Walked into our friendly neighborhood bank today (conveniently located inside a grocery market near you) and went up to the teller to make a small withdrawal. Nothing but withdrawals nowadays, but that’s a whole ‘nother post for another rainy day. The teller was a little older than me, smiling the entire time with her neatly manicured nails ready to go on the keyboard. I gave her my withdrawal slip, went through the cycle of idle chit chat, and she rang up my cash. All was going well. Then she casually stated that I was pre-approved for a credit card with 0% APR for the first year that I could use for emergencies and larger expenses. In her exact words, “it’s like having free money for the first year!”
I was about ready to smack her.
“Free money”??? Is that even a legally acceptable term nowadays? Why do you think we’re in the economic rut that we are, with over 1 out of 7 people in America considered poor, with unemployment stagnating near the double digits, with foreclosures and short sales in every which direction? Because of “free money”, and the stupidity of the people both giving it and receiving it. For the past two years I have been working in positions that expose me directly to the victims of free money; families crying about the home of their dreams going under, parents fighting for food stamps to feed their children, angry couples going bankrupt because of thousands of dollars of debt they couldn’t honestly expect to pay off in their lifetime.
My mind still stumbles across this concept. How could a person getting $10 per hour really expect to pay off a $200,000 house? Did you really think that loading an $8,000 debt onto your credit card means you didn’t have to pay it off? Guilt goes both ways here – lenders should really consider the financial capabilities of whoever they’re throwing ‘free money’ to, and borrowers need to honestly view some realistic goals and not have this starry eyed American dream notion. It’s depressing to know your limits, but you’re at least prepared for it.
Needless to say, I didn’t actually smack the smiling teller. She is, after all, a messenger of the credit world, and even Genghis Khan didn’t kill messengers. He merely razed their homelands to the ground and annihilated their forces. Much could be learned about how to deal world of credit if we look to his example.