Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Advice for the Kids - take a bold, concrete step

Open Season
Published: Monday September 9, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday September 9, 2013 MYT 2:27:37 PM

Take a bold, concrete step

It is time to capitalise on the rapid appreciation of property prices, rather than just making a hue and cry about never being able to own one.
WAIT. The bubble’s about to burst.” How many times have we heard this advice being dished out to prospective housebuyers?
I’ve heard such words of wisdom countless times since I joined the workforce, and I’m pretty sure these famous words have been circulating for much longer.
And after almost a decade in The Star’s newsroom, I would like to report that the speculated property bubble has remained intact.
I am not qualified to say that there is no bubble. Nor am I denying that property prices are ridiculously high.
But the fact remains that residential properties, particularly in the Klang Valley and Penang, have doubled in value every three to five years.
If you have played the waiting game, you might consider screaming at whoever advised you against investing in a stack of bricks.
Rather than whine about matters beyond our control, what do we do?
Should we just wait for the government to impose more pricing controls on real estate?
Should we blame the developers for profiteering, or property speculators for inflating the prices of homes?
Will all the complaining make prices of homes more reasonable? Prices were relatively high when our grandparents and parents joined the working world too.
Yes, they probably voiced their grouses at the local kopitiam (although the Gen Y do seem louder with the help of social media).
But the Baby Boomers and Gen X took an extra step.
They knuckled down in the face of adversity, worked harder, spent prudently and bought that family home we grew up in.
Today, it has become second nature to put all blame on the government.
“The government is not doing enough. The housing policy is wrong, etc.”
In his inaugural address, American president John F. Kennedy’s famous quote was: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.
Let’s meet him halfway and ponder: “What can we do for ourselves?”
Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association’s (Rehda) immediate past president Datuk Ng Seing Liong was spot-on when he advised youngsters to begin buying property early in their careers, especially for those located in hotspot areas.
“I understand that a car is a necessity for the younger generation but bear in mind that property prices will always go up,” he said in a recent news report.
Sacrifices have to be made. Fancy dinners, nice wheels, branded clothes and new gadgets have to make way.
If you’re a smoker, do your lungs a favour and give up smoking. And cutting down on a few jugs of beer helps too.
That means more mixed rice at the hawker centre instead of expensive steaks.
Imagine your first car being a used Proton Saga. Do you need new clothes and shoes every year? If your iPhone 3 is still running, must you really upgrade to the iPhone 5?
It is important to be able to distinguish between needs and wants.
A common financial advice is to save 10 to 20% of our monthly salary. Given the rate of appreciation for properties, that advice is no longer relevant.
Let’s approach the situation the other way round.
Decide how much you need for food, transportation, rental and other necessary expenses. And save every extra sen.
A fresh graduate today would be earning close to RM3,000 monthly. If he lives very prudently, he can save about half his salary.
And the money saved can be placed in unit trusts or invested in the share market for faster growth. Even by parking the money passively in fixed deposits, he would be able to cough up enough for a downpayment for a RM500,000 apartment in three years.
If you can’t save half, you probably can save 30%, which would be enough for the downpayment in five years.
And that’s without factoring any increment in your salary.
And almost no one buys their ideal home in their first transaction. It should be comfortable enough to call home, and decently located to work and amenities.
I started with a 900 square feet medium-cost apartment five years ago, and although it wasn’t my dream home, I am happy to disclose that it has appreciated by more than 100%.
The only way to keep up with the rapid appreciation rate is to lock down your first property and watch your investment grow.
The first few years will be tough on your lifestyle, but it gets better from then on.
I suffered in the early years too, when I chose to work overtime rather than join the happy hour crowd. My social life was affected.
Not to mention my love life. It doesn’t matter now, though. A girl who won’t date me during lean times was definitely not wife material, and I’m happier having found someone who would be with me through thick and thin.
I am in the process of upgrading to a bigger, and hopefully nicer, apartment (which was half the price four years ago!).
And I doubt it would be my final move. For my dream house is a mansion with a swimming pool and I have another 30 years prior to retirement to chase that dream.

> Tycoon-wannabe Teh Eng Hock wishes to acquire properties in real life as he did when playing the boardgame Monopoly, which is to buy at every roll of the dice. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

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