How cycle of debt, borrowing feeds misery

’MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU –Living beyond one’s means simply to impress others is the source of many people’s financial misery as it steals their happiness and freedom by sinking them further into debt. This is a journey most people travel, filled with regrets, anxiety, loneliness and sleepless nights.

Thabo* aged 43, is one such man who first lost himself then his family and properties because his debts were too big for him to handle. Thabo says his ordeal began through an innocent and small loan he took from a local bank. He was newly married and had just started working. He desperately wanted to impress his wife, friends and, more importantly, to prove everyone who thought any less of him wrong.

To him it was a good chance for a start in a potentially blossoming future but things took a turn for the worst when he found himself forced to take a recurring loan year after year to feed his unquenchable ego. “Taking loan after loan soon turned into a habit that I was no longer able to control, the urge and zeal to look the part among my peers did not make it any easy for me.

“I soon went to borrow money from loan sharks and any friend who was willing to part with some spare maloti. Borrowing money had now become an addiction which controlled me. “Most of my friends were well-to-do and drove the latest models of cars and wore designer clothes. I did not want to be left behind, that is why I put myself through all the debts which I unfortunately could not pull out of.

“I started missing some instalments, a lot of mistakes occurred and it got to a point where my whole salary could no longer cover my monthly needs. When my friends realised how much I was struggling financially, they stopped hanging out with me, my wife divorced me and I had to take my children to government schools because I couldn’t afford their education anymore,” Thabo says.

It was a serious embarrassment to his children when they were forced to abandon their old luxurious life for a much more modest lifestyle which they were not used to. Thabo soon moved out of his huge town house and rented a two-roomed flat that cost less in another town where no one knew him. He sold all his luxury cars, house and properties to retire some of his debts. “It was a distressing journey that saw me slowly slip into depression and I in turn took solace in the bottle. Alcohol appeared to be the only true friend that understood everything I was going through.

“I was a total failure in my family’s eyes. I tried to turn my life around but to no avail as I was alone in the world until a friend of mine introduced me to a debt counsellor who helped me to work out possible means to settle my debtors without starving.“As much as it cost me everything I had, I learned a lesson I will never forget; a lesson not to live to impress because at the end of the day, it will cost me everything that matters to me.

“I learnt to be content with myself and never spend more than I can afford,” Thabo adds. Renowned Lesotho debt councillor Robert Likhang says a debt is considered acceptable when one is still solvent. That is, when the value of his assets are more than his debts.Likhang says being insolvent can deprive one from taking certain managerial positions in the corporate world and even being a high-powered public official.

Commenting on causes of debt, he says lack of financial discipline features very high in the list. “My advice to people is they should not spend more than they have, and they must learn to save for emergency, at least 10% of their salaries. They should have long-term investments that will grow on their own and, more importantly, should have risk management investments like funeral covers, life covers, medical covers and many more.

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