Opinion

4 Destructive Things Too Many Singaporeans in Debt Think to Themselves

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Joanne Poh

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You might think that having that Chanel handbag on your arm or Rolex watch on your wrist signifies that you’re a person with great taste.

We’re not about to make comments about your fashion sense. But if you had to get into debt to buy any of the above items, we do have something to say about your lack of common sense.

Getting into debt is okay if you’re buying a home or furthering your education. But doing so because you can’t control your own spending is a huge problem many Singaporeans unfortunately face, according to Credit Counselling Singapore in this report.

If that balance on credit card bill just never seems to go away (and this happens to more Singaporeans than you might think—at least 1.44 million people in Singapore had a credit card account that wasn’t fully paid off at the end of 2013), here are some reasons you might be in such a jam.

 

I’ll be able to repay my debts when I’m earning more

If you’re carrying any balance at all on your credit card, the smart thing to do would be to find a way to pay it off ASAP. The interest is so high that even fairly small debts can spiral out of control very quickly.

The problem is that many Singaporeans seem to think they’ll be able to pay off the debts “one day”–when they have a high enough income. Not now.

People need to wake up and realise the longer they fail to pay off their debt, the more serious it becomes. And if you suffer a loss of income (retrenchment is a very real possibility in these economic times), you could even face bankruptcy if your debt is bad enough.

You don’t want to end up like this guy, who kept reassuring himself that he could use his bonus to pay off his debts until his situation spiralled out of control.

 

I should totally try to gamble the money back

Credit Counselling Singapore cites gamblers as regulars at their office, and it’s easy to see why. Every hardcore gambler has won big at least once—we’re talking hundreds or thousands of dollars here—and imagines that it’s possible to do so again.

That could be why so many Singaporeans turn to gambling in hopes that it’ll offer them an easy way  to clear their debts. And we’re not talking about wagering on a round of daidee or buying 4D. We mean hitting up the casinos, either by paying the $100 levy for our local ones or setting sail on an auntie and uncle-filled floating casino.

Heck, it’s certainly easier than working, especially if your job only pays you $1,000 or $2,000 a month.

The only problem is losing big means almost certain death. Unfortunately, most gamblers don’t really take that into account, as the stress from being harassed by creditors is more than enough to make all good sense fly out the window.

 

YOLO!

Despite the fact that money is one of Singaporeans’ biggest stress sources, many debtors choose to just YOLO, since one day when they get rich they’ll be able to pay off all their debts without working anyway, right?

I mean, come on, some Singaporeans have been known to get into debt over cosmetic surgery and clubbing, of all things. If that doesn’t reek of YOLO, I don’t know what does. (According to this article, the average Singaporean woman spends an average of $200 a month on beauty products and services.)

In addition, many people don’t really think too much about the amount of debt they carry on their credit cards, choosing to ignore the obvious until the banks start bugging them to pay up. It’s like how you ignore your mum’s nagging to clean up after yourself until she threatens to throw you out of the house, at which point you do the bare minimum to save yourself.

 

I deserve to treat myself!

A lot has been said about how entitled Singaporeans are, but I think there’s a difference between thinking the world owes you a living, and putting your foot down and refusing to accept abuse or unfairness.

Many Singaporeans do the former, constantly splurging on themselves because work days are long and stressful, and they just need something to make themselves feel better.

This becomes a problem when a “treat” equates to a handbag that costs two months’ salary, or a lavish vacation packed with five star amenities.

You might “deserve” some timeout and a bit of leisure after working hard, but nobody deserves to spend money they can’t afford on luxuries they don’t need. You certainly deserve a day of rest after working around the clock, but that doesn’t mean you get to spend the day at some spa at Sentosa Cove, or on a staycation at the Hilton.

Instead of always turning to money or feeling entitled to luxuries when the going gets tough to the extent that they’re willing to get into debt over it, Singaporeans need to start being reasonable and learning how to enjoy life without having to feel like a king or princess.

Have you ever had trouble paying your credit card bills? Tell us why it happened in the comments.

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.