Im looking back at an incident that happened early last month. It was an otherwise regular Tuesday afternoon at a corner Chinese coffee shop (a "kopi tiam") during lunch hour. I had just ordered a plate of chicken rice and my friend ordered a bowl of laksa.
We were chatting about how expensive the price of things had become in KL. We were calculating how much a single early 20s to mid 30s white-collar worker needs to earn per month, to live comfortably in KL.
Having factored in the basic necessities for "a comfortable living" and debated how "an average single (unmarried) male and female white-collar worker" is defined, we rather arbitrarily come to agree that a net income of RM5,000 per month is the ideal figure.
Yes, RM5,000 is the net take home pay, after deducting tax, EPF and Socso. This should be sufficient for an unmarried white-collar worker to live comfortably in KL. Without boring you with details, but just to give you an idea about what we consider an "average white collar worker" and "a comfortable living", this is what we had decided upon:
An average white-collar worker is someone with basic tertiary education (eg. a bachelor’s degree), able to communicate reasonably well in English and Malay, uses his or her "knowledge" (brains – some don’t have even that !) rather than muscles, to earn a living. A comfortable living would mean living at least in a medium cost rented / own apartment (whether shared or not) of approximately RM800 per month, owning at least a Proton Wira, going for a holiday yearly, going for movies, drinks and eating at restaurants during weekends, buying clothes and accessories, having some money to save and invest etc. I must emphasise that although this criteria is purely arbitrary, it is not far from the ideal.
Given this case, then, looking at the salary scale today, a person who earns a net income of RM5,000 per month is someone at a managerial level with an average of 5-8 years working experience, post graduation. This is pathetic !
What we realise was that the majority of white-collar workers in Klang Valley are only earning anything from RM1,600 to RM3,500 net per month.
While we were discussing this, we looked around the coffee shop and played a game of guessing "how much do you think that guy earns ?", "do you think he is the boss or subordinate ?" etc etc – purely based on appearance and demeanour.
Suddenly, a pleasant but urgent voice interrupted our "game". "Hello, sorry to interrupt your conversation…". WTF ! I looked up and there was this guy grinning at my friend and I.
WTF ! …you £%$*fu%ker ! Hello ??? can’t you see I’m having a private conversation ! (I didn’t say this aloud, of course).He held up a packet of pens and said, "gel pens…going for RM10 a pack". I gave him this very irritated WTF look and crossed my arms. But then, looking at the packet of 5 gel pens, I asked "how much, again ?". He said, "RM10, only for today". I was thinking to myself, "don’t bullshit lah, tomorrow it will also be RM10’.
Anyway, my friend was already holding a pack of pens and testing one. So, I forgot about being irritated with this £%$*fu%ker and proceeded to also test one pen…signing my name, then cancelling it – I did this 3 times, hahaha – bad habit. Testing, testing !. Don’t laugh…I know you guys do it too. Peasants !
My friend then asked, "got discount ah ?" The £%$*fu%ker said, "Sorry miss, this is very cheap and usually it is sold at bla bla bla….bla..bla". I could see that my friend wasn’t listening and proceeded to take RM10 from her wallet and gave it to the £%$*fu%ker. I also took RM10 out and gave it to him but asked him for a new packet (hahaha, kiasu).
Then he said, "do you want to buy a packet for your friends at the office ?". I looked at my friend and we both decided through some kind of "telepathy" to buy another packet each for our "friends". So there, RM40 sales from the two of us, for 10 minutes easy work – not bad at all.
After the £%$*fu%ker left (with a huge grin on his face…of course) – he made RM40 easy money, I asked my friend, "I wonder how much this guy earns per month ?". We speculated with different figures for a while, then decided to ask the £%$*fu%ker, personally – get it from the horse’ mouth. Such "kay-poh" people we are !. We looked around and saw him at the other corner of the shop, pitching his gel pens to a group of girls.
I told my friend that after he is done, we will get him to come over to speak to us. I looked at my watch and it was already almost 2pm and the office crowd at the coffee shop were dispersing – have to get back to work. My friend and I being "the bosses" can go back to work fashionably late (or not at all) – "meeting outside, with clients".
At last, the £%$*fu%ker finished with his last customers. We called him over to our table. He came over our table, grinning again - thinking we wanted to buy some more of his pens. I said, "you speak and present yourself very well" (he did actually, despite his fake grin). I continued, "we wonder if you have some time to chat with us…about your type of job…err…I got a friend who wants to join…" (such a liar, I am). He looked at his watch and said "sorry, but I have to go off somewhere else". To that, I said, "just for a while…I will buy another packet of your pens if you sit down and chat with us for, awhile". Hearing this, he sat down – greedy fu%ker !.
We introduced ourselves. He said his name was Steven and is 24 years old. Steven is about 5’7" tall, slim, has short hair, doesn’t wear glasses, dresses in office attire but doesn’t wear a tie, and carries a medium sized black pvc / leather bag. He does not prefer that we take his photo with our handphones, neither is he comfortable to reveal his full name (the full story will reveal why).
I asked Steven about his background, his previous work and of course, how much he earns per month doing his current "business". When Steven said that he was from small town called Menglembu in Perak, my friend gave me that "where the f&ck is that ?" look. I ignored her – bitch !. Steven said that his father is a hawker and his mom runs a stall in the pasar malam.
Steven’s story was so interesting that we decided to leave the Chinese coffee shop and continue listening to his story at a nearby café – I bought the first round of coffee and Steven bought us the subsequent two rounds and cakes (he was very generous – read on and you will learn why). We chatted until about 4pm - he seemed to have cancelled his "prior appointment" he had told us about earlier.
He has a diploma in Business Adminstration from a private college. He said he starts work at 10am in the morning and stops work at about 4pm. After work, he usually heads for his regular massage joint. "For real massage lah, no hanky panky", he said. As he has no paperwork to do, no responsibilities, no deadlines, no overtime etc, he has plenty of free time after 4pm. He also has no boss and doesn’t work on weekends.
He drives a Proton Iswara (which is moderately modified) and he was thinking of buying a new Satria. He lives in a fully furnished rented apartment in Kelana Jaya with housemates – He is the chief tenant. He goes clubbing at least 2 twice a week and "have bottles" in 3 clubs in KL. He has been to Bali twice and Phuket once, for holiday. He doesn’t have a steady girlfriend but has many temporary "lovers". Bastard !
He admits that, normally, someone doing this kind of business – direct sales, does not earn as much as he does and has to work so much harder. He said the reason is, "they don’t know the ‘tricks’ lah…everything also got the ‘right jalan’…"
Ok folks, to be continued tomorrow…in Part 2 - Steven reveals about his studies, his previous jobs, his current lifestyle – how he works and how he plays, and how he earns more than RM5,000 per month in his trade, without a boss.
Meanwhile, please post your comments about your ideal job and earnings per month, or tell us about people you know who are earning a comfortable living with a job.
Read Part 2 here