A story of Uncle Tui, a security guard who has once attempted a suicide because of financial problems. He is now debt free after receiving supportive advice and fullest encouragement from TIDLOR’s Financial Education team. We hope that this article will offer hope, inspire, and encourage everyone who is experiencing difficulties in life to rise up and fight again.
A Financial Hardship
I work as a security guard for a company in Bangkok, which paid 14,000 baht a month or around 16,000-17,000 baht including Over Time (OT). Many may think that a person with kind of regular income would not financially suffer, unlike hand-to-mouth workers. However, my salary and OT are not even enough as I have almost no money left after the payday.
This is because every month I have to send my wife 6,000-7,000 baht to raise two of our children in other province. I also need to give 3,000 baht to my eldest child who is studying for his bachelor’s degree in Bangkok.
Other than that, I have an informal debt of 55,000 baht with a 10 percent monthly interest rate. That is 5,500-baht interest I have to pay every month. Although I do not have to pay rent because I live in my sister’s apartment, I need to pay water and electricity bills. Each month, only 800 baht left to roll my life forward.
I tried every way to survive. Every day, I bought a bag of street food and divided it into three meals. I rode my old bicycle to and from work to save money on bus fare.
“The cigarettes and lottery are the hope of the poor.”
With the suffocating debts life, Uncle Tui chooses to smoke every day to relive stress. As well as a lottery, it is the only hope of his life to end debts’ cycle. He once bought 20 government lottery tickets earlier. They are my hope of getting out of debt and getting rich. Life is not that easy, his hope keeps broken again and again. All I could think of is to kill myself.
A Financial Hardship to Betterment
When the Financial Education team knows Uncle Tui’s story, we approach him to talk, discuss and offer a support to turn the debts’ life into a sustainable life without informal debts. We start from equipping him how to do an income-expense account.
Yes...I was shocked!
When I keep tracking of my income and expenses, I could see that I spent most of my money on lottery tickets and cigarettes. In fact, I calculate and realize that the day I think of suicide, the money I could have saved is almost a million! It could have been like winning a lottery.
Only if I had saved the money instead of spending it on lottery tickets since I was 20!
From the income-expense account, I could see that I spent 60-80 baht a day on cigarettes. That is about 2,000 baht a month. While I pay only 30 baht a day for a bag of food that I divided into three portions to eat with rice. This is not even a thousand baht a month.
When starting to work as a security guard, my life started wasn’t that bad at all.
Things go down after my life relies more on lottery tickets. When I see other people win, I do want to win like them. I used to pay 100-200 baht for underground lotteries a week. Now, I invest 1,000- 3,000 baht with it. In addition, I bought 10- 30 government lottery tickets.
Looking for a shortcut to get rich without being aware of increasing debts
I decide to start an informal debt to buy more and more lottery tickets. I only hope to pay it back when I win some. I do not stop when I do not receive a winning. I borrow again and again till becoming an endless cycle.
That is until the cycle start falling apart because debt and interest continued to increase every day. I have to send less money to my wife and children than earlier. And I have no guts to tell them why. It is stressful, so I smoke more.
The Financial Education team creates opportunities to Uncle Tui’s life. He have options to make up mindset about whether to go forward...or backward.
Life Changing is not Always Easy
I have always thought that my life was full of terrible misfortunes as I keep failing in everything I have done and being so poor. However, when there is a chance to change my life, it becomes as not easy as just throwing the old life away.
As a cigarette, even though I know that it is a major expense, it is more difficult to stop smoking than I thought. I have started smoking since I was 15 or 16. Now I am in my 50s. It is just hard to suddenly throw away a cigarette.
Financial Education team has always supported me and advised me to try to gradually cut down to one or two cigarettes a day.
As well as the lottery, I still buy some even, but not more than 200 baht a time.
We think that Uncle Tui don’t have to quit playing the lottery as it gives him a hope and happiness. He just has to spend less money on it to avoid affecting the rest of your budget.
Besides learning how to keep an income – expense account, I was also taught to divide my money into smaller portions, including one I never thought I needed before — savings.
I continue to keep track of my income and expenses every day and started to see my expenses gradually reduce as I buy fewer lottery tickets and cigarettes while my savings is increasing.
When I see my cigarette expenditure turning into savings, I slowly cut down the number of cigarettes I smoked until one cigarette a day. Finally, I decide to quit and throw the last cigarette into the trash bin.
I take a while to overcome the needs of smoking till a victory maybe because I know what I’m fighting for. Also it is the hope that I actually want to fulfil on the day I retired from being a security guard.
I was delighted to be able to move closer to “Life Changing”, but a new test was coming my way.
While trying to cut down on smoking, my 55,000-bath debt also gradually decreases because the Financial Education team supports me by negotiating with my informal creditor. The deal is paying 5,000 bath for the principal first in order to reduce the interest, which helps lighten my monthly debt payment burden.
They also advise me to prioritize the smaller debt first to get it out of the way while continuing to pay the minimum balance on the larger one.
However, when I start building savings, my spending is growing. My eldest child begins to have more money demanding and people keep approaching me to borrow money. It is as if a life test to see how long I could maintain my debt and saving disciplines.
At the time, I have to decide whether to let my middle child continue senior high school education after finishing junior high school. Because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough money to send my child to school, I had already decided not to let him continue studying.
When my debt is reduced to 25,000 bath, the Financial Education team who pulls me from death invites me to join the Debtors Study Project, which aims to study debtor behavior from various occupations (the financial literacy projects initiated by TIDLOR’s Financial Education team). The team negotiates with Ngern Tid Lor to grant some money to me to pay off some of the informal debt. As a result, I could reduce my interest payment on informal debt to 2 percent from 20 percent. My monthly debt payment used to be 5,000 baht, now; I only paid 1,600 baht a month. Thus, I started seeing a chance for my child to continue his education.
Life Changing for a Better Family Life
In fact, while I was fighting to change my life, I almost cut off my child and family’s chance at having a better life.
Fortunately, I decide to tell a “friend” from Financial Education team about my thoughts of not continuing to support my middle child continues his studies.
They advise me to rethink about it carefully. Knowledge and keeping up with technology is important weapon for today’s generation. If you don’t let your child continue his studies, he might become a laborer doing hard work. If you grit your teeth and support him until he graduates from college, he could have a chance to get a better job and earn a high income. Then, you and your family will have a better life.
They not just tell me to reconsider, but also give me some data to allow me to see clearer picture. After graduated his study, within 10 years, he would be able to earn back the money his education invested.
I then think about my old life and realize that my life turns out in such a way because of my insufficient education. Today the burden is now lightened and I have an opportunity to support him in continuing his education, to give him a chance to change his future for the better?
Since I have fought to change my life this far, why I not endure a little longer to give him a chance to have a better future for my children and my family.
The happiness returned after long lost
I’m not sure if others will see what I, a man who is almost end the cycle of informal debts, am doing is an extravagance or not.
The sad fact that our family of five has not been together for a long time because being in debt, I didn’t even have money to buy a bus ticket to see my family.
“Today, I bring my family to celebrate together at MK restaurant.”
I send them a message and picture of my family smiling happily together at the restaurant via LINE.
“I’m happy for you and wish you all a very happy meal,” they reply me promptly after receiving my message.
I realize once again that they would not only stay by my side to give me a supportive advice and put all their effort to help me reach my goal, but also understand the life of ordinary people like myself who wants a chance to give myself and my family some happiness.
This is really the first meal that gave me the happiness that had been missing from my life for a long time.
Today I am a debt-free man!
After paying my last debt installment, I begin to more clearly visualize my retirement, when I would have enough savings to buy a motorcycle with a trailer, which I would ride around to sell soft drinks as I have always dreamed of as I do not want to depend on my children for my whole life
My savings is not much and my dream does not sound big.
Today, I receive an opportunity to “change a life” towards a better future.
Have you caught an opportunity to change your life?
Thanks to TIDLOR’s Financial Education team