A starting salary of RM2,500 for graduates who have just entered the employment world will suffice as long as they manage their finances well and live within their means.

Economist and financial management experts say this average starting salary can be considered reasonable especially when looking at the fact that these greenhorns have no skills or experience and that the employer has to take the risk of employing them.

The head of the education division of the Credit Counseling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK), Mohd Adnan Anan Abdullah, said how much graduates should start off is up to the individual. But for the spendthrift, even a big fat pay cheque will not suffice.

“Whether what one earns is enough of otherwise is all dependent on the individual’s profile.

“Say in Kuala Lumpur, if one eats out every day it could cost up RM30 per day, and the spending will be greater if one has habits like smoking.”

Apart from that, those who have just started work should not rush into buying luxuries like a car. They should stabilise their financial position beforehand.

“Owning a car at a very young age is definitely ‘cool’ but one should not forget of the additional ownership costs involved – fuel, toll, parking charges, maintenance and insurance coverage when lumped up could prove to be hefty”, he said.

A study on job seekers going through the job portal Jobstreet found degree holders felt that the average RM2,500 being insufficient with 77% of the 2,062 respondents could hardly save after spending on the basic necessities.

About 60% of the respondents expected a starting salary of RM3,500, while 30% of them asked for RM6,500.

On the employers side, 66 of them said they were ready to pay between RM2,500 and RM2,800 depending on the qualification.

Mohd Adnan refuted claims that a salary of RM2,500 is insufficient to keep aside some amount for savings and saving 10% of one’s monthly income is part of good financial management.

“Saving is important, but calls for tough financial discipline and perseverance, and can be done through unit trusts or separate bank accounts.

“As long as there is balance in the bank account one will be tempted to spend, thus savings must be something that one is forced to do.”

Federation of Malaysian Employers executive director Shamsuddin Bardan pointed out the aforementioned starting salary could be considered as reasonable for graduates who have no experience and the fact that employers have to spend to teach them on the trade.

“They have to realise that the employment openings are limited and if they are too demanding on the salary they may end up being unemployed.

“So take a positive view and see your first job as the opportunity to seek knowledge, and after having garnered some experience they could ‘test the market’ at other places. There is no obligation for one to remain loyal to an employer.”

Shamsuddin added that if they excel, along with additional qualities like good communication skills, don’t be surprised the employers themselves give a pay rise within a short time.

Employers are well aware that they could easily lose good employees if they are not rewarded accordingly.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) economic lecturer Professor Dr Shazali Abu Mansor shared similar views with Shamsuddin.

Prof Shazali says graduates should consider themselves as still undergoing practical training while at their first job.

“The key here is patience. If during your practical training you could take a bus, why not do the same now? Don’t think that as soon as you start work you could just forget how you lived as a student.”

To help them tide over the tight financial situation, those who have provided them with study loans like the PTPTN should defer the repayment of the loans to two years after starting work as by then salary increments would have taken place.

The committee member for the economic and management cluster of the National Professor Council, Professor Dr Samsinar Md Sidin, said the younger employees, especially those who reside in towns, should spend wisely.

“At times, it is better to rent a room near the workplace. Though it may be expensive it is better than travelling from far away, as this also helps to avoid the waste of time and energy.”

The lecturer at the economic and management faculty of Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) added that parents could help them financially at the initial stages.

“Some of those who had just graduated also do part time work, including through online means, however they have to ensure their main occupation is not affected. Don’t waste any opportunity.”

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