It’s no secret that reckless attitudes can have tragic consequences. Saying “yihiyeh b’seder” while acting irresponsibly is an easy way to side step thinking critically about our actions. And sadly, it doesn’t always work out alright in the end.
It seems like everyone these days takes the easy way, the “yihyeh b’seder” way, with their finances and plunge into minus, a negative balance in their bank account.
People in Israel are very open and will tell you almost proudly “I’m in minus”…. “I live in minus”. It is so acceptable that you can get into a cab and overhear the cab driver discussing his overdraft with someone on the speakerphone.
Going into “minus” or overdraft, is in many cases a type of short-term debt, rather than an investment or plan for purchasing assets, and is therefore termed “bad debt”.
In the United States, the situation is no better. Short-term “bad debt” is just packaged differently, as credit card debt, so if feels more manageable. But the fact that most people live in debt remains.
What they are probably not sharing is that:
- They don’t really know what it’s costing them in interest
- If they weren’t paying off that high-interest debt, they could live better
- They would prefer to live without debt but don’t know how
- They only accept living in debt because it seems like everyone else is
Part of this “minus” culture is bred by the banks themselves, which offer overdraft like a baker offers bread. When opening up a checking account, the banker will likely encourage you to pay for the option of going into minus.
For some people it can be very difficult to make ends meet, as the prices of products, housing, and utilities have risen over the past few years. Still, in many cases it’s not what you earn that determines amount of bad debt you have, but rather the attitude towards spending.
It requires honesty to begin addressing debt. Rather than dismissing tough questions, we need to ask ourselves if we’d really rather be in debt than make a given purchase.
Only you can control your finances. The fact that a neighbor – or even everyone on the street – is living in minus doesn’t actually make it easier, even if misery loves company. But paying your bills on time will.
Living within your means also means going to sleep with the peace of mind of a secure future. Don’t you deserve that more than overdraft?
Rifka Lebowitz, financial consultant, guides families and small business owners to plan their finances optimally. Rifka can be reached at [email protected]