will do a standing instruction from her own savings account every month to pay off the remaining of her debts.

“That would be the best way to pay off my loan as soon as possible as it should be settled within two years from now,” she said.

Nurul Shuhada has been working as a customer service agent at RHB Bank since April.

When she started her first job as an administrator at Malvern International Academy last year, she said her pay was roughly around RM1,200. It was obviously not enough for her to live in the cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur.

“I have to pay house rental, food, transportation and leisure, and shopping for clothes. The budget was really tight at that time.

“With my current salary of an additional RM1,000, which I think is still not enough, I have to make do with it, which the bulk of the income will go to the rental (including utility bills), PTPTN loan, travel expenses, telco bill, parents, clothes, transportation and leisure.

“I believe the sufficient income for my living expenses should be around RM3,500, so that I can spend some for my family, which I have yet to do so since I am always short of money.

“Just imagine, I have to spend a lot on my expenses and that does not include property and car just yet,” she added.

A FOODIE AND A SHOPAHOLIC


Nur Amira Najiha Muhammed Rezuan

A trainee at UEM Group Bhd, Nur Amira Najiha Muhammed Rezuan, 23, is another firm believer that one should start saving the moment they get their first salary.

“For me, my dad has always pushed for me to open an Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) account since I was a student. I think saving should start right after you receive your first salary. It doesn’t matter how much you save, but at least try to put in 20 per cent of your pay into savings of your own choice,” she said.

Nur Amira has been working for almost a year now and she earns a monthly salary of RM1,800.

“My rough expenditure would mostly go into savings by RM300, Internet bill (RM130), petrol (RM500), toll (RM100), food (RM400) and others (clothes, outings and leisure) by RM370.

“Since I only use my PTPTN loan to pay my course fee, the rest of the loan is usually kept in my ASB account. So, I don’t really have to worry so much.

“Furthermore, my parents would pay off my loan till I can afford to pay for my own car,” said Nur Amira, who will start her permanent post with a salary of RM3,000.

Since she is a shopaholic and a foodie, who likes to go on cafe hunts, she knows that her hobby is not cheap.

“To splurge on branded clothes even for something like Zara, I’ll be a bit thrifty due to my limited salary. But what I do to get these luxury items is by doing part-time jobs, like modelling or ushering for events. I buy those stuff using the money I earned from the jobs.

“I think spending on clothes, food and leisure activities is normal. Provided you are able to justify your bills, have some savings, and can still pay your other expenses every month,” she said.

CLEARING DEBTS

For Muhammad Faudli Che Mahmood, 25, a graduate from UiTM, as he recalls, his first salary was spent on his parents and settling a small debt he owed to his brother.

“I had two months of training at Multimedia University in Melaka under the 1Malaysia Training Scheme programme and received some allowance.

“It was the first time I had my own money, and back in my mind was to pay all overdue or minor debt so that I won’t have to deal with it in the long run,” said Faudli, who graduated last year.

The Bachelor of Science in Information Management graduate said he didn’t have any financial literacy education during his university years, but was self-taught.

“My first paycheck was only RM1,500 a month and I had to educate myself on how to manage my money wisely. I was lucky to have friends who would advise me from time to time, and I also gained extra knowledge through reading.”

Formerly employed as a technical support senior executive at Aegis BPO Malaysian he earned a little bit more.

“My net wage including incentive every month will be around RM2,500. I have to pay RM250 house rental, food (RM700), petrol and maintenance (RM250), parents (RM400), a mobile bill (RM50), others, which include clothes and leisure (RM300), and the remaining will be my savings.

“Though I am supposed to start paying my study loan, I haven’t done so yet. However, I am planning to do a deduction from my EPF account 2 and start paying via monthly installment soon.

“With my new job next month, I will earn a basic salary of RM2,900 and, hopefully, my life will be more stable,” he added.

Faudli will start his new permanent job as a siebel help desk analyst at Bureau Veritas in September, and will have an opportunity to train in France as a Siebel analyst.

He, however, has started saving since working in January. Though the amount is not much, just between RM500 and RM1,000 monthly, he would rather save now before he has other commitment.

“I am also looking at investment plans, such as Amanah Saham Bhd, and others, but I have to carefully think before I decide on where my money should go,” he said, adding that he might think of getting a property in two years’ time.

GETTING COVERED

This 23-year-old lad spent his first paycheck on savings and life insurance, because for him, it was of utmost important to have an extra medical coverage and beneficiaries for his family when a death incident occurs.

Muhammad Asyraf Mohd Husnan said he invested his first salary in the ASB investment plan and savings account.

“Start saving and invest now. It doesn’t matter if you start saving now because, just imagine, if you could save RM100 per month by using a simple saving method, by 10 years your accumulated saving could reach up to RM12,000.

“But, if you invest, it should be more. So, think about it,” he added.

Currently a trainee at one of the local banks, he would spend his salary, approximately RM2,700 per month, on food by (RM400), parents (RM400), rental (RM260), insurance (RM250), PTPTN via auto-debit (RM200) and fuel for his motorcycle (RM40).

The rest of his income was spared for savings (up to RM1,000) and leisure.

Asyraf doesn’t plan to buy a car anytime soon as he is saving up his money to buy a property as he believes owning a car is a liability.

“I think the best time to buy property is after two years of working because your accumulated savings plus bonus and other income are sufficient for the down payment,” he added.

LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS

Soon-to-be graduate, 23-year-old Eldina Khalip, just started working as a sales administrator at a real estate investment firm in Kuala Lumpur two months ago.

As much as she couldn’t help feeling guilty, or almost irresponsible for spending on things that she fancies, her mother is beginning to nag her on saving at least 10 per cent of her salary each month.

“I’ve already started some sort of savings. I also have a separate bank account apart from the bank account, where I draw my salary. I transfer the leftover of my salary into this account (more or less about RM500).

“I also have a Tabung Haji account. Maybe I can divide the leftovers and put them in these two accounts. I haven’t started yet, as I’ve only been working for a couple of months,” she said.

Eldina said she is aware of financial literacy as it was part of her syllabus since she studied finance at UiTM Kota Kinabalu.

She spent her first paycheck on her siblings by treating them out at Chilli’s and bought them new clothes.

“I merely emulate what I see. My mom and aunt, who lives with us, always spoil us, so it feels good to be giving for a change.

“Since I’m still living with them, my salary is just sufficient for now. An additional RM1,000 would be sufficient in my opinion.

“A substantial amount of my salary is spent on transportation and food. I also spend on clothes, perfume, books and movies. I haven’t given any money to my mother yet. Perhaps next month,” she added.

As Eldina doesn’t have to pay off any student loans, she was grateful and thankful to her mother, a single mother at that, and her aunt, who participated to see her through university.

She dreamt of having her own property one day, maybe in two years’ time, which she anticipates that she would be somewhat financially stable by then.

However, she has no intention of buying a car anytime soon because it’s a big commitment.

“I want to take it easy for a while and live within my means.”

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