Article taken from New Sunday Times.
With an accumulated debt of RM337 million and nowhere to turn on, many people had attempt suicide.
But the Credit Counselling And Debt Management Agency (AKPK), which set up office in 2006, had counselled and helped them to manage their income.
“For those with no jobs, it recommended suitable work”, says it’s operation’s division general manager, Pn Nor Fazleen Zakaria.
“We have 24 counsellors with banking background to help these people”.
“Some walk into the AKPK office crying; some are overwhelmed and then there are those who contemplate suicide to end their financial troubles.”
But they see the light at the end of the tunnel when they learn that financial education is their best investment.
AKPK has helped 350,000 people avoid bankruptcy.
But the agency is regarded as the last resort for those who are either staring at bankruptcy or looking at being part of the suicide statistics.
“Those who come to us for help could be anybody – businessman, bankers, those in the low-income group, retirees and students”.
“Many have serious financial problems because they do not have financial literacy,” said Annie Tan, a counsellor at the agency.
“People come to us when they are unable to handle their financial problems, when things are spiralling out of control.”
“These people do not want to be judged. All they want is help, patience, understanding and a solutions to their problems.”
Tan said that after talking to the counsellors, they realised that their problems could be solved as AKPK was committed to helping them.
“We also tell people with financial problems to come to us before they become a bankrupt. I have had people come to us with debts of up to RM1.4 million and some RM20,000.”
Many of them sought assistance at AKPK after learning about the agency through friends who were in the same predicament, through social media, television or radio.
Former bank employee Syaiful Anuar, 39, said he had no regrets moving from commercial banking to AKPK because he liked helping people.
“Those who come to us are depressed, hadn’t slept in days, suicidal and do not realise there are solutions to their problems.”
“They can overcome their financial problems by learning to manage their finances better.
“The problem with those whom I have helped is that they had wanted to live up to the expectations of others, despite not having the means to do so, and ended up with huge to mountain their lifestyle.”
Syaiful said people should live within their means and keep track of their money if they did not want to get into debts of financial problems.
“I see people as young as 18 who have sought counselling for financial woes. The oldest was in his 70’s.”
When Habibah Abdullah, a counsellor at AKPK, was newly married and raising a young family, she underwent financial problems.
Making ends meet was difficult but she preserved and luckily for the couple, they were able to ride out the tough times.
Now, as a counsellor, she uses her experience to teach others how to manage their funds to the best of their ability.
“I understand what people with financial problems go through, because many of us have been there.”
“Luckily for us, we are able to solve our problems as conditions were much different then, unlike now, where with rising cost, people are spending more.”
“Recently, I counselled a young man below 40 who had accumulated debts of RM 100,000. He has lost his job, home and his wife left him, taking their children together. To make matters worse, creditors were breathing down his neck.”
Habibah’s advice to him was to get a job and then, coming back to AKPK to get into the programme which could enable him to start paying off his debts.
“Without a job, this man was heading straight into bankruptcy. My advice to him was to get a job, then come and see us as we will able to tell him how he can repay his debts.
“The man was unsure whether anyone could employ him but I told him to seek God’s blessing and start looking for a job. He went away, a much happier man and I am still waiting for him to come back to AKPK,” said Habibah.
Veronica Kow Li-Lian used to go home very depressed emotional when she first join AKPK.
That was because she became very affected by the very people whom she counselled and helped.
Some of them were abused woman whose husbands has left them after making sure they took out loans in their names.
“The women, wanting to help their husbands in businesses, would take the loans. The problem would start when the men walk out on their marriages and the women are left to settle the loans.”
“Many of these women earn small salaries and it is definitely not easy. That is why they end up with financial problems.”
For Kow, when the woman cry on their shoulders, she too ends up crying with them.
“Here at AKPK we do the right thing by finding solutions to their financial problems. And the best part is when people pay off their debts.”
“After participating in our debt restructure programme, they are much happier and are more prudent with their money as they do not want to be caught in such a problematic situation again.”