Lobster pot to the readers in Maine. The underwater fish trap that lets a crayfish in but doesn’t let it out again – until it is hauled up to the surface and boiled alive. I have just received a mild boiling by my bank.
The bait was the Mastercard that I use for so many transactions nowadays – petrol, liquor, overseas purchases, dinners, etc. My habit is to pay it off regularly once a month – pay it to the penny, and incur no interest charges.
Then in December I looked at my Mastercard statement and misread the required amount – misread it by $ 2.70 and underpaid it. In the month that has passed an interest charge has accrued of $24.70…
It’s all legal, and it sits there biting and biting and biting each day that passes. And it is what bites people into irrecoverable debt. Trapped in the crayfish pot.
I shall not take the tinsnips to the Mastercard. It can ride with me in my wallet for the emergency aid that it might be – but I am headed back to the bank with my chequebook to pay the entire debt I owe – as of this day – and will not be using it for transactions that can be done with cash in the future.
It’s probably a $ 35 dollar lesson in economics by now…but I’ll pay it and remember.
I note that there is an advertisement current on Instagram that seeks to have me send money to the Philippines. It does so by telling me that it is easy. If ease were the chief consideration, I could point out that I have a pair of scissors in the desk and can cut cash up into small fragments and blow it out the window. To much the same benefit.
I understand that there are perfectly legitimate reasons for sending money to Manila, or Managua, or Memphis, for that matter. Relatives. Rent. Ransom. I would be the last to stop people from pursuing international trade. But I am also equally sure there are perfectly normal agencies to do this that do not involve Instagram , Twitter, or Gofundme…or any other such marginalia. I also include the Indian grocers and 7-Eleven operators with money transfer signs on their windows in this category.
Folks, ANY bank in any shopping centre can do it, with a paper receipt for you and a real live teller behind a window that you can return to if you are worried. Your money may be destined to be tamped down a tropical rat hole when it gets there, but if you are dealing with the Commonwealth Bank or Westpac, or the ANZ you can at least be sure it will arrive at the rathole intact.
I am astounded at the literature that floods into our mail box that promotes and endorses indebtedness. It seems as though it is written in English, but is entirely divorced from the roots of the culture.
I look back at the folk sayings and aphorisms of earlier times:
Franklin: ” A penny saved is a penny earned “.
” Rather go to bed without dinner than rise in debt “.
Folk saying: ” Out of debt, out of danger “.
Emerson: ” A man in debt is so far a slave “.
The pamphlets and letters would have me borrow money from powerful institutions so that I might possess a boat, or a luxury car, or go on holidays to Europe. I should borrow this, incurring a solemn legal debt, and then be required to give them guarantee of my house or other possessions against a repayment – a repayment that would command a fee that is 20 times the interest rates paid on bank savings.
I have been sent a plastic card that allows me to run up a debt that is equivalent to half my annual income – upon much the same basis. It is tough plastic but fortunately you can cut it into pieces with tin snips.
I am immensely lucky in several things; a loving family, a secure house, a modest capital. I am also lucky in the fact that as I get older the desires for debt-trap goods has reduced to practically zero. I regard boats with no interest, I have an adequate little car, and I can see all the Europeans I want in Melbourne, the city of Stirling, or the Swan Valley. Fine dining for me is my own cooking and as I am retired, every day is a holiday. I should not flaunt smug in the face of my friends, but I will certainly do so in the face of financial institutions that wish to enslave me.