It is said that some prisons don’t require bars to keep people locked inside. Debt is one of those invisible prisons. All it takes for you to be in it is the perception that you belong there. The more debt that you acquire, the bigger, wider and heavier the chains around your neck become.
Debt has become a way of life these days. Whether it’s your car debt, clothing accounts, bond, personal loans or credit cards and other debt, it’s almost impossible to survive without it. Sadly, salaries don’t increase that much when compared to how quickly some interest rates and services increase which affect the cost of living. This causes more people to sink deeper and deeper into debt as they are trying to fill the gaps by taking up more credit. As if this is not enough, every year, you are told by financial advisers that the tougher the economic situation is, the more you need to save for retirement. Really? This is insane!
At some stage, you and I are bound to hit a dead-end and we will have debt collectors on our door steps because we are unable to pay all our debt.
Did you know that, according to the National Credit Regulator and South African Human Rights Commission:
- 19 million people in South Africa are credit active
- almost 11 million of them are said to be over indebted – being in arrears with their payments by 3 months or more
The plot gets even thicker as:
- 84% of debt is made up of credit cards
- 76% is store cards
- 94% is personal loans debt
When you sit down and ask a major question around the usage of this money and try to work out what exactly it was spent on, most people don’t remember and the few that do remember what they did with the money, sight luxury items they bought instead of the essentials.
The Human Rights Commission says that 76% of South Africans are swimming in debt and are flat broke every month. 75% of their salaries go towards paying off debt. This means out of every R100 earned, R75 pays off debt and there’s only R25 left to take care of living costs for the whole month! To bring this closer, imagine you are earning R10 000.00 net salary per month. R7500.00 of that money goes to pay off all your accounts and you are left with R2500.00. This money must pay for your rent, food, transport for work and for your kids, pocket money for school kids, school fees, and the list goes on. How is that possible? This may mean that a person will have to find a ‘mashonisa’ somewhere to borrow from. Sadly, they charge “an arm and a leg” and soon you will find yourself in more danger.
You are not alone. Many people are in the same boat as you are. Having said all this, let’s be honest about debt. Debt just doesn’t grow overnight. It takes a while before creditors decide to sue you for their money.
The problem is that you are the one who does not pay your accounts regularly. You start by short-paying your creditors. This results in small amounts in arrears. When things get a little tougher, you start skipping some account payments which you believe are not priority in your current pressing situation. You then graduate further and completely skip paying for several months and you start ignoring the phone calls that come as a result on your non-payment.
When your creditors are tired of calling you, they simply send you legal letters notifying you of their intention to take legal action if you don’t pay. So, whether you respond to their correspondence or not, they will continue with the process of handing over your account to debt collectors or Attorneys for collection.
By this time, all services rendered by the collectors are to be paid by you – and they add it onto your total debt you owe. They charge you even for calls they make to you!
From here, it is a slippery slope to debt hell and you might end up with a garnishee order at your HR office, from the court of law, ordering your employer to deduct monies you owe to your creditor.
Let’s be brutally honest. It’s true that inflation takes over our finances but it’s equally true that when that happens, we need to be vigilant, sober minded and disciplined to downgrade our expensive lifestyles to suit the situation. The problem is that some people don’t pluck up enough courage to downgrade as they see this move to be too ‘humiliating’ for them. Pride gets in their way. Sorry to say, pride comes before the fall and it takes you ten steps backwards.
Solution to the debt problem
To be vigilant, sober minded and disciplined, you will need to develop a strict habit of budgeting properly for survival not for luxury.
This means you will need to cut out all luxuries and stop fooling yourself with the ‘I deserve it mentality”.
Stop spending money you don’t have. Instead, pay off debt as quickly as possible so that you can free up some money to spend on necessities. Yes, we are living in tough times so they call for desperate measures to be taken for our finances to come right.
Remember: Debt is the 21st slavery. This thing steals your joy and squanders your future in front of your eyes. Paying off debt can take a long time thereby preventing you from achieving your goals. You cannot even buy a house if you have too much debt.
Not all is lost though. There is still a change to remedy your financial situation if you are one of those people who have gone too far and created so much damage to yourself and finances.
Here’s what you could do to improve your situation:
If you are drowning in debt, contact www.debtbusters.co.za.
If your creditors have already sued you for their money or you are having more debt to pay each month than there is money to pay creditors, contact (Debt Consolidation of debt counselor or NCR)
For more educational information on finances, contact www.truthaboutmoney.co.za.
For advice on 9 ways to get your employees out of debt, read this article: