Sunday, May 10, 2020


My mother, now 94, grew up in Seremban in the WWII era when women had no voice, no official role to play in society. They were the family nurturer and caregiver, roles thrusted upon them which they accepted without complaint or protest. This was long before women discovered they were multi-skilled and could handle several diverse roles equally well. Many didn't even have a say in who they wanted as their life partner. Their parents made the choice for them. (Above photo taken in 2014: four generations - my mom, me, my elder daughter and two of my grand daughters.)

My mom was widowed in her early 30s. She was left with six young children to raise. Fortunately my relatives and my paternal grandma helped to look after us while my mom was going through depression. I was the eldest and learned to shoulder responsibilities at a young age while still in primary school. 

The women from my mom's era were tough physically and mentally, often raising as many as 10 children singlehandedly, and managing all the housework without the aid of machines. It was a life of daily sweat, toil and stoicism. Their children (that's us baby boomers) have remained eternally appreciative of their mothers to this day. Just look at the thousands of heartfelt outpourings of love and gratitude in cards and stories on Mother's Day every year.

The true emanicipation of women came with the Baby Boomers. We were the first generation that had access to education including post-graduate studies. That was our gateway to jobs and financial independence. We learned to drive and that gave us the freedom to venture further afield, to explore more opportunities and to develop the spirit of adventure. But one thing never changed, and thank God for that. We have continued with our role to put family first and foremost in our life's priority list.

Along with jobs came earning power and purchasing power. Today women consumers are a formidable force that cannot be ignored. They spur growth in the market and the economy.

There is a dearth of research on the breakdown of consumer spending by gender in Malaysia. If the stats for the US are anything to go by, we will likely see a similar trend here. According to MIT AgeLab founder, Joseph Coughlin, in his 2017 book 'The Longevity Economy', women across all ages worldwide influence 64% of consumer purchases. Among older women, the power of female consumers is even more profound as they enjoy longer life expectancy and often outlive their men.

It is common knowledge from decades of observations that in most family households, it is the lady of the house who wields considerable influence on her husband when making decisons on big item purchases. A joint account also gives women more freedom to make purchases. The rise in the number of single professional women as well as single moms further enlarges the pool of female consumers.

From Women's Buying Power
The list below is by no means exhaustive but it gives a clear picture of areas where women hold purchasing power in making decisons. They are often the ones who do the bookings, make reservations and handle the family's accounts and budget.
  1. groceries and household essentials
  2. home appliances (fridge, washing machine, oven, vacuum cleaner)
  3. medicine, supplements, healthcare products
  4. clothing, cosmetics, toiletries
  5. holiday packages (airline, hotel, tours)
  6. restaurants for family dining-out (women make the reservations)
  7. home purchase (women check out the property first and usually have the final say)
  8. schools for their children 
  9. nursing homes, home care (for their elderly parents or in-laws)
  10. senior living (retirement homes, senior travel, dance & fitness classes, lifelong learning)
The longer life expectancy of women also means longer purchasing power for them as evident in the predominance of women in aged care facilities and retirement villages. 

From Ford recognises women's purchasing power
The few remaining areas where male consumers still dominate (but not for long) are in financial products & investments, cars, IT gadgets, sports and hobbies such as golf, fishing, DIY. But this is set to change as women are making their presence felt in almost every sector of the economy and industry. We are also seeing more of them as captains of industry and holding positions in government. More younger women are emerging as successful entrepreneurs, with many running their own online businesses.

We don't need a crystal ball to tell us what the future of the world will look like. It will definitely be female. More so with online shopping getting popular. Advertisers, marketers, product designers, take note. Be prepared and be ready to adjust your plans and projections for the 2020s and beyond.

Friday, April 10, 2020


MCO (Stay-Home) Day 24. Today is a good (Fri)day as any to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane. Am digging up some old blog posts and giving it a slightly new 2020 update. Join me in this first one.

In April 2014, then US President Obama began a 3-day (26-28 April) visit to Malaysia. The last time a US president visited Malaysia was in 1966 when President LB Johnson paid a 20-hour whirlwind visit.

In conjunction with President Obama's visit, the Star published an article ("It was the good old swinging 60s") that probably resonated with those of us who grew up in the 1960s. To many of us, those were the most carefree years of our lives. We were young then, with no cares in the world except to study and do well in our exams. The joy and stress of raising a family and the pressures of working life were yet to descend upon us.

The Star, 25 April 2014

What was life back then in the 60s? If you are now in your 60s or 70s, the images below will stir up poignant memories of an era long gone but not forgotten. Here's a glimpse into the past.

I bet many of us still keep some currency notes and coins from the 1960s. A dollar then could buy us a good lunch. Bank Negara launched the local currency notes in 1967, but it was only in 1996 that the $ sign was replaced with RM.

Inflation was an alien word in the 60s, virtually unheard of during my high school years from 1960-1964. 50 cents pocket money was all my mom gave me but it was enough to get me a plate of nasi lemak or a bowl of noodles at the school tuck-shop, a glass of syrup drink and a piece of fruit. I still had money left to buy sweets or save.

My TIGS classmates and I with our bicycles in 1962. In primary school, I went to school by trishaw. I still remember how the trishaw uncle could pack five of us in one trip - three seated, two squatting.

Pedal power ruled the day. My friends and I went everywhere by bicycle. Festive seasons would find us cycling in groups to visit our Malay, Indian and Chinese friends. Those who didn't cycle would take a trishaw to their destination. I recall my uncle taking us for an evening spin around Batu Pahat in a trishaw. The ride around town cost him only one dollar. It was a treat as not many families then could afford a car to cruise around town.

The UK and the US dominated the youth fashion scene. We were very much influenced by what teenagers there wore, and they in turn were faithful fashion followers of their teen idols of the time. My wardrobe then consisted of mini-skirts, hot pants, huge flora ties and colorful fancy stockings. Woodstock 1969 spun a new fashion fad - the hippie cum flower child look. Bell bottoms were in, so were tie-dyed tees and gypsy skirts. My wardrobe changed accordingly.

As for hair style, the boys either spotted the bowl-cut Beatles style or the pompadour a la Elvis Presley. While the guys heaped Brylcream on their hair, the girls teased their hair into huge 'beehives' kept in place with generous amounts of hair spray. The hippies would let their hair grow long and adorn their hair with flowers. Others opted for the Afro hair-do. The clean-cut Gary Grant look of the 50s was uncool, and definitely OUT.

Teen Idols of the 60s made a huge impact on the music we listened to. We followed religiously the UK and US hit parades like BBC's Top of the Pops and the American Billboard Top 20. Music genres ran the whole gamut from romantic ballads to acid-rock, from musicians like Neil Sedaka to Jimi Hendrix. Pop groups also dominated the teen music scene. We enjoyed songs by The Carpenters, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. We swooned over boy bands like The Monkees and Herman's Hermits. Later, we added Santana, James Taylor and The Who to our fave list. Our music taste was certainly eclectic!

Some of our teenage idols

We bought EPs and LPs and played them on our turntables at home. Coffee shops had jukeboxes. For 20 cents a selection, we could listen to the current hits of the time. I painstakingly copied the lyrics of hundreds of songs, and sang them aloud in the privacy of my room.

The radio stations had programs where you could dedicate songs to your friends. I remember DJs Constance Haslam, Vicky Skelchy and Patrick Teoh announcing names like "Elvis Rocky Tan dedicates the next song to Lulu Sandra Lim". We gave ourselves names after our favorite pop idol.

The songs we listened to all came from gadgets similar to those below. No such thing as a remote control. Gadgets then were heavy or bulky. There was nothing we could carry with us in our handbags or pockets for easy listening or viewing.

As teenagers we loved to dance. We had dance parties where the boys would sit on one side of the dance floor, and the girls on the other. The boys would pluck up courage to walk over and ask the girls to dance. Such gentlemen! The wallflowers were those girls who never got asked.

The Twist, the Jive and the Limbo Rock were staples at any dance party. Strangely enough, off-beat cha cha and a-go-go seemed to be popular mainly in Singapore and Malaysia.

How many of these dances do you remember and can still do now? Probably all of them except the Limbo!

SeniorsAloud organised our first of several annual dinner and dance in 2014. Not surprisingly our theme was Celebrating the 60s, a reference to our age and to the good old days. It was truly an evening of fun as these videos below show, posted by Alfred Ho on his YouTube channel.  Alfred was in his element that night.

Well, once the MCO is finally lifted, and it is safe to go out and enjoy socialising again, we will have our next dance party. It will be a celebration in many ways.