BEING ME

This is my life…my story…my book. I am the author, the only author of my life.

I will no longer let anyone else write it and be co-author.

I will accept suggestions on how to improve my story.

I will not apologize for the edits I make. People may or may not like me, but it is important to me to stay true to who I am.

~ ALAN IAN ATKINSON
Writer, Author, Storyteller

Picture Quotes

IS IT WORTH THE TRADE-OFF?

A new 330i BMW sits in the porch next to now; quite famed metallic deep scarlet-red, mid-sized Mazda CX-5 4wd SUV (sports utility vehicle) in the porch. The porch had to be big and wide enough to accommodate both vehicles fully, parked side by side each other, protecting them from the “harsh” weather of the sun and rain.

The 2-storey house was built around 15 years ago. Though a mid-sized inter-link building; it is gated by a stainless steel designed auto-gate. Since the purchase of the house, extensive, expensive renovations had gone into it. The original house as it was before the renovations; was very much looked after and did not need renovations. But then, what would their new neighbors think of them? What would their societal friends think of them? How would they had to then maintain their status membership in the “ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO BETTER” club? Ouch!

The front main walls of the hall was moved up front, much closer to the gate, leaving just enough space for a fairly large vehicle to park inside the house compound (porch area). That is why both vehicles could only be parked side-by-side of each other. Due to this, the normal size gate had to be replaced to practically fit the full width of the house.

Next, the rear of the house was pushed right back to the fence. This included the floor above.

With the front walls pushed closer to the gate and the rear walls pushed back to the fence boundary; the built up area became much bigger. Bigger hall, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Next, fixtures and fittings had to be top-notch – fancy lightings, over-sized wrap around tvs all over the place, even on the ceiling with the use of the Samsung “Freestyle” projector; air-conditioning in every part of the house, including the store (the fancy word is “utility”) room (no not really).

There was a maid’s room included. How thoughtful. The maid would have to either be very thin and pint-size or really tuck it in, to fit inside that room. From what seems to be talked about, the maid only needs a place to sleep, not live in opulent luxury. After all, the reason for her to be there…is to work.

The new owners of this property, a family of four – businessman, housewife, son who is just starting his college education and daughter who has just started middle school; moved in after the renovations were completed.

The active and busy lifestyle of this family of four is that they are out of the house (home) most of the day. They get home late on most days, and have to muster energy and strength to get into bed, fall off to sleep and began “life” the next day by doing what they have been doing day in, day out; all over again.

In the meantime, pressure has been mounting on the businessman. While his orderbooks have been filling up, the supply chain for his products have been affected by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Europe, the looming possibility of a world recession and other factors.

The Central Bank has raised lending interest rates today – the third since May. The tightening of cashflows has forced him to tap into his reserves. He hopes to recover financially sooner than later as his reserves is not a “spend like there is no tomorrow” position. Nevertheless, it is important to look good and keep up with the Joneses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How many of us can relate to the above? We try to impress people who don’t matter and don’t really care. We worry about finances all the time, have many sleepless nights – we don’t have peace of mind. Is it worth the trade-off?

As a very wise man said once before: “It is important what your spouse and children – your immediate family, think of you”. Others don’t matter. This wise man dropped out of lower secondary school. With his street wise intelligence, he went on to build one of the largest office equipment businesses in the country. He has also made a name for himself in the automotive accessory business.

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning and not be stressed out on how to settle bills? It is up to us to take stock of what really is important to us and take decisive measures to put things in perspective. Seek help on how to go about regaining that “peace of mind”. That “peace of mind” is awesome!

Bunker-riley

NOTES:
The above lifestyle example may work for some people.
It is always advisable to be up to speed on person’s financial position.

FINANCIAL FREEDOM – IS THERE HOPE?

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” ~ Proverbs 22:7

Can it get any more profound than this? We do not really need to think hard into this statement because it is as plain and simple for all to see.

After 2,000 years or so, things really have not changed much for the “poor” man. He is still in debt. And the lender… well the borrower is still the slave of the lender.

What may have changed is the way that loans are so easily available. Advertising and marketing help us discover the need for loans that we never realized we needed before…Take a loan to renovate and extend the brand, new house that we just collected the keys for, and yet to move in to; buy that luxurious sports car for the weekend and an additional 4wd sports utility vehicle (SUV) for the new found hobby of mountain tracking that you never thought about doing until you saw the advertisement.

Or buy into that super luxurious time-sharing holiday that promises you paradise on earth. It does not matter that you will have to book this unit that you presumably own, months in advance; to finally find out that you cannot book it for a week or two in a stretch and that when it is available; you are not. You do not get a refund on this.

The magic of all magic statements when you are encouraged to use your credit card: “It is not like you are paying for it.” Well not immediately…until the credit card statement comes. Then, you will have to pay for all your purchases. And here, the credit card issuers encourage you to pay a partial amount – a bare minimum of 5% or 10% of the total statement; not to worry about the balance. It can be settled over the next 12 months or so…with interest.

Or, if you need immediate cash without wanting to go through the process of applying for it; you can just use your credit card at the ATM and withdraw that cash… of course, with a 5% fee… and then…pay an interest, most times at a high percentage, while repaying back this super-easy-to-get cash advance.

You acquire and accumulate all these things. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Then, there is keeping up with appearances when you start comparing with Tom, Harry, Christine, Jessica, the Joneses, “Bucket”… You find that you become an advertisement junkie – dressed from head to toe in branded attire, including your underwear. The best part is YOU PAY TO ADVERTISE! How cool is that? It can become a race to out-do each other, even to the point of getting into financial trouble.

You find that you have to work hard, long hours; just to help support this lifestyle. The general perception of “financial freedom” is you earn enough or more than enough to pay the monthly bills. Most times than not; “contentment” is not in that equation.

Advertisers control our lives. What would happen if advertisements include a statement at the bottom, “You will have to pay for these products”. It’s like pouring cold water on a make belief world.

Is there a way out of this “false” happiness?

The recent Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the finances of people. They struggled to juggle what needed to be achieved and prioritize their financial obligations. Relationships suffered. “Where is God in all this?”, we wonder. What does God say about money and our possessions?

Good news. There are answers to your questions. Which then leads to more questions. Did you know that there are 2,500 verses in the Bible that deal with money and possessions? Yet there are fewer than <500 verses on faith and about 500 verses on prayer.

Compass Catholic ministry helps people break away from the grasp of worldly consumerism. In Malaysia, this ministry started just over two and a half years ago with a small group of 12 people.

The programme, “Navigating your finances God’s way (NYFGW)”; is a 9-week Bible study, Catechism and Church teachings. In addition to the Bible study, participants also complete personal, practical applications including:
> How to track your spending habits
> How to pay off your debt
> What to do in time of a crisis

Your takeaway from this is financial freedom, “peace of mind.”

To find out more on Malaysian Compass Catholic NYFGW; and its next preview, go to this link http://bit.ly/CompassCatholic

So, where do you go from here?

Sarah Lazarovic

The advertisements and promotions on how life is in the world of luxury, will continue. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. We are offered a humongous spectrum for choice. Wow!

Can we re-take control of our lives?

WAVE OR PIN?

A few days ago, my wife, Jeannie; and I, were at what is generally our usual past time – shopping at our favourite shopping mall: Mid-Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur (1). On a good day, the mall is about 30 minutes away. On a not-so-good day, it can take us an hour. Noooo… neither the mall nor our house are location movers. It’s the traffic that determines how long it takes to reach there😉 and vice versa.

HAVE CREDIT CARD CAN BUY MURUKKU

Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards from financial institutions – opulent status recognition, where everyone will bow before you and jump to your every whim by not asking “why?” but “How high?”

The owner of The Embershoppe in Petaling Jaya, C. K. Lim; is one special dude. He remembers all his customers by name, even after only having visited his tobacco shop once. I think remembering each and every person’s name is a special gift. That is peak customer service!

When you receive an email or letter or message through the phone from the card issuer bank, they begin with, “Dear valued customer…” So much for the opulent status recognition. You would think that owning one or more of these Magnesium, Platinum, Carbon Fibre credit cards which usually come with a high credit limit; the financial institution would surely know you by name. The only times they will know you by name is when you have to pay the monthly statements they issue you or when they have something to sell directly to you. Otherwise, you are just a series of digits and characters.

So, we come back to the topic of the credit card. When Jeannie and I are in Mid-Valley, we quite often stop by at the booth that sells kacang putih (3), murukku (2) and Bombay Mixture (4). We usually buy 2 or 3 varieties of this awesome snacks. The price ranges from US$1.50 (RM6.50) to $US2.40 (RM12.00).

This time round, we picked one of my favourites – roasted kacang with brown skin priced at RM6.50 for 300gm and “Bombay Mixture” (the small thin type) mixed with some kacang which was priced at RM12.00. I gave the seller a RM50 note and waited for the change. The guy did not have change and asked if I could pay using a credit card.

I said, “What? Buying kacang putih with credit card?” Surely, this is a joke. It wasn’t. I was so surprised. Has it come down to this where you pay for the cheapest items with credit card?

Spicy “Bombay Mixture”, with peanuts and other condiments included.

There are many of you out there who will think that there is nothing wrong paying a small amount with a credit card. Sure, I get that. Here when we talk about credit cards, let us include debit cards, too. Whether physically (famously or commonly known as the plastic we carry around with us) or stored on phones and other electronic devices. I think about a habit this most probably will become.

Many e-wallets with stored amounts have automatic top-up of funds either direct from a personal bank account or a credit card.

Now, think about this. If you were to carry cash around; you may be a bit more careful in spending. When cash is low, you probably will wait for the next opportunity when you have enough cash, to buy the item.

But what happens when you have the use of the credit card for all sorts of small payments and lose track of your spending? Your credit card statement together with your other expenditure like gas / petrol, dining out, movies, shopping, etc; could come up to a fairly substantial amount. It will be ok if you settle the statement in full.

But what if you don’t? The temptation to just pay the minimum is there. The balance outstanding in the statement, is carried forward to the next statement month with a compounding interest. In Malaysia, credit cards come with an interest charge of 15% to 18% generally.

(1a)

Some people may take note of this possible large amount that is carried forward to the next month and will control their spending in the coming future until the balance outstanding is fully settled. The financial institutions know this and have come out with schemes to counter customers who are concsious of their balances, who take steps to clear this outstanding balances soonest possible and tie you down or lock your outstanding balance with an offer of a term loan sort of scheme, thus making the big balance amount “disappear” with a fixed period and so-called low interest to settle this amount. What you don’t see, you may forget. What you don’t see, may not hurt you.

Therefore, in the third month onwards, the big balance disappears but is replaced with a monthly payment. So, then, your credit card is “freed of the big amount”, thus allowing you to spend more. They “prey” on customers who do not keep track of their spending. But guess what, the earlier big balance you had has not actually disappeared but is termed as “unbilled amount”.

So, the credit limit with your credit card has now expanded to a bigger limit. Multiply this by all the other credit cards you may have. It can become “4th stage cancer of credit” where people are in such a bind that catastrophe could set in.

To find out more on how to overcome “4th stage cancer of credit” or avoid it; email alan@leatherpotato.com
The “4th stage cancer of credit” problem is generally the same for everyone, but getting cured from it may be unique to each individual.

Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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NOTES:
1. Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia.

2. Murukku (Malayalam – മുറുക്ക്, Tamil – முறுக்கு) is a savoury, crunchy snack originating from the Indian subcontinent. The name murukku derives from the Malayalam/Tamil word for “twisted”, which refers to its shape. In India, murukku is especially popular in the states of Andhra PradeshTamil NaduKarnataka, and Kerala. It is called murkulu or janthukulu in Andhra Pradesh. It is also popular in countries with substantial presence of Indian and Sri Lankan diaspora, including SingaporeFijiMalaysia, and Myanmar (Burma). Murukku, called sagalay gway (စာကလေးခွေ; lit. ’baby sparrow coils’) in Burmese, is a common snack and is used as a topping for a regional dish called dawei mont di. Murukku is typically made from rice flour and urad dal flour. Chakli is a similar dish, typically made with an additional ingredient, bengal gram (chickpea) flour. (wikipidea)

3. The history of the kacang putih (literally translated as ‘white nuts’) business goes back to the 1940s, when the British brought in migrant labourers from the Ettayapuram village in Tamil Nadu to Malaya. A few families settled down near the limestone hill in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh – until 1973, when the residents were relocated to Teluk Kurin B in Buntong after a slab of limestone fell onto a longhouse, killing 42 people.

It was in the new settlement that business kicked up. The new, larger homes allowed owners to set up retail storefronts selling kacang putih, as well as other fried Indian snacks like murukku and assorted fried nuts made using recipes from Tamil Nadu. Business was so brisk that the settlement’s unwieldy name was changed to Kampung Kacang Putih – and until today, remains as the heart of a growing kacang putih industry across the country.

You won’t find kacang putih sold by the kacang putih man
The kacang putih vendor didn’t start by selling different types of murukku, fried nuts and potato chips – they just sold one thing: actual kacang putih, which are steamed lentils (also known as kacang kuda). But selling that alone wasn’t enough, especially as demand started to slow down and the burdensome steamer needed to keep the lentils warm made life difficult for cycling vendors.
Eventually, they diversified their offerings to include snacks that were easier to carry around and had a longer shelf life – which is how we ended up with the modern-day kacang putih man selling everything else but the steamed kacang putih.
John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih

4. Bombay mixture. The Bombay Mixture is another type of murukku offering that’s mixed with an assortment of fried nuts, green peas and beans, and spiced with chilli, turmeric and cumin. ‘The Bombay Mixture is thinner, but is spicier and has more ingredients compared to the Chennai Mixture.
John Lim, “Guide to Kacang Putih”, May 4th, 2018 http://www.timeout.com/kuala-lumpur/restaurants/guide-to-kacang-putih

1a. Money Finance Advise

HOME AT TUDOR

It is a sunny morning but the sky is overcast with what seem like light rain clouds. There was a light drizzle in the early hours of this morning.

The sparkle of light as seen on the drops of rain still on the flowers…

…the sun’s rays of light reflecting off the drops of rain that heavily dot the leaves is evidence of the sun making a grand appearance in the sky soon.

It has been a sunny, but wet several days. But the weather hardly deters me from my daily 15 kilometer (km) walk.

15km walks are long walks, even though my walks are fairly brisk. There are perks to it besides keeping fit and helping reduce weight.

Aunty Vimala and her daughters have decorated their house with beautiful lights and other decorations in preparation for Diwali (1), which is tomorrow.

Diwali is The Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains all over the world.

While on my daily walks, I meet with many of my neighbours along the way. Last evening for instance, I met with “MacGyver” Tan as he was just getting out of his car after coming back from somewhere. He moved very slowly, as though in pain. He told me that he had been through a surgical procedure on his stomach two weeks ago. We wish him a speedy recovery.

The Tudor community is considered young. MacGyver, Zul and I were amongst the earliest to move in when the houses were ready for occupancy. I have seen Zul’s, McGuyver’s and Sharifah’s children grow up – all of them are very pleasant and respectful – in fact all the children of Tudor and those who have become young adults, are very courteous and friendly.

There are times when I pass by a house in road C; there is a lady who plays beautiful classical music on the piano. The tone of her piano has a brilliance about it, so much so that the classical pieces she plays, which are not the usual ones you may hear, are beautiful.

We’ve got quite a few musically talented people in our community. Ian, a talented violinist, who has just completed his IGCSE; has performed with the National Youth Orchestra. We met on a couple of my walks. He is a bright, young gentleman. His younger sister is a cellist. If I am not mistaken, she wants to teach the cello. Wow! I think Tudor might be able to form a string quartet. Looking forward to that possibility.

There are times when I walk pass a house when I see Geeta, with a dainty, shallow basket hanging from one hand; pluck little white flowers from one of her many flower plants. She and Subee have transformed the curb to a garden of paradise. I am attracted to vibrant colours. Their garden has so many different colour flowers and plants. Both Geeta and Subee get great pleasure from the work they put into their garden.

There is a beautiful, tall overflowing fountain of white bougainvillea that greets everyone at the junction of road A. It is very pretty.

In our community, there is sort of a plant exchange “programme”. Jeannie gives plants or cuttings of plants to neighbours on her morning or evening walks and gets different plants back in return.

As the festival of lights is just hours away, Jeannie and I, together with our daughter; would like to wish all our Hindu, Sikh and Jain community a very Happy Diwali!

NOTE

This is the third episode of the Tudor-ian series. More to come. You can read up on the other two essays:

THE WALK IN TUDOR

THE GARDENS OF TUDOR

http://www.leatherpotato.com

  1. Diwali is a significant festival in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. Wikipedia

PRESENTLY, IN THE PRESENT TIME

Time waits for no man.

What just happened?

January 1st 2021 was just upon us not too long ago and now it has vanished in thin air.

Your time organized

The end of Q3 is in a few days.

On reflection, where did the almost 9 months go? We have the same 86,400 seconds or 1,440 minutes or 24 hours in each day as anyone else has. Can we account as to how we spent our time during these last 9 months?

Malaysia for one, was under Emergency lock-down with the hopes of curbing the spread of Covid-19. During these periods of “confined-to-our-homes” and restrictive movement, how have we spent our time?

We are so caught up in getting things of the planned future done for fear of not accomplishing them when time passes us by. I am guilty of that. I set out staring at this new year, 2021; with a few new resolutions of which I can only remember one of hand, that is to write 100 articles or essays with a minimum 500 words. As it is, I am behind schedule with 53 articles more to go. I don’t want to make excuses that I have all my other day-to-day, weekly and monthly activities to attend, to; too.

Your time, complicated, but organized

More importantly, is how we use our time to do the things we want to do. We may find ourselves caught up doing things that are unplanned for. Some of these unplanned for activities could be eating away or stealing our time.

Time-stealers” have to be identified. What is the meaning of time stealer? A time stealer is something that doesn’t need to be done at all.

Common time stealers include:

  • Procrastination – serves no purpose but only to delay the work or outcome
  • Unexpected interruptions
  • Unscheduled meetings
  • Called up by others
  • Cancelled task to react to something going wrong
  • Forced to take work home (most of us are working from home now due to the Covid-19 pandemic) or answer calls out of hours
  • A cluttered and disorganized workspace
  • Looking for tools or information to do the job / make a decision
  • Emails received that need responding to after work hours
  • Television
  • Constantly having to refer to our smartphones, even if have not received any notifications

There is another group that hogs on to your time. These are the time wasters. A time waster is one that eventually needs a response, but only when the time is right. Some common time wasters include

  • Social media distraction
  • Constantly checking your emails
  • Lack of prioritization
  • Procrastination
  • Unproductive meetings
  • Watercooler conversations, coffee break or teh tarik at the mamak (3) during working time. The mamak restaurants were usually full before the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • Constantly having to refer to our smartphones

For me, writing these 100 articles is a challenge I took on. I aim to fulfil this challenge. If I don’t, it is going to be more challenging next year. I will penalise the short fall with by carrying forward the shortfall (hopefully none) and add 60% to work on next year. I am working hard to complete it this year as I plan to write a book of between 100,000 to 130,000 words in 2022.

There are many who like to reminisce on “the good old days”; me included. But not enough time is spent living in the present. Not forgetting, we have to live in the present; too.

The future that we chase; that is our dreams, our goals, our ambitions; arrives at our doorstep of life, but for a fleeting moment. Then it becomes our past. Many of us hardly ever notice that “we have arrived at our destination” and rarely get off that train, bus or “vehicle of destined future”; as we have the “next goal to catch”. This was the future that we had planned for, well for many of us. But we don’t recognize it, or take enough time to enjoy this future that is our now, our present.

Is time stressing us?

Then, there are the few who actually get off the vehicle of destined future when they arrive at their destination. “Now what?”, they ask themselves. Their planned destination does not have enough momentum to keep them going for the rest of their lives. Some get into depression because they have fallen from what they have perceived as the highest point in their life to an all time low.

This leads us to the question, “How do we learn to balance our time? To aim and chase for our dreams and goals, to be able to handle them when we achieve them (some could take many years); and then, move on from there.

Isn’t time the most important asset that we have?

We have to learn to add and incorporate the essence of “peace of mind”, happiness and rest into this asset.

“All aboard!” The train, bus or “vehicle of destined future” is departing the station. Next stop….?

Are we at peace with time, in tune with it? Is it fulfilling? Happy?

NOTE:

  1. Time stealers, http://www.emerge.uk.com
  2. Time wasters, https://biz30.timedoctor.com/time-wasters/
  3. Mamak usually refers to an Indian-Muslim restaurant or stall; serving various non-alcoholic drinks, simple fast-prepared food like roti canai and all its variety, Maggi Mee goreng “pedas”; to name a few. Their pricing is very cheap. For example: 2 roti canai and a kopi besar ( more coffee, served in a glass – no it is not an Americano 😉 )

Story time Part 1: Pocket Too Deep, Hand Too Short.

It is about that time of the year when many of us would have forgotten some, if not all of the new year’s resolutions (new year’s what?) that we made, if we made any. My new additional resolution is to write 100 500-word minimum articles in 2021. This is my 4th. I am behind schedule. The late motivational speaker, Englishman Peter West said, “having a goal without a plan is wishful thinking.” He can’t be further from the truth. Peter was a no-nonsense, tell-it-as-he-sees-it guy, who used to frequent Malaysia in the 1990s, encouraging thousands of people in the salesforce to make use of the potential they had in them.

Some of the more common resolutions are 1. Be punctual. Some of the highty-flighty, tembak besar (or is it besar tembak?) bigshots think it is fashionable to be late. This year, 2021 in particular; new year’s resolutions seem mute, distant, not talked about. In a country like Malaysia; we have what is known as “Malaysian time”. To be fair, the rail services in Italy had a standard practice – “being late”. When I was in Italy some years ago; I used to commute by train to most parts of the country. First of all, their railway stations like Rome and Florence, were a nightmare, even in the day; with about 200 departure/arrival platforms each. One of the first messages that you hear over all the trains’ P.A. system is, “Good evening. We apologise that we are late”. And this is regardless what time of the day it is. I love Italy and its people. Well, all except for that one lady who pickpocketed me of 750 euros on the train from Rome to Florence. 2. Getting down to a regular exercise programme. Intentions are admirable – to lose those couple of kilos (for many, losing 10kg would be far better); tone ’em muscles (this is causing my belly to look bigger than it should 🙂 ) and to keep fit and have a healthy routine. By January 1st; the Asics/Nike/Adidas shoes, t-shirts, shorts/skirts, sweatbands, fitness tracking devices are ready. Then, everyone is out working on their various exercise programmes. By the end of two weeks; the blazing hot sun, the rain, the humidity, oh yes and the MCO, PMCO, RMCO, and all the other COs due to the Covid-19….no need to say….”lah”. The best is to exercise according to one’s schedule, level of fitness, etc. Not to others’ expectations. 3. To be financially free. This is one that gets side-tracked and waylaid almost from the very beginning with special offers, super easy payments, attractive ads and the list goes on. Buying a motor vehicle seems so attractive now, due to the special waiver of government sales tax. Buying a smartphone comes bundled with so many goodies, just short of the kitchen sink…sometimes you may wonder….would it not be better to lower the price of the new phone instead of throwing in the kitchen sink as part of the package? You notice how the free power-bank is suddenly worth RM250? What about buying a house? We all love a discount, a massive discount will seal the deal. Now, you can buy a property for free….no, really….free….that is 0% deposit or down-payment for property under construction. In reality, the deposit, down payment and interest income from the deposit and down-payment lost by the developers will be charged to your instalment repayment.

I would like to focus on wanting to be financially free. What does it mean to be “financially free?” Financial freedom usually means having enough savings. financial investments, and cash on hand to afford the kind of life we desire for ourselves and families (Sevilla). There are many views on what financially freedom is. Here, I am not talking about being financially independent which in a nut shell means earning more than your expenditure or spending less than you earn. Being financially free to me is about having peace of mind from all forms of debt. I am talking about not being chastised to loans and not having to work to earn an income to pay the loans off. My mother has this principle, “Live within your means”. Don’t take loans. “The rich lords it over the poor, the borrower is the lender’s slave”. – Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE)

There are a few exceptions. You most probably would need to take a loan to purchase the house you live in, and one or two cars. These purchases should be moderate according to your household income. It should not be to the point of struggling to make ends meet (your peace of mind is compromised). You might face a “catch 22” situation. You will need a good credit score to take a loan. And you can’t get a credit score without taking a loan.

As your income grows, you will find yourself “needing” more things to make living more comfortable for you and your family. And the advertisements – they are the answer to one’s prayers – the advertisers. These adverts seems to have every solution to the problems you never know you had. Many of you may have heard of this story: a shoe manufacturer sent a salesman to a remote country to sell their shoes. He saw the people there going about their everyday lives barefoot. He returned back to the shoe manufacturer with his findings: “Everyone goes around barefooted; there are no prospects of selling shoes here”. The shoe manufacturer decided to send another salesman there. He, too; saw that people went about their daily lives barefooted. He sent a message back to the shoe manufacturer : “Everyone goes around barefooted, send 1,000 pairs of shoes”. Could it be that the people there did not need shoes, that they chose to live closer to nature?

Some years back, I received a congratulatory note from a luxury German car marque after having purchased one of their models. The way the advertised standard message was put across to me, their valued customer; “You have arrived” with a hint that it was due to their brand that I had attained that level of success. Though it was not necessary for me to reply that message, I did. ” It is because I have attained this level of financial success; I chose your product; that you have arrived because of my choice and should feel honoured; not the other way around.” Needless to say, no response from them. So much for being a valued customer.

The clothes you wear, watches, shoes, restaurants you dine, club memberships….the list goes on. After you’ve acquired these things, then you need to upgrade to keep up with the Joneses so that you don’t feel inferior or intimidated by the “lesser” things you have. The solutions and answers to all the questions you never knew you had to begin with. The easy credit from financial intuitions and credit cards help you acquire these “assets” which deplete in value the moment it changes hands from the sellers to you. The German car marque (which I talked about earlier) invited me to the launch of their latest mid-size large model not too long after I got my car from them. Keep in mind when they first sold me the car, they said, “car for Life”. I asked, “Whose life?” I test drove this large mid-range model in their model line up. I put forward a proposition to the senior sales manager, “If I buy this car for RM470,000, drive it out of your showroom and park it overnight in your front vehicle parking lot which is part of your compound; come back the next morning and offer to sell it back to you for RM30,000 less than what I paid for; will you take it?”. He said the company couldn’t. An “asset” with a RM30,000 drop in value is not accepted back by the people that sold it in the very first place, after 1 day! 15 years ago, my daughter was with me when I was buying a new cell phone (handphone). When I bought the handphone, she said, “Daddy, now that man is rich.” I asked her what she meant by that. She said, “You gave him your money.” I said, “Yes, but I have got a new handphone.” She said, “but that man has got your money!” She was 5 years old at that time.

Coming back to the idea of having peace of mind. In most cases, before long, you probably would have raked up loans, credit card and other expenses which would create a new meaning for “work”. You work in order to earn the money to pay off the huge debt you now regret you have. “The borrower is the lender’s slave.” –(Proverbs 22:7) We are consumed by debt. We cannot and should not fault the many advertisements that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I welcome them as the provide a multitude of choices for anything that we may be looking for – be it realty, motor vehicles, clothes right down to simple things like groceries. Then, we are able to make an informed decision on our purchases. But and it is a big “but”; we have to be responsible shoppers. Buy what we need, not what we want. We have to learn not to be compulsive shoppers. It is unfortunate that many people are caught in the debt trap when it becomes stifling.

The key is to have peace of mind. While many may fall in this seemingly spiraling bottomless pit debt trap; not all is lost. The first step is to identify that we have a problem. The next step is how do we want to address this problem. This will be answered in Story Time Part Two: I Want To Break Free!

We had this old family friend from Penang where when it came to paying for a meal or drinks; his hands would go in his pockets but was slow to take them out. He found it difficult to reach for his money because his pockets were too deep but his hands were too short. Yes, he is wealthy.

*****

In this article, I may not have/did not attempt too much on being grammatically correct. This article may be disconnected with its title. It is intended to provoke the thinking process of critics of this article, not so much the content, but the way it was written. In 2020, it was vogue and fashionable for men to wear dresses, skirts and what-have-yous. If that was ok, then writing articles the way we’ve known all this while; is set to change, too.

Sevilla, Jovia. “What is Financial Freedom?”, MoneyFit

Proverbs 22:7 (RSV CE), quoted in “Navigating Your Finances God’s Way”, Catholic Edition, Compass Catholic Ministries