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How overcoming debt led to this M’sian insurance agent’s budget planner biz

One of my 2023 resolutions is to be more cognisant of my financials. While there are digital trackers and apps nowadays to help you track financial undertakings, I’m personally a fan of analogue systems.

For those with a similar preference, a financial budget planner might be the way to go. One such option in Malaysia is the Brilliant Budget Planner, created by a financial influencer, Nafisah Amran under the brand The Cashflow Edit.

With over 60k followers on her personal account and another 10k on her business page, @thecashflowedit, Nafisah has fostered a community of people who look to her for personal finance advice.

Priced at RM92, around 3,000 copies of Nafisah’s 2023 edition planner have been sold, she claimed. But this wasn’t necessarily what impressed us; rather, she had quite the background story that set her upon this path.

From engineering student to insurance agent

Although Nafisah Amran pursued electrical engineering in Japan, her inclinations for finance led her to become a takaful insurance agent.

“I love helping people get insurance coverage to cover the uncertainty in life,” she explained.

Today, she continues to help people navigate life’s many uncertainties, but through social media.

Nafisah’s YouTube videos / Image Credit: Nafisah Amran

Through her Instagram pages, she shares about personal budgeting, mindful spending, cash flow management, risk management, estate planning, and even crypto investment—all with the goal to have Malaysians take control of their finances.

Her knowledge in finance didn’t come naturally, though.

“I was bad with money [when I was younger], I only knew how to spend it,” she confessed. “But I loved working hard to grow the income. It was a motivation for me to do sales in insurance industry.”

However, earning a lot of money doesn’t equate to managing it wisely.

“I started with low income, then the income grew. But savings and investment were stagnant,” she explained. “Debts were growing!”

Right before the pandemic hit, Nafisah and her husband had gotten fed up with their cash flow and debts. So, they listed it all down to find a way to get out of debt.

“Apparently if you focus, you can do it,” she mused. “And we did. Our plan to settle all bad debts involved four years of doing debt snowball, but then moratorium helped us finish it faster. We accumulated all the moratorium money and didn’t spend a single cent.”

Debt snowball refers to a method of debt reduction whereby people pay off debts in order of smallest to largest. Loan moratoriums, on the other hand, refers to periods whereby lenders allow the debtors to stop making payments for a specific period of time.

“It was a relief and a starting on tuning our mindset towards better cash flow management,” Nafisah said about the experience.

From insurance agent to financial influencer

Growing up in an urban poor family, Nafisah recalls life in Setinggan where she helped her mum make and sell kuih.

“My parents strongly believe that to change the family situation, we needed to have good education,” she recalled. “Hence, we were encouraged to go to boarding school so the path would be easier for us.”

While she is truly thankful for this, she figured out later that an engineering career couldn’t give her the amount of money that she wanted.

After reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant, Nafisah made the bold step to do sales in insurance.

“Sales is tough,” she said. “You get rejected, but then I learnt a lot, especially on financial literacy. I figured out I really love the personal finance topic, so I later self-learnt and took the courses.”

Image Credit: Brilliant Budget Planner

She actually started her account when she was still an insurance agent, but she felt like most people do not want to follow insurance agents’ accounts.

“I then started Wanita Perlu Tahu, spreading knowledge about want women should do to protect themselves financially.”

Wanita Perlu Tahu translates to “Women Must Know”, and refers to her series of financial content on Instagram, which earned her a sizable online following.

“Later when COVID hit, I urged followers to start savings for emergency funds,” she said. “Save the moratorium. Don’t spend it because we do not know what’s gonna happen. True enough, two years of PKP and that money really can help us.”

From financial influencer to entrepreneur

As Nafisah used to frequently declare her budget online, her followers would ask her to share the template she used for her financial planning.

Eventually, this led to the first rendition of the Brilliant Budget Planner under the brand The Cashflow Edit.

The planners are inspired by The Budget Mom from the US, but with a Malaysian focus. The contents of the first planner consisted of templates designed by Nafisah herself, which took around six months to perfect. From there, she tweaked the content based on users’ feedback.

Although blank planners might suffice for more experienced users who have their own systems, Nafisah believes that for those new to editing their cashflow, they must be guided.

“Those who are beginners and want to get started, Brilliant Budget Planner is perfect because we guide you and also we have a community,” Nafisah explained, the latter referring to their Facebook support group.

New editions of the Brilliant Budget Planner have been released every year since the first edition in 2021, but the books are actually not dated, so users can start any time without pressure. To add, they come with free stickers that can help with planning.

There are a few categories to the book. Namely, Mindset & Planning, Savings, Debt, Investment, and Monthly Budget.

Image Credit: Nafisah Amran

A full overview of the book’s content can be found on YouTube.

With 2023 being Nafisah’s third version, the brand is now her full-time commitment, and she works on it alongside a team.

Digital versions of the Brilliant Budget Planner can be bought online too.

From here onwards

Continuing her pursuit of knowledge, Nafisah is in the process of completing the Certified Financial Planner CFP under the Financial Planning Association Of Malaysia (FPAM).

As for her business, she hopes to see her budget planner in bookstores in 2024.

When asked about why she believes she has managed to grow such a following online, Nafisah suggested that it may be because many Malaysians need a role model when it comes to personal finance.

“Most people, they only touch the surface or only certain specifics like investments only,” she pointed out. “Maybe because I share about my budgeting way, my savings, my investing… I mean it’s all related, and it is all under personal finance.”

Being a content creator hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for Nafisah, though. She admitted that it has been an emotional journey where she can sometimes become very tired.

“But as I go, I learn to disconnect,” she added.

With that said, Nafisah expressed that she loves the community and seeing how when people improve their cash flow, a lot of other parts in their lives are positively impacted as well.

“It is a journey,” she described. “As we go on the budgeting journey, we actually get to understand ourselves better. We get to know what matters to us and what not, we learn to spend money on what matters to us, and that will give us the happiness from inside.”

Featured Image Credit: Nafisah Amran

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