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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Matter Of Life And Debt -- For The Less Prudent

"For when you have already enjoyed the convenience of buying on credit, and is mired in debt -- there is no more turning around and blaming anyone for your bad judgment."

I used to be in awe of people who carry multiple credit cards. The first thing that runs in my intuition is that - they must be blessed with a nice-paying job. This may sound bizarre, but I did have that feeling of self-pity or envy of sort, because I really had that dream before of having one. For what and why? I did'nt know. I think I was just being innocent or ignorant. I supposed, just to have one in my wallet, period.

Here in the Middle East, this credit card phenomenon is not new to every Filipino expatriate. A lot of stories have been told about credit card related incidents involving compatriots. Mostly troublesome and worse than that, in some cases self-inflicted deaths. These incidents have so far alarmed Filipino communities here and our government officials in the country.

It has been reported that countless OFWs in Dubai are in big trouble because of credit card debts. Some unconfirmed reports speculate that an alarming number of suicides involving Filipinos in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are credit card related. Their desperation to get out of the debt trap had caused them to settle for their gruesome end. And yes, this is really happening.

Even on Oprah, world-renowned financial guru Suze Orman, advises Americans to promptly pay in full as soon as they get their statements, because if they're not able to pay the complete amount in their statement, the amount due becomes a loan. And since there is no moratorium on interest payment, it just goes on until you pay-off your loan completely. And so, this is where most of them fall into a debt trap. No matter how they struggle to get out, the misery just continues.

Had it not been of a former colleague, I would have not thought of delving into this edgy issue. He just lost his job in Dubai. He is very talented and highly qualified for his job. He is well-travelled, courtesy of his topnotch position in the company. His demise from the company was due to his own credit card episode, that the company deemed him to be redundant. He was not alone though, more Filipinos from his company had suffered a similar fate.

Here in Jeddah, I know of many compatriots who own multiple credit cards, but their own ATM cards are pawned to loansharks and private lending establishments. They get their salaries from these loansharks after hefty deductions, and then scramble to pay off their credit card debts from what is left of them. Some of them could barely send money to their families in the Philippines.

Sometimes it is very embarrassing to think, that some of our compatriots could have been factors to the credit crunch that has resulted to the global economic downturn -- albeit to a lesser degree. Why I suspect so? I've known some former colleagues in Dubai and here in Saudi Arabia who just simply disappeared after securing substantial loans from the bank. Some had even used their credit cards to withdraw cash before fading away . As this scheme became endemic to our compatriots, banks have soon alerted airport authorities to apprehend would be fugitives -- and one of my former colleagues had been a recipient of an embarrassing spectacle at the airport, and could face prison terms.

At first, the prospect of getting a credit card is very tempting. Applying for one, has now been made easy and effortless. Amid all known unfavorable effects it may render -- without proper discipline and self-control --the person concerned still has to take responsibility of his deeds and decision-making. For when you have already enjoyed the convenience of buying on credit, and is mired in debt -- there is no more turning around and blaming anyone for your bad judgment.

It is noteworthy though, that this scenario has shed light on my ignorance. That a credit card is not meant to adorn a wallet. That it is not a requisite to a fine status symbol. That it does not solicit envy, instead it necessitates a great deal of responsibility. Because at the end of the day, without excercising self-restraint and discipline, one could find himself at the mercies of the authorities.

When a struggling OFW finds himself in a predicament like this -- losing his job, gets incarcerated and after serving time gets blacklisted -- or worse resorting to taking own's life -- what is left in store for him? What about his dreams? I do not imply that credit card is a menace, in fact to many, it is convenient. It only becomes menacing when one lacks judgment and loses his sense of self-control. And truth be told that remorse always comes at the end -- that is without a doubt.

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Pepe Cabrera said...

I don't like credit cards, 'cause I don't have one (joke!), but seriously, there's an upside and a downside to it. But to me I find it unnecessary when you find it hard to control your compulsion.

I've known some people who are into this mess, wanting to get out of it, but are constantly drawn deeper into it. What a shame!

braggart_21 said...

Hello To,

I think everyone can have a credit card but not everyone has the wisdom and discipline to control themselves when it comes to spending. In the end, it all boils down to paying the bill on time. Agree ko sa imo nga ang mga problema sang mga katoto naton diri sa Saudi is self inflicted. Sila lang mismo ang nagkuha sang bato nga ipokpok nila sa ila ulo.

I have a credit card at malula ka sa credit limit ko kasi grabe kadako. But I'm proud to say that as of 23 January 2010, ZERO balance ako ya!

Anonymous said...

Ditto! I used to envy people with credit cards; I used to wish that I have a Visa or Amex too. And then I saw the woes that credits (and credit cards) bring.

Mas masarap pa ring mabuhay ng simple. I heard one pastor say that in order to be happy and contented in life, one must live below his means. Take note, hindi 'within', below daw.

I realized the essence of what he said. It's only when we manage to derive happiness in simple things do we truly become happy. (i.e. reading books can make you happy, a good movie too or a simple dinner with friends -- huwag naman sardinas..hmmm...pasta de nebz perhaps...hehe, may plugging talaga!).


The root of all such woes is not money; it's the 'love' of money.

Salamat po sa post. This one should be read by all OFWs -- new and old!

Anonymous said...

I used to know of my papa's friends getting into huge debts because of their families back home. Sometimes sila nagkakaproblema sa debts not because of their own fault but because their families back home demand so much from them, and since ayaw naman ng mga kababayan natin na mapahiya, they incur huge debts, not realizing sometimes that they're the ones who suffer.

I'm glad the "plastic" phenomenon hasn't caught up in my provincial place. Siguro if it did, grabe andami ang magtatago dahil hindi na nila mabayaran ang mga utang nila.

Gremliness said...

Before recession struck, ang credit cards parang candy lang na ibinebenta ng mga bank agents dito sa Dubai, everybody could comply sa requirements.

And these agents from different banks seem to have a single database, kasi magtataka ka maraming calls narereceive offering credit cards. Tapos ikaw pa ang pipilitin.

Businesses are now finding ways to let one stick to the cards, like online payments of utilities, fines, software licenses and all those.

My bottomline: we kept a single credit card for our online payments. WE've sworn though to be more responsible card holders.

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