January 19, 2012

Household debt clean-up : A personal journey

Personal financial stability is not something easy to resolved. If you were ever in an economy classroom, either during high school or as part of your college or university degree, no matter how much you understand the concept of 'want' and 'need', believe me, you will never get to feel the 'forcefield' pulling you to spend on the unnecessary thing in life, until you have 'disposable income'.

Whoever invented modern credit is evil. Financial institutions, be it banks or cooperative or finance companies, is always on the prowl for you to take whatever they can give you in the form of credit cards and personal loans before you have even step out into the real world and become part of the 'workforce'.

However, how else can you afford the basic thing in life if not for credit? It is a Catch-22 situation as most of the basic needs like food, a place to live and transportation cost money. Coupled that with the self-appointed financial guru who propagates the need to own your own place and transport (though this now seems to have been losing steam), you will feel left out if you don't own a house or a car by a certain age. Then to make matter worse, you live in a world where everywhere you turn, you are bombarded by advertisement promoting so many things like a brand handphone, a computer, a tablet, the need to travel to see new places and more expensive version of your need.

That was what happened to me.

In my years of living, I have bought more than one house, sell a few, kept a few; bought a few cars, sold a few, had two cars at one time, one car at another time, owned cheap cars, owned expensive cars; bought more than one personal computer for my house, left it dusty before buying a newer version; owned a tablet; a few smart phones. All this thanks to the supposedly disposable income I have which I increased to more than 10-fold thanks to the easy approval of credit cards and personal loans. Some are obtained through 100% loans which allow me to buy cars and houses (it doesn't exist for awhile in Malaysia but it is making a comeback through various affordable housing scheme)

When 2012 arrived, I am more than a few hundred thousand Ringgit Malaysia in debt. One thing I have always made sure is to never have any arrears in any of my installments. My business helped me to make sure of this but it is not a perfect personal financial stability that I aspire to have. So, I started to get my personal finance in order.

I listed out my debts which include a car, a house, an Amanah Saham Bumiputra (ASB) loan, a personal loan and a few credit cards which when tabulated comes up to more than RM100,000-00 disposable income but are mostly maxed out. Some of the credit cards are there as I have taken a balance-transfer credit card to lower down the interest charged on my other credit card debt. I was surprised that more than half of my drawing from my businesses goes to paying the credit card debt. And yes, the first thing to a cure from an addiction is to admit that you have a problem. Then, look for a solution.

Another myth in this modern age is to make sure you have savings for your old days. Yes, that is not bad advice. However, how about living your old age without debt and having a stream of cash supplementing you? That is equally important right? Without delay, I listed my assets and see whether I can match my liabilities.

My assets seem to be part of the problem too. A house still under a mortgage. An ASB certificate which is not mine. A few unit trusts. The car is never an asset as it is always a liability. After calculating all this, I find that it is easier for me to cancel a few loans such as the ASB loan and the few credit card, especially those which have high interest charged to it every month. Then I decided to sell my car which was already 6 years old this coming May and bought a cheaper car. I then did one of the most surprising decision ever, even to me. I put the current house I am living in on the market. At a very steep price. Canceling the loans allow me to be liquid as dividends are paid for the ASB for 2011, unit trusts are sold with cash as payment and the car was sold at a good price.

The journey is not over yet. I have only cleared 30% of the debt I have. I still have to see whether I can get the price I want for my house. What I do after will require another entry. As I cleared a few of the credit card debt, banks which always on the look-out for someone who has more than he can spend is already calling more offering me new loans. Then, my feet, knowing me, starts to itch to travel somewhere far. 

Let us see how much of the 'want' I can resist so I can totally clear up the debt.

January 16, 2012

Social media ROI : A personal experience

As a lawyer and an author, I use social media extensively to promote my service and my only book. As lawyers in Malaysia are not allowed to advertise their service conventionally through mass media like in the newspaper or the local television, social media is a blessing. 

I always read on so many publication, articles by social media practitioners and experts, about the return on investment (ROI) when you invest in social media. There are so many ways for you to invest in social media. You can do it yourself. You can have a staff within your company to update your social media pages. You can contract it out for a company which claims to know how social media work. You can even spend millions of Ringgit to try to get new clients through social media.

Yes, social media's ROI is about how much time you spend on a FREE platform in order for you to get some form of returns. Amazingly, people who use social media seems to always keep on protesting when any form of change happens to this free media. A few years back, you can only get to be well-known if you work hard and pay. Social media still requires you to work hard but rarely do they ask you to pay, except for the data usage bills either through your handphone network or fixed line connection.

Here are my social media connection. As a person, I am on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr and Google+. My book and my legal firm have pages in Facebook and Google+. I also have two blogs. One is where I write about legal issues and property, which I use nowadays as a place to draft writings which I then submit to magazine, newspaper and even will form part of my next book. The other is my personal story about life, marriage, holidays, travel and such. 

If you ask me, I believe there is no boundary between the either blogs as I never believe what you did at work or in business will not affect your personal life or vice versa. So, type my names   : Khairul Anuar Shaharudin or my internet name : kruel74, in Google or whatever your favourite search engine, you can find me in either one of the listed social media (or maybe a website or two). Oh, I utterly believe in social media that all my businesses (I have a few) do not have websites.

Now that you know where you can find me on social media, let me tell you how much I gain from social media. In a nutshell, I gain more than 50% increase in 2011 in comparison to 2010, from the investment I made through social media. I got businesses from people who know me as a blogger, I got business from people who know me by chatting with me on Twitter, people ask me through Facebook about property issues and then ask me to take care of their legal matters and the blogs contribute by getting editors and producers to feature me either by asking me to write or being guest in radio show.

Last year alone, I was writing for the local daily, the Sun newspaper as I was 'found' in a Facebook group which consist mainly of young people who invest in property, Property Talk and Lifestyle, by a member who is a sub-editor; and that entry resulted in me being on BFM Radio talking about the article which was first an entry in this very blog, after the producer of the 'Property Show' found me through a connection in LinkedIn, Niki Cheong, who is a columnist in the Star, another local daily, who is now in England pursuing his study. Can you see how social media plays as an investment which in turn may (or may not) resulted in you getting rare opportunity.

However, as much as you invest in social media, if you only writes and sit behind the screen and hope to be discovered, you are wasting your time. All the social media cannot help you achieve any returns if you don't meet people, talk to them and let them know who you are and what you can do.

January 5, 2012

BFM Radio interview No. 2

My second interview on BFM Radio was done on 27th December just after the Christmas holiday but was aired on BFM Radio on the last day of business in 2011, a Friday, 30th December 2011. I hate the fact I used the word 'actually' too many times. That seems to be my nervous tick but all in all it was better than my first interview in 2010 where I seems to be banging on the table a lot (you can't really hear it in the recording). 

You can hear the recording in 2010 in four segments here on various topic :

The topic this time around was on Bumiputra property with some pointers on Malay reserved land too. Here is the link :

Investing in Bumiputra lots
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