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Spending lessons for Indonesia
Indonesia's cashed up middle class are struggling with money management, as Helen Brown reports.


Like China, Indonesia's undergoing rapid economic development.

The new opportunities are creating a cashed up middle class, many of them under the age of 35.

But the improved economic fortunes of Indonesians are bringing their own challenges.

Many have had little or no training in how to manage their money wisely.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports from Jakarta.
Transcript
HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: Go into any of the gleaming shopping malls found in Indonesia's bigger cities and the temptations are clear.

DHITA LARASATI, ECONOMICS RESEARCHER: I get my payroll at the beginning of the month, and then I tend to go shopping afterwards. And in the middle of the month I can go to my bank account and see the amount of my money and I say 'oh my God, I spent lots of money here.'

HELEN BROWN: The frugal habits of the past are being replaced by something new.

BUDI GUNADI SODIKIN, DIRECTOR, BANK MANDIRI: Actually, the young Indonesians spend more of their money compared to the previous generations. So they like to spend the money more rather than saving, especially the young ones.

HELEN BROWN: Dhita Larasati is a university graduate working with Indonesia's economics ministry, and admits the excitement of earning a good wage led to an impulsive shopping habit.

DHITA LARASATI: Now I realise that earning money is harder than I thought, and now I appreciate money more, so my shopping habits are better now.

HELEN BROWN: The 21-year-old has reined in her monthly spending spree and now puts money into savings plans for a wedding, car and house. But many young Indonesians aren't taking the same steps. And while yearly wages are increasing, the knowledge of how to manage the extra money isn't.

BUDI GUNADI SODIKIN: The consumptive behaviour because of the availability of goods and services and availability of the financing is there. And people now start to spend their money, start to borrow the money to buy something which might not be needed 100 per cent.

HELEN BROWN: The idea of the need to educate a new generation of richer Indonesians in the skill of money management is catching on.

Ligwina Poerwo-Hananto is a financial adviser who appears on a popular radio show promoting financial planning. She admits to making her own silly decisions when she was younger.

LIGWINA POERWO-HANANTO, CEO, QM FINANCIAL: So new people are coming in to listen to the radio show. Every day there's always someone else who would be asking the same basic questions that people asked me six years ago. So if you asked me how much people know, actually very little.

HELEN BROWN: Many of those listening to the radio show would have had a moment of truth just like the expert guest. The birth of her first child led to a financial reality check.

A situation which resonates with others.

ZEHRA, JAKARTA RESIDENT: That's when I started really panicking, because actually when I thought about it, I had all these years, actually, to save that money and I probably wouldn't be as panicky now if I had saved from early on.

HELEN BROWN: Zehra and her husband are next looking to move out of her parent's home and they're thinking ahead in a way they didn't before.

We had to make major adjustments in our lifestyle. That's pretty much what we've - what my husband and I finally both decided to do. So in order to be able to later on be comfortable and make sure our Kida (phonetic) gets a good education and Kida gets what she needs as well.

HELEN BROWN: The shift in spending habits of Indonesians is being seen in many ways. Bank Mandiri says internet bank transactions have doubled in the past year, and more and more cash is pulled out of the automatic teller machines with 600 million transactions last year.

Car Sales, too, are surging to record numbers; a million cars are expected to be sold next year and most will be bought with credit, along with the extra 8 million motorbikes now on the road.

When it comes to handing out money, Indonesia's 120 commercial lenders are posting strong growth that. But that vigorous consumerism which is partly fuelling it hasn't gone unnoticed. And the central bank, Bank Indonesia, is introducing new rules to try and cool it, including putting a limit on the size of housing loans and asking Indonesians to put more money upfront when buying motor bikes or private vehicles.

The moves are designed to curb what is being seen as excessive lending.

BUDI GUNADI SODIKIN: My, what do you call, true of time, bad credit is given in a good time. Now we're in a good time, so bad credit will happen now.

HELEN BROWN: While the policy levers are being pulled to keep a limit on bad debt, Ligwina Poerwo-Hananto also sees it as a crucial time to take stock of the haves and have nots that the country is creating.

LIGWINA POERWO-HANANTO: We need to make sure the middle classes are helping the rest of the country.

HELEN BROWN: Sharing the wealth and passing on skills to lift others out of poverty would be a powerful move indeed.
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