By S. Friedman, Matzav.com
The comedian Jackie Mason (no endorsement of him) once famously described credit cards as follows: “You spend money you don’t have, to buy things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t like.” Putting aside the issues of Ba’al Tashchis and Ahavas Habriyos, there seems to be an increasingly cavalier attitude towards spending money we don’t have.
The mere word “debt” used to conjure up visions of clouds of doom, accompanied by the feeling of the figurative noose slowly tightening around one’s neck. Now, going into debt is viewed by many as an opportunity. Not being able to pay the bills used to be a shameful reality, something to be embarrassed of. Enter the new age where someone comes into shul to collect his congratulatory wishes that he just settled his debt for fifteen cents on the dollar. Not celebrating a reprieve of an unfortunate circumstance, rather reaching the climax of a deliberate and complex plan that had been orchestrated in advance.
With the advent of debt settlement companies and the brazenness with which people will walk away from their obligations and declare bankruptcy, banks and credit card companies are more willing than ever to settle. Many are enticed by the “opportunity” this presents. Why pay the mortgage on an investment property when you can keep the rent as net profit (often off the books) while the bank pushes off foreclosure ad nauseam? Living frugally is not as attractive a lifestyle as passing the buck on indefinitely.
The obvious consequence of destroying one’s credit rating doesn’t seem to deter a lot of people. They can always take out a loan in someone else’s name. But what if there is a dire need of a loan and “someone else” can no longer help? Furthermore, the lack of accountability and ehrlichkeit is difficult to isolate to financial matters. It is a character trait that can infiltrate all aspects of life. A responsible person is responsible always; not just when it’s convenient.
Short term solutions usually lead to greater problems down the line. People may think that they are “milking the system” when they shirk their monetary obligations, but by failing to address and change their dangerous fiscal habits in the long term, they are being reckless to themselves and to their families. What do they plan to do in the future when it is time to buy a house, marry off kids, support married children etc…?
The reaction to this article may be, “who are you to tell people how to live their lives?” People can make their own choices; I am merely trying to help inform people (and their influential relatives and friends) that they may be possibly engaging in self destructive behavior. There is no such thing as a free lunch.
I don’t know of an easy answer to people’s financial problems. But one thing is for sure, it can’t be as easy as the phenomenon of simply refusing to pay for the various costs of our lives. Negotiating a credit card debt settlement may seem like a victory of sorts, but when irresponsibility, falsehood, and abuse of a system are the cause for a windfall, how savory of a “victory” can this be?