Monday, March 21, 2011

Annual income requirement for cardholders too low

THE RM2,000 monthly salary requirement for new credit card approvals did not go down well with one of my teh tarik mates.
Last Saturday, while having breakfast in Sentul, our topic of conversation switched from the Japan nuclear crisis to Bank Negara Malaysia's revision of the minimum annual income requirement for new credit card applications, from RM18,000 to RM24,000.

My friend felt that the RM2,000 monthly pay requirement was too low.

He suggested that the minimum requirement be tagged at a monthly salary of RM2,500 or even RM3,000. The revision does not make it too difficult to own a credit card, he said.

"Even making those who wished to own two cards to have an annual income of RM36,000 per annum will not help reduce credit card debt problems," he added.

It is not difficult to see what he is driving at. To give a credit card to someone who earns RM2,000 a month is asking for trouble, especially for those who are living in the city where the cost of living is high and the temptation to spend aplenty.

Simple calculations will show why.

Subtracting 15 per cent from one's monthly pay, say RM2,000, for mandatory deductions like the Employees Provident Fund and Social Security contributions will leave the wage earner with about RM1,700 to take home.

Take away a third of this for accommodation needs, and he/she will be left with about RM1,000 to spend.

Remove another RM300 for monthly travel expenses (which is not enough if he/she owns a car) and he/she will be left with about RM700 monthly.

This translates to about RM25 per day left for other expenses such as food, cigarettes, phone top-ups, entertainment, Internet access, and sundry purchases.

This is based on the assumption that the wage earner does not have other commitments such as housing, car, education or personal loans to repay. Otherwise, it will not be long before the credit card owner gives in to the temptation and starts living on credit.

If statistics are anything to go by, one should also be concerned that 50 per cent of 3.2 million credit card holders have annual incomes of below RM36,000 as quoted in the recent news report. It would be interesting to know how many of these card holders owe their banks, how much, and for how long. Even more interesting is how many of them have been blacklisted and are on the verge of bankruptcy.

The credit card can only encourage prudent financial planning if one manages one's spending well. But how many people use the credit facility responsibly and resist the temptation of not making purchases using income yet to be earned? The poor spending habit is further compounded by the fact that one only needs to pay a small fraction of the total debt monthly to continue using their plastic cash.

And when emergency expenses hit those with high credit card debt, they have no choice but to borrow from friends or even loan sharks to stay afloat.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why have your resume in MyKad?

TO make it more convenient for job seekers, the Labour Department has proposed that soft copies of resumes be stored in the MyKad.
According to a report two Sundays ago, the department director-general Datuk Sheikh Yahya Sheikh Mohamed said the proposal had been made to the Human Resources Ministry, which would study the available technology and costs. The move is to relieve the burden of job seekers, especially school leavers.

While the idea is good, I wonder if it is practical, considering the fact that resumes need to be updated each time one changes jobs, acquires new skills or gains new paper qualifications.

If a self-updating feature is available, and the user is allowed to freely access the MyKad, then the authorities will have security issues to contend with.

Is the technology worth the investment when there are so many online networking sites that offer resume templates, and which can be easily accessed via any mobile or desktop web browser?

Some of these sites are not only created by professionals, but are as easy to use as the email.

A good example is Linked-In (, created nine years ago. It has 90 million users worldwide and an infrastructure few can equal. Not only does it provide resume templates, it also has a professional contact networking feature. It can be used to find jobs, people or business opportunities. You can even list jobs and seek potential candidates. Job seekers can check out the profile of the potential employer and see which of their contacts can introduce them to the vacancy.

Moreover, Linked-In is not the only site with all the bells and whistles that young job seekers today expect.

So, how relevant will the proposed resume feature in the MyKad be to the average modern job seeker, who is well-connected and technology-savvy?

That aside, there is little sense in using sophisticated -- and probably costly -- technology to perform a job as simple as the storing of a resume.

The MyKad should instead contain vital information such as its holder's medical history and allergies (like the Medic Alert band).

It could even have a geo-location of the holder's home or workplace, with widespread use of global positioning system (GPS) devices. The phone numbers of the card holder's next-of-kin would inarguably be useful in an emergency.

For resumes, just use a flash drive -- it's easier to carry and cheaper, too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Respect zebra crossings forpedestrians' sake

HEARD the one about a country bumpkin who was trying to cross a busy street downtown? Seeing the poor man in his predicament, a traffic policeman walked up to him and said: "Sir, there is a zebra crossing down the street."
The chap looked at the policeman, looked annoyed, and exclaimed: "Oh, yeah? I hope he's got better luck than me."

If you are smiling because you know what a zebra crossing is, I wonder if you recognise it when you see one.

Plentiful in the 1970s, zebra crossings are black and white (now yellow) stripes painted across roads with flashing amber lights stationed at either end.

They have no standard traffic lights facing oncoming traffic, but motorists are obliged to stop when someone is spotted on the crossing, or at the road shoulder waiting to cross.

The pedestrian crossings you see around the city today, including those at traffic light junctions, are not zebra crossings in the strict sense of the word.

In the United Kingdom, they are called pelican crossings -- pelican being a modified acronym for pedestrian light controlled (or pelicon). These have standard traffic lights mounted instead of flashing amber lights.

There is a button for you to press if you need to cross, but you have to wait for the light on your side to turn green before you should do so.

Some of these crossings are disabled-friendly, with chimes to alert the blind when it is safe to cross. Many have countdowns to let you know how much time you have to cross before the light for oncoming traffic goes green.

Compared with viaducts or overhead bridges, zebra or pedestrian crossings are more viable alternatives to connect walking pathways.

They can be built at a fraction of the cost of a bridge and in much shorter time.

They are also easier to maintain and more likely to be used by everyone than the pedestrian bridges or underpasses, many of which have become crime havens.

The only problem with pedestrian or zebra crossings is that many city motorists are like country bumpkins.

They do not recognise the crossings when they see one -- perhaps out of ignorance or apathy.

Take the zebra crossing at Sentul Pasar for instance.

Each morning, while driving to work, I see market-goers making their daily dash to cross the busy road despite using the crossing as they lug their baskets or with children in tow.

Motorists zip pass without batting an eyelid, let alone stop.

There have been many near-misses and I have watched startled pedestrians hurling verbal abuses at inconsiderate motorists.

Fortunately, I have not seen anyone hurt.

I have not seen any camera mounted at this zebra crossing or any pedestrian crossing around the city for that matter to record the misdeeds of errant motorists.

Because of this, brazen motorists continue to give scant regard to the rights of pedestrians on crossings.

In one of my trips to Johor, I saw a pedestrian crossing that can perhaps be an eye-opener for traffic authorities in the Klang Valley.

This crossing did not have flashing amber lights or signalised traffic lights. The only indicators of the crossing's location were two signboards placed several metres up and downstream of it.

But motorists obediently slow down when approaching the crossing even when no one was using it.

Humps high enough to slow down the most reckless speed demon have been put up on both sides of the crossing.

Someone must have been irked by speeding motorists in the area to have come up with the bumpy ride idea to teach errant motorists to slow down.

Perhaps the traffic managers in the city can learn a thing or two from this so that errant motorists learn to respect the rights of pedestrians at crossings.