KUALA LUMPUR: The private sector should take the initiative to provide financial education in the workplace and not rely on the government to drive financial literacy, said Fi Life Sdn Bhd founder Malek Ali.

“Employers should be the first line of defence for situations like this (financial distress),” he said at a forum during the launch of the National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2019-2023 today.

“Given my own personal experience, I’ve come to realise that that is such an essential part. It provided me a lifeline. I think employers as the first line of defence are able to provide a life line in such a situation. As employers, we need to have a financial literacy programme as well within the workplace,” he said.

He said financial literacy is needed within the workplace and companies can collaborate with independent financial planners and associations such as the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia to develop various financial education programmes for employees.

He said it is important to have financial education for Malaysians at all stages of life, from school, college and at the workplace as financial requirements are different at various stages.

Emeritus Professor and director of Social Wellbeing Research Centre at University of Malaya Datuk Dr Norma Mansor said financial education should begin at an early age, citing England as an example where financial education begins at age three.

She said this would be more effective in inculcating the right mindset and habit towards sound financial management.

She added that all stakeholders including parents, schools and the government must play their roles in order to improve financial literacy among Malaysians.

According to Norma, many married couples start to face problems in managing their finances when they begin having children, thus it could be a good idea to include financial education as part of pre-marriage courses.

Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency CEO Azaddin Ngah Tasir concurred, adding that 18,000 out of 50,000 divorce cases involved some form of financial distress.

“It would be a good start, as it would help enhance financial planning knowledge before the couples make a commitment,” he said.

Commenting on financial literacy among the low-income group, Azaddin said it is possible to have sound financial planning even with low wages and a high cost of living.

Although the higher income group would have better chances at surviving financial distress, he said there are pockets of people with low income but are still able to manage their finances well.

“I think it’s because they have the right attitude, they have good financial goals and they really commit and are disciplined towards it.

“It’s about self-discipline. Temptation is difficult to resist but you must have your own financial goals,” he added.

On the government’s decision to allow National Higher Education Fund Corp defaulters to take up housing loans, Azaddin said it is to provide them the opportunity to own a home.

However, he stressed that buying a house is about affordability and these buyers should consider what they can afford before committing to a loan.