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Top things Malaysians should do with their yearly bonus!

Updated 19 Oct 2018 – By Loanstreet

The results from the 2017 MEF Salary Surveys for Executives and Non-Executives reveal that more Malaysian companies have granted bonuses to their employees compared to the previous year. 65.9% of respondent companies granted a bonus to their executives in 2017 compared to 63% in 2016, whereas the same increase held true for non-executives as well, with 65.6% in 2017 compared to 61.3% in 2016. If you're one of those who received a bonus in 2017, congratulations are in order!

It's time now to create a spending plan to make the most out of that bonus. It assists you with prioritising your spending on things that will benefit you and your family the most. After considering all your expenses, you can then break down your bonus into a few categories with respective percentages. Here are some ways that should aid you further:

1. Clearing your loans

A substantial portion of your bonus should be paying off any short-term debt such as credit card dues and personal loans. Short-term debts carry the highest interest rates, so paying them immediately keeps you away from paying more interests in the long-term.

Purchase price RM300,000
Total loan RM270,000
Tenure 30 years
Interest rate 5% per annum
Monthly installment RM1,449.42
Total payment RM521,790.62
Total interest RM251,790.62

If you don't have any short-term debt, consider allocating money into your mortgage loan (if you have one). A decrease in your mortgage loan’s outstanding balance will reduce the interest charged. 

For example, if you are a PTPTN borrower, by using your bonus, you can enjoy certain incentives. One is a 20% discount on the outstanding debt for full settlement, and another is a 10% discount for payment of at least 50% of the outstanding debt made in a single payment.

If your bonus is not sufficient to entitle you for either discount, your available EPF 2 funds can be your source too. In fact, around half of your loan repayment is to service the interest. To reduce the interest charged, you can make a repayment of more than RM1,449.42 by using your bonus. The extra payments will reduce the outstanding loan amount and directly save on charged interest.

Bear in mind that some people tend to pay off their debts using their bonuses to access more credit in the year ahead. They are not aware of the fact that there is no benefit from their bonuses in the long run if they choose to do so, since it might mean little to no funds left for savings.

2. Emergency funds

This type of savings cannot be accurately measured (based on each individual's need) nor be calculated in terms of currencies (e.g. ringgits, dollars, etc) but rather, months of living expenses that the funds are able to cover. As such, it is advisable that the most basic emergency fund should contain four to six months of your salary for unexpected circumstances.

It can be utilised for matters such as a sudden loss of job or ill health. Invest in high liquidity and safe instruments like the Amanah Saham Bumiputra or fixed bank deposits to ensure you are cash-ready when faced with any financial crisis. Hence, if you are still building your funds, a credit card can be an alternative if used correctly.

3. Insurance coverage

Proper insurance coverage and policies are needed if you don’t already have one. If you are just starting out with your career and depending solely on the employer’s group insurance, you can use the bonus to purchase a medical insurance. As a married individual with a family, ensure that you have sufficient life and health insurance cover on your loved ones too.

4. Investments (Short-term)

If you are placing some of your bonus into a savings account, you are in fact getting poorer by the day because the inflation rate is much greater than what the bank is compensating you in interest. What to invest in then? If you’re new to investing, it is better to begin by building a portfolio. Be mindful of the fact that the stock market is volatile and selections of stocks are aplenty so it might end up hurting you, therefore proper research is needed. Consequently, investing in a unit trust is a safe investing alternative.

5. Retirement fund (Long-term)

EPF revised the basic savings from RM196,800 to RM228,000 effective Jan 1, 2017. This means that you would need to put away more money for your retirement to look after your future. The earlier you initiate a retirement plan, the larger the amount you can generate for your sunset years. Begin your plan by using your bonus right away.

The common investment products include shares, unit trusts, private retirement schemes (PRS), investment-linked insurance, annuities, real property and bonds. These are all different in terms of their potential returns, ease of converting into cash and safety of investment.

For instance, when RM50,000 is put in a mutual fund today and growing 8% annually over 20 years: You get RM230,000 in the end, which satisfies the minimum savings recommended by EPF.

6. Invest in yourself

Use your year-end bonus to purchase books, take some classes, further your education, and enrich your skill sets. It makes yourself more marketable to your employers, which eventually boosts your career. Thus, having newly acquired knowledge or skills would lead to an individual being able start up a business, which can help increase future wealth.

7. Have a bit of fun

It's pointless if your hard-earned money goes into repayments and the like, without spending some of it to enjoy yourself, right? The important thing is to set limits. You could have a fun local trip with your loved ones or travel to a foreign country to broaden your horizons.

To conclude:

We simplified everything into a table below for the benefit of our readers:

Allocation Percentage Amount (RM) Description
Debt 35% 3,500 Long- or short-term
Savings/Investments 15% 1,500 Emergency funds
  10% 1,000 Short-term
  15% 1,500 Retirement
Insurance 10% 1,000 Either health or life
Fun 15% 1,500 Entertainment/Holidays
Total 100% 10,000  

Note: this is just a rough guideline.

What's in store for 2018? According to the same survey, it's expected to be a good year indeed. Executives and non-executives can expect higher bonuses, up to 2.14 months and 2.02 months respectively. Both of which are slightly higher than the actual bonuses granted in 2017 at 2.09 months and 1.81 months respectively.

Remember, the choice is yours. It is up to you on how you would like to spend your bonus. You could actually be achieving financial freedom much earlier than your peers if you plan ahead for it!

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