Debt management agency says millennials no worse than predecessors

Out of over 600,000 people who have sought advice from AKPK since its inception 11 years ago, less than a third of them (198,000) enrolled in the debt management programme that the agency offers. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Millennials are not amassing debt at a rate faster than generations before, said the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).

It said 3,400 from the group sought help in the first eight months this year, or the same number of young people who sought the agency’s help for the whole of last year.

AKPK chief executive Azaddin Ngah Tasir said that while this suggested an increase in absolute terms, he put it down to better understanding of his agency’s functions rather than any indication of poor financial management among the group.

“This is more down to awareness. Starting 2015, we had conducted more awareness campaigns and more people know about us now. And not everyone who comes to us enroll in our debt management programme,” Azaddin said.

Out of over 600,000 people who have sought advice from AKPK since its inception 11 years ago, less than a third of them (198,000) enrolled in the debt management programme that the agency offers.

And for both categories, millennials only make up 15 per cent of the total number of individuals who have come to AKPK to advise and enrolled in their programme.

“It is just that, overall, the number of people (coming to us) has increased. This is about awareness, not about more people having financial problems,” he said.

Azaddin emphasised that those under 30 years old did not have significantly higher debt compared to older generations who are also seeking AKPK’s help.

“If you look at the (credit) facilities that they use, it is not very different (to older people). It is still the same. They have between three to five credit facilities, which is not higher compared to the cases we had before,” he said.

“In fact, the young people mostly just seek our advice, because they are single and young, and they not overly burdened by their loans,” he added.

Azaddin noted that 68.77 per cent of individuals who comes to AKPK are aged between 30 and 50 years old, with most of them being those who already have families and are heavily burdened by loans to manage their family life.

“There is a perception that the young people have very high debt, but fact is they normally do not even enter our (debt management) programmes,” he said.

Last week, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) deputy governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour said that millennials have high debt and low financial resilience.

Abdul Rasheed cited a study by the Asian Institute of Finance in 2015 that said that 38 per cent of young people relied on personal loans while 47 per cent of them had expensive credit card borrowings.

Millennials polled by Malay Mail Online attributed financial struggles of the younger generation to cost of living issues, and not necessarily spending habits.

Most agreed it was hard to save on their current salaries.

“This (millenials being bad at managing money) is subjective as I think Malaysians in general are bad at managing their finances. It could be down to a lot of factors but it impacts millennials the most because let’s be honest here, look at the salary of a fresh grad — is it enough for them to pay their bills, manage their monthly expenses and save some cash simultaneously? An uphill battle if you ask me,” said Andrew Jason, a 27-year-old tutor at HELP University.

Social media executive Hariz Noor said that while there seems to be a problem with millennials managing money, it could also be attributed to products and services getting more expensive by the day.

“It is quite a task to save from month to month. I have enough to survive,” he said.

Angelyn Ho, a 24-year-old content development executive, said that claims that millennials are bad at managing money was a “horrible generalisation”, while also pointing at rising costs.

“It’s more of managing expectations, and factor your salary with your expenditure. Cause everyone is different, they have different needs so it’s a matter of adjusting to those things,” she said.

Ho added that she has enough saved away to be able to handle two months’ unemployment.