Households need RM10k monthly to live comfortably

PETALING JAYA: A recent study done by a US-based corporation that said Malaysia is considered a good place to retire for less than RM9,000 a month is not entirely true.

With food and rent prices rising after the Covid-19 pandemic, some people in Johor Baru, Kuala Lumpur and Penang say a household income of around RM10,000 is needed to live comfortably.

In Johor, private tutor Sherlyn Teh, who just got married last year, said her household and personal expenses are about RM8,000 a month.

“My husband and I consider ourselves lucky to have a household income of RM10,000, which is good for both of us.

“The bulk of it goes towards servicing the debt for our house and two cars. After paying for gasoline, bills and groceries, we can save money for personal savings and for our parents,” the 35-year-old said in an interview.

He added that eating out at cafes and restaurants is not an issue for them but they still make it a point to avoid going to places frequented by tourists.

“Prices at many eateries in Johor Baru have increased several times since the re-opening of the Malaysia-Singapore border in 2022 after the pandemic and now it costs more to eat out,” he said.

Norshikin Mohd Salleh, a mother of three, said a household income of RM10,000 is not enough for her family in Johor Baru as they already spend the same amount on their monthly expenses.

The 41-year-old who works in the private sector said his household expenses include about RM1,000 for groceries, RM3,400 for car and housing loans, RM700 for Internet and utility bills, RM1,000 for investment, RM500 for his children’s education expenses and RM300 for fuel.

“This does not include other expenses such as eating out – which we often do – shopping for clothes, car servicing, tuition fees and extracurricular activities of my children, as well as emergency funds.

“We also go for family vacations locally during the school holidays so we can spend some time together,” she said.

A study done by US-based financial services corporation Nasdaq said Malaysia is considered a good place to retire as the country tops the list of the 10 safest places to retire in Asia for less than US$2,000 (RM9,121) per month.

It said Malaysia, with a 1.471 global peace index and an average monthly cost of living of US$1,066 (RM4,861), topped the list, followed by runner-up Kuwait. The study used numbers in the Global Peace Index 2022 Report from the Institute for Economics and Peace, and from Numbeo, a database of user-contributed information about cities and countries around the world.

In Kuala Lumpur, Linda Chiew, 35, said the cost of living in the city has increased because prices have risen, and the family has had to cut back on some activities.

Monthly expenses for an eight-person household are about RM10,000, he said: house loan RM3,400, auto loan RM700, daughter’s school fees RM460, petrol RM600 (for two cars), food-related expenses RM2,200, phone bill RM140, utilities RM600, broadband RM150, and insurance RM150.

He said that to live comfortably in Kuala Lumpur, he needs to increase the family income by another 20% to save for his son’s future education.

A housewife who only wanted to be known as Low said she and her husband had to live more frugally since having three children. Their monthly household expenses are RM12,000, he said.

He said some comes from going to dinner for each family member’s birthday and booking domestic trips for the holidays.

“We’ll go to a recreational farm or picnic outside so the kids can enjoy nature.”

“We are not rich, but I am comfortable now,” he added.

In Penang, single mother and restaurant manager Fion Chiang, 47, is hoping for a 30% increase in her monthly salary of RM3,000 to offset the rising cost of living.

He has two sons, 19 and 26. The youngest is studying tertiary while the eldest works in Kuala Lumpur.

“We still fit in with our combined income of RM7,000.

“To live comfortably, however, we need to get another RM3,000,” he said.


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