Financial literacy is the key to women's empowerment

When women are financially literate, they will be able to achieve goals such as owning their own home. — 123rf

With their increased participation in the workforce, women now have more savings and spending power. It’s thus all the more crucial for women to be smart and proactive in managing their money, and learn how to make investments, which includes buying properties.

Success Concepts’ chief executive officer Joyce Chuah and Hijrah Wealth Management Sdn Bhd principal consultant Rohani Mohd Shahir share how financial planning can empower women.

Why is financial planning important for women?

Rohani: The mortality rate for women have surpassed that of men. Women have to acquire more knowledge in financial planning as some might end up being on their own in their twilight years. Husbands can no longer be treated as a “financial plan”. Women must involve themselves in money management, where financial planning is one of the aspects.

Joyce Chuah says financial literacy can build a woman's confidence and self-esteem. Photo: Joyce Chuah

How does financial independence empower women?

Chuah: Financial independence can give a woman confidence, equality and self-esteem. Being financially independent means a woman can leave a job to either switch career or start a business. It allows her to spend more time with her family and raise her children, or retire without being dependent on her husband.

Rohani: When a woman works, she is also contributing to the family. She can make many decisions, especially financial ones. For instance, if she wants to help her parents financially, she will be free to do so.

How should women start planning their finances?

Chuah: Financial planning starts the moment you are responsible for managing your personal finances. The earlier you start, the more financially literate you will be. Learn to manage cash flow and minimise debts. Get organised so that you understand where you stand financially.

Set simple financial goals in cash flow, savings and investments. Deduce how much emergency fund you need. Identify if your risk management plan is in place for unforeseen events. Understand and keep updated on estate plans for your family.

Why should parents teach their daughters financial management?

Chuah: Financial education must start from the home. Financial planning can be modelled and children will learn from watching how their parents manage their finances.

"Women must involve themselves in money management," says Rohani Mohd Shahir. Photo: The Star/Samuel Ong

What are some of the common misconceptions women have about their finances?

Rohani: Among the misconsceptions women have are that they have enough EPF savings, their spouse’s pension can last through the golden years and their children will give them monthly allowance. But statistics show that close to 80% of EPF account holders have less than RM100,000 upon retiring at 55.

If one lives for another 20 years based on a monthly requirement of RM950, one needs to have RM228,000 to retire comfortably. While relying on children as our pension plan sounds ideal, it is a rarity nowadays. It is best for working women to save for their own retirement, rather than rely on others.

How financially-savvy are Malaysian women compared to their peers in the region?

Chuah: The more advanced a society is, the more literate and empowered are their women. Malaysian women are financially literate in basic money management activities like budgeting, saving and product-based investing or acquisition of insurance plans.

However, there is probably less thorough engagement in a more systematic process of goal setting, identifying and bridging financial gaps, asset allocation or portfolio management – all of which elevate financial literacy as well as empowerment for women.


Whether you’ve just started working, midway through your career or retired, this means you’re prudently making your money work for you.

Four female home buyers share their tips on how women can start investing in properties.

Start as young as you can

You will be eligible for a longer bank loan, thus reducing your monthly repayments. Remember that once your spouse has utilised his/her one-off 0% Real Property Gain Tax (RPGT), you will lose the RPGT exemption, so plan accordingly.

If your income level allows it, do not buy properties jointly. You only get 70% loan to value ratio once you hit your third residential property. When deciding on the property to buy, choose a developer with a good record of on-time delivery as this will reduce bank interest costs. – Lyanna Tew, 41, owner of a 2-storey house and a serviced apartment

Study the market

Do your market study comparison and don’t be afraid to invest in properties. Good property is scarce and is always a better investment in the long term. Study the market price, the surrounding infrastructure and amenities, and the growth potential of the property’s location. Weigh the property’s rental returns. – Angela Chong, 43, owner of 3 landed 2-3-storey houses, 1 townhouse and 1 apartment

Learn from experts

Research which properties fall within your budget, as well as the price, design and location. – Rosellia Salim, 39, owner of a 2-storey house

Have sufficient funds

Do not over commit. Research property’s location, developer’s background and compare prices. You also need to have funds for legal costs and to cover at least six months of loan payment. Maintain a good credit record to facilitate the financing of your property purchase. – Hamidah Md Diah, 40, owner of a 2-storey house.

This article is brought to you by Mah Sing. AirAsia and Mah Sing were the main partners of The Star Women’s Fiesta, in conjunction with WOW-Women Do Wonders. SASA was a co-sponsor.

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