It's a financial struggle - but these fresh university graduates soldier on

It's a financial struggle - but these fresh university graduates soldier on
Terrance Low Han Zhen, 24, who sells camera accessories aside from his day job.
PHOTO: The Star/ANN

SOME university graduates are persevering through the high cost of living and steep monthly commitments by taking on extra work.

Terrance Low Han Zhen, 24, who has a degree in marketing, sells camera accessories using a Facebook page for side income.

"Without my extra job, I am left with only about RM200 (S$72) of my salary after deducting my fixed expenses," says the trade and marketing officer in the palm oil industry.

His monthly expenses - housing loan repayment (RM1,000), car loan repayment (RM350), insurance premium (RM150), transport and petrol (RM400) and food - don't leave much room for manoeuvring.

The youngest of three siblings, Low says it is difficult to cope with the current cost of living on a fresh graduate's salary.

"Even though the GST is a fair tax as everyone pays based on consumption, the rate of 6 per cent is too high.

"It has led to bigger expenses," he says.

Nevertheless, Low possesses a "fighting" spirit, even paying for his university fees without relying on his parents.

"I think it is acceptable to rough it out now when I am young. We should earn our way up to the next level," he says.

S. Annalakshmi, 28, a public relations (PR) assistant manager recalls how she too, juggled two jobs three years ago after gra­duating with a mass communications degree.

"I worked in a small PR firm as an executive with a starting pay of RM2,000.

"To make ends meet, I worked as a private tutor on weekends, which enabled me to pay off my car loan," she says.

Annalakshmi says she moved on to a bigger company after two years but still had to teach English, Mathematics and Science to schoolchildren.

"I could make at least between RM500 and RM700 by going to my students' homes to give lessons," she says.

She adds that her father, a retiree, and her mother who is a pre-school teacher also had to take second jobs.

"I wanted to reduce their burden. We were also saving up to buy a house as we were renting at that time," Annalakshmi says.

While she was initially disappointed her degree did not secure her a job with a higher pay, she knew it was only temporary.

"I know I needed to struggle in the beginning. It was motivation for me to be better at my job so that I could be promoted. I guess it worked," she says.

Even law graduate, Zahra, who shot to fame with her video on her financial struggle, is also trying to supplement her income by selling beauty products.

"With my current salary of between RM1,800 and RM2,000, I can't save.

"I have two younger brothers, my mother is a housewife and my father recently met with an accident. It is my duty to support my family," says Zahra, or Siti Azzahra Abd Razly, who graduated last year.

To those who accused her of "complaining", Zahra says: "I am not asking the Government to spoon-feed me."

"This is the reality of things, and me giving my speech doesn't mean I am not doing anything. I am trying to improve myself."

While working as a researcher, she is trying to get funds to take the Certificate in Legal Practice to practise criminal law, which is her passion.

Zahra says the struggles facing fresh graduates now are different: "With RM1,800 a month, a graduate in those days could set aside money for savings. Now, it is very difficult."

As for Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, she says he met her during a buka puasa event last week and told her that "he liked the message" behind the #SayaZahra campaign and urged the organiser, the Malay Economic Action Council to keep it going.

Among others, the campaign seeks to highlight the plight of the younger generation and push for better policies to help people weather the economy.

Meanwhile, mass communications degree holder Ahmad Wai'edin Jamaludin, 24, also finds it a challenge to find a stable job at the moment.

"I'm now hired on contract but I am struggling to find something more stable. The prices of goods are spiralling, and even food at mamak shops is subject to GST.

"You can't do much if you earn between RM1,800 and RM2,000," he says.

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