Money Diaries

Mixed up money: Between the payroll and mental health

Mixed up money is a series of friends’ financial questions. I am not a CFP by training so I do not recommend an investment, do not sell products, and are not affiliated with any of the financial tools providers. The names have been changed for anonymity.

When I go for coffee with Sya, I thought things were great. We survived the first half of the year 2020, she (hyper-extrovert) survived shelter in place with working from home, it can’t be worst. Then she gives me shocking news, work is depressing and affecting everything she does in life.

I’ve known her for a decade, and she has moved a few industries, but her latest employment is her dream job. I remember how excited she gets to work, and how excited I am to get a glimpse into Malaysia’s all-star gossip girl.

Her solution? Move out from the world with fifty shares of grey (Quit her job) and start an online business.

The challenge? It’s a challenging year for everyone. She has a handful of commitments, very little savings.

The barrier to start on online side business is low, we figured a few costs, and it would take about RM500 seed money to set up a website business. Question is, how can the company grow, and can it sustain? The odds of success are not in favor of people without VC backing. Can she go to the cradle fund?

Or perhaps, more related to mixed up money – Is she ready to step out of the payroll comfort zone without getting into financial disaster?

Monthly money commitment
House, car and debt repayment: RM3,000
Living expenses : RM1,500 (min) 

Not getting a breakdown is key
Recognizing that we are in a rather challenging economic situation, I suggest that she do not leave her job while building a side business. On one hand, I am very risk-averse and believe that without financial backup, getting payroll itself is a stress relief therapy. On the other hand, it is important to assess our breakdown point, especially when it’s really hard to recover from a mental illness. My caveat is to leave immediately if she’s nearing a mental breakdown.

Building a side business
Every business starts with a step of faith. We are optimistic people, there’s always a plan for the eventual moving out and developing her own business, perhaps sooner than later. Here’s what she did:

  • Build up a reserve for her monthly money commitment for at least six months before quitting.
  • Contact agencies for possible part-time work.
  • Register with SSM and start working on the business. I think it was RM30.
  • Build a website and template on the financials – took about two weeks.
  • Curate a branding concept with Canva premium for free.
  • Set up social media and fan pages. Use advertisement targeting skills to reach out to about 2000 potential customers. 

Update: Sales revenue for the first month came close to RM1,800. It’s a small start. More importantly, this business diverts her attention from her struggles at work.


On a side note, I was reading about mental health and realized how you don’t need a triggering event to be in depression. Life can be great but all you can see and feel is deep darkness. If you are a Christ believer, I like to point you to the wonderful comforter. At the end of the bible, Jesus declared “I am the bright morning star (Revelation 22:16)”. Morning star is the first light you see at the end of a dark day. At the end of the darkness, there is light. At the end of the darkness, you will see His light.

Have you been affected with the stress and anxiety in the past few months? How do you cope?

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