When I completed an era of education in my life, which spanned 16 years, and finally culminated this year, I was glad that I was moving into the next stage of life. What was even more exciting was that I got a campus placement with Cybermedia as a Tech Analyst, because gadgets have always fascinated me. It was an end to the seemingly never-ending torture of examinations. I have somehow, always, put schools and prisons on the same platform. Both have High boundary walls and both restrict movement inside those walls. Every prison has a scary Warden, and every school inevitably has a very scary (and very fat) discipline incharge. Both have schedules and time-tables, which have to be religiously adhered to the stage where you feel really sick of boredom and want to throw up by the time you reach class7. Having survived all that, I moved onto a stage, one with lot more responsibilities and require the ability to know the art of survival.
This neatly brings me onto a very sad news, that emerged out of Mumbai yesterday. Apparently, Art of survival is something these two people did not quite master. The two, a brother and his elder sister were found to have committed suicide, due to the financial troubles they were apparently facing. This is indeed a very sad thing. Lack of money is a very tough situation for anyone, and I pray to God that no one ever face that issue.
But what saddened me more was the fact that these two had apparently been riding the tiger for a very long time. And we all know that once the ride is over and you get off the tiger, things go really pear shaped. And it did for these two as well. Investigations have revealed that they were under the burden of 72 credit cards, whose bills had to be paid. 72, is a huge number. And rather foolish too. But there is a learning, and a warning, in this for all of us.
People have always adviced me to keep two credit cards at the most, one MasterCard and one Visa. And I find it more comfortable to keep zero. Absolutely none. But the 2 people in Mumbai thought having another 70 would be a nice feeling. Or would increase their current spending power, without immediately worrying about cash. Not so nice now, when you go through the pearly gates of heaven screaming money.
It is the ability to understand what is good for you that will keep anyone in good stead in such times. I have personally had to fall back on this judgement quite recently. Over the last few days, I have been getting umpteen calls from credit card companies to subscribe to their brand of plastic money. Reliance literally begged for me to get the card. Even SBI called up thrice in one day. Offering me a Gold Card! I said No.
I personally feel that the Economic crisis has brought forth a contradiction. Loans for Cars, Houses and consumer goods are becoming scarce. Banks are following rigirous credit ability and cash reserve checks before approving a loan for any customer. And mostly they find something wrong with something and reject the application.
On the other hand, the same banks are handing out credit cards like leafelets and adverts. This without any background checks. Imagine I had responded positively to one of the calls SBI made. How do they know my ability to handle credit, and how much? At the same time, would they approve a 42” LCD TV loan for me? No, they wont. I have been working for only 5 months and even I do not know my ability to handle credit till what level. So, I refused, because I did not want to go through the pearly gates of hell hanging upside down from a fan.
Economic crisis become even more compounded at an individual level, if a person has not assessed his financial strength, and margin for savings for the inevitable rainy day. Credit card people will continue to call. They want the customer to falter on payments, so that they can set the recovery agents after us, and then sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
My advice to all, resist the temptation of a mode of buying now and paying later. And just run for your life, when the temptation to have multiple such modes. And scream bloody murder when the number is about to reach 72. Because, in the end, what may seem a bill payment one month away will get closer with the clock ticking every second. And it is not very prudent to find yourself in a mini financial crisis at that time.
This is where History has given us a lesson. The Americans, to be more precise. The great grandfathers of the present generation of American Youngsters believed in a simple philosophy, “If you can’t pay, don’t buy”. Sounds very simple, yet proving to be hard to follow. The American youngsters, according to the Economists, are going back to this philosophy. It is time we all do too.