Self-diagnosis: How to tell if you need help?
If you find that you’re struggling to just make ends meet each month, or are worried when your next meal will be, the first step would be to acknowledge that you need help! There should be no shame in reaching out to a trusted party to help you keep afloat and regain a stable financial standing as soon as possible.
This leads to the important question: what do you do if you’re facing difficulties that are quickly spiralling out of control?
Who do you call?
Enter the Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK), also known as the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency. Around since April 2006, AKPK is tasked to proactively help individuals take control of their financial standings and gain peace of mind when it comes to proper use of credit.
And they’re right on time! Today’s society is increasingly burdened by debt, as proven by some figures obtained from AKPK:
- A majority of people (69.2%) who seek help in regaining control of their finances are between 30 – 50 years of age. The remaining is made up of those below 30 years (14.4%) as well as those above 50 years (16.4%).
- From its inception right up to April 2018, there’ve been a total of 750,959 individuals who have sought counselling services from AKPK.
- Out of the 225,244 people who enrolled in AKPK’s Debt Management Programme (DMP), 42.0% of them admit that they encountered money problems due to poor financial planning.
The facts are also a strong indication of the importance of financial education; by providing their services, they hope to create a more resilient household sector as well as a sound and robust banking system.
How can AKPK help you?
Their services can be divided into four main categories as an avenue for individual and potential borrowers to seek advice and assistance. Best of all, they’re free of charge! Make sure you choose the one that best suits your current financial standing:
a) Financial education
Increasing the financial literacy of consumers will enhance their appreciation for the need to save, thus serving as the basis for wealth accumulation, preparedness for unexpected emergencies and a comfortable retirement.
Based on four life stages – tertiary education, entering the workforce, starting and raising a family, as well as retirement – they deliver relevant knowledge through some of their programmes, which include:
- Ad-hoc talks tailored to the specific age category as well as briefings to various target groups.
- Personal financial management education programme, which mainly targets university students.
- Comprehensive financial and retirement plans for pre-retirees.
- The POWER! Programme, designed to equip individuals with essential financial knowledge and the ability to make responsible financial decisions.
On top of that, you can check out the educational articles on their learning centre. AKPK has also published simplified guidebooks that come in four main languages: English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and Tamil. The publications can be bought at any AKPK branch for a minimal fee.
b) Financial counselling
Managing money wisely is an important skill to have, which is why AKPK provides counselling (one-to-one basis) that covers topics such as budgeting, managing expenses, debt handling as well as other credit-related issues.
Their counsellors are well-equipped to not only provide comprehensive advice, but they’d also be able to assist you in creating a customised budget for you to adhere to. This can only be done after they’ve taken an in-depth look into some of your confidential documents, such as your monthly salary and CCRIS report.
There’s no need for you to make an appointment in order to see a counsellor, but do take note of their schedule as below:
c) Debt Management Programme (DMP)
Counsellors will work in assisting financially distressed borrowers in creating a personalised debt repayment plan in consultation with the individual’s financial service providers. From there, they will be able to reschedule and restructure their various types of loans such as housing, hire purchase and personal as well as any outstanding credit/charge card balances.
Should you want to be enrolled in the DMP, there are some criteria which you’d first need to make sure that you meet:
- You are not bankrupt.
- Unable to manage your debts.
- You must have a positive nett income.
- You are not under any advance legal action.
- Only loans from the participating financial service provider.
- Your loan amount does not exceed RM5mil.
If you’d like to apply for this programme, first you’d need to fill in the AKPK online application form. Once done, you can then proceed to make an appointment at an AKPK branch of your choice, attend the counselling session with all relevant documents, and begin your first steps to financial recovery.
d) Voluntary Arrangement (VA)
There’s also an additional service to their line-up, the Voluntary Arrangement (VA). This latest rescue mechanism acts as a final option for a debtor to negotiate a feasible repayment plan with creditors in order to avoid being declared bankrupt. The debtor will appoint a nominee to act as an independent professional to oversee and try to structure a debt arrangement compromise with all the creditors.
In this ‘second-chance’ scheme, AKPK acts as the Nominee which also allows a debtor to enter into a legally-binding agreement with the creditors. Once he/she complies with the instalment plan as agreed upon by all parties involved, he/she would then be protected from any legal actions.
It’s important to continuously educate, advice and assist those who are struggling with financial difficulties, no matter the severity, and that’s exactly what AKPK has been doing for over a decade. In the words of AKPK Chief Executive Officer Azzadin bin Ngah Tasir, “We hope to rehabilitate a borrower’s financial attitude and behaviour as well as increase his self-esteem and self-worth. These individuals will, moving forward, continue to be part of the mainstream financial system and contribute effectively to the economy.”
For more general enquiries relating to matters such as account information and application status among others, AKPK can be reached via email or a phone call.