Dipping My Keyboard Back Into The Ink

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Don’t Await Destiny. Go Create It

 

I have not updated my blog for some time since I was completing my book on credit cards, which is now available on Amaz
on, Kobo, B&N, Scribd and a host of other places.

 

Red Cover
The good news is that my red cover book “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Part One” is FREEBook front page jpegLY downloadable from the above places.

 

 

The black cover “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Full Book” is available for a small price.

 

I want to clear my debt of thanks to Conrad, Danie and Rupert (in alphabetical order) who beta-read my draft and also proposed positive critique of things which I may be able to get into future editions. I, of course, take full responsibility for the published versions.

 

Now on a point of order: During my blog absence there were a number of local and global issues in response to which I had written blogs but did not post them. I thought it wiser to let the blogs cool off for a while. However, on rereading them, I still feel as strongly about some of them now as I did then.

 

So, I may just dip my keyboard in the proverbial ink soon and publish what might divide opinion.

 

Was Your 2015 a Groundhog Year?

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 “Hello Again”

As a year draws to a close we all normally – at one point or another – reflect silently on what we had done during the time.

Two things are important:

  • Things change. “You never stand on the same river bank twice”.
  • Time goes by – relentless. “Our tomorrows are not endless”.

So what do we do to distinguish ourselves from the one period to the next during the passing of Time? Do we groundhog-live the same life again or do we tackle new things, brave new adventures, leave a fuller Chest of Legacies?

Many years ago I spent 3 years with a backpack on the road – and tried to make each day different from the previous day – learning new things, experiencing new places, savouring new cultures, building a mental album of things that I can now both reflect on and find blank spaces to put a “snapshot” in.

I sat on our patio the other night watching a fantastic sunset and noticed that the crumbs that I spilt (I was celebrating the release of my 2nd book) attracted some ants. As dusk settled in it dawned on me that if I sit still long enough in one place I will be eaten by ants.

So, rather than be eaten by some virtual ants, I make it a point to keep moving in life. I do not intend to live groundhog years.

What are your Goals for 2016?

 

My 2015 in Short Review – Activity-wise

  • Published 36 blogs
  • Completed and published my 2nd book (50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen)
  • Started on 2 others (one practical, one semi-autographical)
  • Appeared at Faeryville Singapore Red Carpet Event with award-winning producer Tzang Merwyn Tong, his production team and my co-stars.
  • Enjoying a 2nd season of organically self-raised (“free range”) vegetables.
  • Delivered 6,000 free local newspapers in our suburb, walking 250kms in the process.
  • Played Santa to 2500 children and their parents over 7 Saturday in a national chain store.

 

Missed doing

  • Playing in another movie.
  • Making a record.

DROWNING IN A SEA OF DEBT (2) – BANKRUPTCY

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  • My wife and I climbed out of a near $60,000 credit card debt hole rather than declare ourselves bankrupt due to the impacts it would have had. It lasted 7 years and took 3 years of extremely focused discipline to accomplish it.

Focus and Discipline being the operative words.

My first blog on “Drowning in a Sea of Debt” discussed the depth of credit card debt – specifically in the USA – and the benefits / negatives of credit cards.

There are various ways to tackle overwhelming outstanding credit card debt which we will address in subsequent deliveries.

In this delivery I look at possibly the last alternative that some people may consider i.e. bankruptcy, because of its impact – financial, social and otherwise.

 

DIFFERENT COUNTRIES – DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

In this blog I briefly look at the impact in four countries i.e. the USA, Australia, the UK and Singapore.

Whilst the outcomes are mostly the same in different countries (i.e. debt forgiveness to some extent), the impacts differ – some more sever and longer-lasting.

  • The first impact will be on family situations and your relationship with your partner.

There might have been sleepless nights and differences in opinion about how money is being spent or has been spent. There might also have been difficult times to keep children in school or even to have food on the table.

  • The next impact is of an emotional nature.

You do not go to bed one night and wake up the next day to declare yourself bankrupt. There is normally a long walk-on period of increasing stress as the credit card bills pile up and the amounts increase, followed by demand letters and perhaps even a personal visit (in some countries).

  • It will impact social relationships.

I had to refuse many social invitations for lunch or after work gatherings because we were concentrating on repaying a large amount of money rather than to declare bankrupt. If you borrowed money from friends you may have to sort through some messy relationships.

  • It will impact a host of other things, including property ownership, control over your finances, current and future job opportunities and much more.

 

USA

Different states may approach matters differently but the impact is broadly the same.

There are three chapters under which to file for bankruptcy in the USA i.e. Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13.

Chapter 11 involves reorganizing a debtor’s business affairs and assets, and is normally filed by corporations to restructure their debts. We will ignore it in this blog.

 

Chapter 7

Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy which provides for the liquidation of your non-exempt property to distribute the proceeds to the creditors and wipe out your unsecured debts – which also includes credit card debts and medical bills. You must have very little or no disposable income to qualify for this.

It promises a “fresh start” and there are a number of benefits and protective measures but we take a look here at some of the impacts:

  1. Your bankruptcy becomes public knowledge since it is published in the public domain.
  2. It may impact your ability to apply for jobs, definitely with any financial institutions.
  3. Bankruptcy does not erase all your debt. Recent taxes and student loans are not forgiven.
  4. Your bankruptcy will remain on your Credit Report for 10 years.
  5. It will be difficult to obtain a credit card in future and interest rates will be much higher.
  6. Home loans will become very expensive, up to 6% more than a normal loan, since your credit score will be very low.
  7. Chapter 7 (and 13) filing is not cheap since it requires a bankruptcy lawyer – $800 to $2,500 depending on where you live.

 

Chapter 13

Chapter 13 is a bankruptcy filing for debtors who have a regular income and are able to pay back at least a portion of their debt through a repayment plan. The benefits are therefore greater than Chapter 7 Bankruptcy as you are able to keep all your property, even non-exempt assets. There are, however, still a number of impacts and dangerous potholes:

  1. You must put all your disposable income towards creditor payments. That leaves you rather tight for money for 3 to 5 years.
  2. If you neglect a payment your creditors can request to change your Chapter 13 into a Chapter 7. This means your creditors can chase you for the full outstanding amounts and your properties may become subject to seizure and sell-off. This is a serious pothole.
  3. You are considered a credit risk and any loans or new credit cards will be at a premium. It may be difficult to obtain any mortgage for up to 2 years after your filing.
  4. It may impact your ability to apply for jobs, definitely with any financial institution.
  5. Your restricted personal income will definitely impact your lifestyle.
  6. It does not protect anyone who co-signed anything that you are in debt of. Your co-signatory is indebted and may be obliged to repay your debt(s). This will almost certainly impact your relationship with the co-signatory.
  7. Not all debts are erased i.e. alimony, child support, some debt acquired within 6 months of filing, some taxes, willful injuries to person and property, personal injury whilst driving intoxicated and a host more are not erased.

 

AUSTRALIA

Bankruptcy impacts many things including this short summary:

  1. Your house and car may be sold.
  2. Overseas travel may be restricted.
  3. You will have to pay contributions from your income to your trustee if your after-tax income exceeds a certain amount.
  4. Your superannuation before bankruptcy basically becomes the trustee’s money.
  5. You can keep up to $3,700 of the tools of your trade but the rest can be sold by the trustee/creditors.
  6. Your name will appear on the National Personal Insolvency Index forever as a discharged bankrupt and on credit reporting agencies for 2 years after discharge.

Read up on https://www.afsa.gov.au/debtors/bankruptcy/bankruptcy-overview. This site also includes a quick guide on assets – which are not complimentary in its action.

 

SINGAPORE

Singapore laws let you file for bankruptcy if you owe $10,000 or more and you have no way to repay the amount. The whole process may take between 4 – 6 weeks during which time the court will assess your situation and come to a conclusion.

On the other hand, your creditor(s) – such as a bank – can also file to have you declared bankrupt.

The results can be swift:

  1. Assets can be seized and divided amongst creditors for their use or to auction off. There is a silver lining: you will be able to keep the tools of your trade and items that are hold in trust for someone else is also off limits, as is any HDB apartment which has not been refinanced.
  2. Your bankruptcy will be made public. Your employer(s) will be informed and you may lose your job, more so If you work for a financial institution. It may be difficult to find work afterwards, especially with financial institutions.
  3. If you keep your work, a portion of your income will be shared with your creditors. You must carefully justify any expenses and provide a financial statement of affairs, supported by receipts and which is periodically checked. Life becomes rather inconvenient in every aspect that touches on money.
  4. Part of you income can be made available for creditors, but whatever you use to earn a living with cannot be attached.
  5. It will be difficult to obtain credit afterwards. Your credit rating will be affected and may take up to 7 years to rebuild a semblance of what it used to be.
  6. Overseas travel is also normally affected. You will have to inform the court if you want to travel overseas and unless it is for work purposes you may not be allowed. If you break the law you will be jailed (currently 2 years) and fined (currently $10,000).
  7. If you owe less than $100,000 you may be rehabilitated after three years – unless a creditor objects, in which case you remain a bankrupt until all your creditors have been paid off.

Though the benchmark is set low ($10,000) the consequences are severe when compared to other countries, especially since Singapore is a very small country compared to say the USA where work is perhaps easier to find with the ability to travel and move interstate.

 

UK

There is still a lot more stigma surrounding bankruptcy in Europe than in the USA.

  1. Available assets will be sold to pay off your debts. You can keeps the “tools of your trade” to make a living.
  2. Renters may be kicked out of their rental places.
  3. Bank accounts and cards will be frozen and handed over to the Official Receiver.
  4. You may lose your job and it may be difficult to find another one. The police and armed forces do not employ bankrupts.
  5. Any additional income will go to the creditors.
  6. You may lose part or all of your pension towards debt settlement.
  7. The bankruptcy stays on file for 6 years. Your name and details will be published in the Individual Insolvency Register and your name published in the local paper.
  8. It may affect your immigration status of you apply for British citizenship.
  9. If you own a business, it might be sold and your workers laid off, thus causing hardship to others.

 

 

CONCLUSION

Many people have had a fresh start with bankruptcy, but beware the financial, social, personal and other impacts it will have.

There are a lot to think of, so if you choose to pursue this path you will be best served to research and read everything regarding bankruptcy in your country and then engage the best insolvency lawyer you can afford – which in itself may be a hefty cost.

DROWING IN A SEA OF DEBT

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“Debt is poverty of a different kind”.

I am not referring to the USA National Debt – though there should be real concerns about it.

I am addressing credit card debt.

There are 7.3 Billion people on the planet.

There are between 3-5 billion credit cards on the planet, and rising.

Billion, with a “B”.

 

I am one of those who landed in trouble with it during the global financial meltdown and it took me more than 7 years to overcome my (a) bad habits and (b) the debt I racked up.

Seven+ years of my life.

  • Is there anyone here who has had the same experience?
  • If so, what was / is your biggest frustration, fear and challenge in this area?

 

Allow me to share a few things on my next four blogs on credit cards and bad credit

 

  • As stated above, an estimated 3-5 billion real (not fake) credit cards exist today – and the number is increasing.
  • No-one knows how many fake cards there are, but I have been a victim of at least two.
  • The average credit card debt per USA household is about $16,000, with a total for the country pushing towards ONE TRILLION Dollars.
  • More than half of the cardholders had an unpaid balance in the past year.
  • For more than a quarter their credit card debt had increased in the past year.
  • Students have an average of $20,000 debt.

 

At the depth of my debt I was around $60,000 under water – almost 4 times the average amount. And that was 15 years ago!

 

We all know the benefits of credit cards and I will bullet them here, followed by the negatives – of which there are real social impacts.

 

BENEFITS

Convenience: The main benefit is the convenience of having “money in your pocket” – up to the maximum credit limit, which is in fact a short term loan to you.

Loyalty programs: Another main benefit nowadays is of course the loyalty programs where the card holder gets loyalty points which can be redeemed for products or cash.

Bills tracking – Help with budgeting: Your account (soft or hard copy) can also help you to track expenses at the end of a period – which may bring back both good memories of where you have had your lunches and dinners – but also remind you of the carefree and perhaps careless spending that you did.

Product returns: A further benefit is returns. The buyer can return a product and receive (part of) a refund.

Extended warranties: Cards can also provide extended warranties and loss and damage covering.

Insurance: Some cards will also offer insurance, often on cars.

Legal limits of liability: In some countries (such as the USA and UK) have introduced legal limits of liability for those who lose a card or has a card stolen.

 

NEGATIVES

Inflated prices: Consumer prices are inflated to pay for all these benefits. And it affects everyone who shops, not only those who use a card.

Discipline: The most difficult one is probably one of self- regulation, or discipline when it comes to using credit cards. But then again, that is not the card’s fault.

Surcharges: Some businesses may ask the buyer to accept a surcharge on a credit card transaction, since the business often has to pay the card company a fee (of up to 4% of the value of a transaction.) This of course leads to higher prices.

Social impact: Some organizations are of the opinion that it may in fact also impact social welfare on two fronts (a) higher prices and (b) the high interest rates that card companies charge. This often drive lower income earner card users into debt and even bankruptcy – which has serious social side effects.

It is all well and good to say that there should be strict filtering and vetting of those who may own a card, but there had been times in the past when card companies would actually just send a card to person on their email list. I can personally vouch for that.

Increased rate shock: Financial institutions (mostly banks) will offer you a ZERO interest rate card to consolidate all your competitor cards with them. However, these zero fees run out after a period of time or a specific event and then also revert to high interest rates.

Tread carefully with this.

 

My next blog will look at the impact of when people go into bankruptcy due to over-extending themselves on credit cards.

I am aware that some people have started very successful businesses by using their credit cards to fund them, but – and there is always a “but” – I don’t think that is a general way of funding an upstart business.

  • Does anyone have comparative data on failures and successes?

 

Please feel free to comment, especially on my questions, i.e.

  • Is there anyone here who has had the same experience?
  • If so, what was / is your biggest frustration, fear and challenge in this area and during the time you are / were in debt?

 

Thank you.

Kris Moller

When speed is of the essence…

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“You see things, and you say, “Why?”.

But I dream things that never were, and I say, “Why not?” – George Bernard Shaw

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I recently reread Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, where he comments that he is regarded as a prolific writer even though he has written “only a few dozen” novels (up till the year 2000).

But this was nothing compared to British mystery novelist named John Creasey.

He also mentioned that it should preferably take about 3 months to get the draft of a book out. Not longer than one season – else you start to lose your tempo.

Stephen King recently also received the National Medal of Arts award this year. He knows what he is talking about.

My 2nd book “50 PERSPECTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen” is now out and available on all the large electronic commerce companies.

And there is a 2-year gap between the first and the second.

Certain parts in the world, specifically where we live now, has four seasons in a year. Yes four.

It’s a bit difficult to write 4 books in a day.

  • So, sorry Stephen – No Can Do.

However, before I say that too loudly, let’s look at the most prolific writer in history. Creasey is only 9th on the Prolific List. He received 768 rejection letters before his first book was published. He then went on to write more than 600 books – included westerners and even romance novels – under 28 pseudonyms.

 

  • Top spot is held by Spanish writer Corin Tellado – 4,000 novels between 1927 and 2009. If she started at age 22, then she wrote one novel every 5 ½ days! And sold on average 100,000 copies of each.

 

At my speed I will have to become 8,000 years old to write that many books.

 

Meet the top 17 most prolific writers at Why Not Books on http://thewhynot100.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/17-most-prolific-writers-in-history.html

THIS WAS “YESTERDAY’S NEWS”

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Other than the news out of Paris – which continues to be horrific, this was “yesterday’s news”.

 

A grown man beat up a 17 year old kid in a car park. The kid had accidentally reversed his car into the man’s car – and bumped the tow-bar. No noticeable damage to the man’s car.

The kid was in hospital for days and took 6 months to recover from black eyes and other wounds. Not to mention he is scared to go anywhere.

The court gives the man a couple of hundred days to learn how to control himself. No assault charges.

The man says he snapped because he had a bad day at work.

  • Maybe the parents of the boy should hire a few big guys who had a bad day at work and teach the guy a lesson about bad day behavior.

 

An 18 year old drives a car (no permanent license) into a bus full of people many of whom land in hospital.

The 18-year old gets a suspended sentence and a suspended license, which he don’t really have anyway.

His excuse? I was on the drug ICE.

Operating a car whilst under the influence of drugs has now become extenuating circumstances.

  • Maybe all doctors should operate under the influence of drugs and claim extenuating circumstances when people die. Let’s expand it to the airline pilots. And ambulance drivers.

The magistrates’ excuses? The jails are full.

 

Well, then let the offenders out then but hit them with other ways and means – not suspended sentences.

Make them recompense their victims. If they don’t have the finances, sell what they have and make them work. If they wont, then deal with them differently. And there are ways, believe me.

 

Here is a story that I experienced in 1965:

I played cricket against a team of guys who were from a young men’s correction facility. They told me that their “management” would feed them for a certain period of time during which they were given seeds and animals.

  • They had to plant and raise the animals to feed themselves. It’s called “learn responsibility”.

No work, no food. And the other blokes in the “home” would sort out the lazy ones.

They won the match against us. And they were a proud bunch. I went back to visit some of them.

 

  • You cannot suspend financial impact or death or being in a wheelchair after an accident.

So why would you suspend responsibility – or rather irresponsibility?

 

It is time the world grows a sense of responsibility and the only way that is going to happen is to stop dealing out suspended and lenient sentences to people who literally sometimes get away with murder, and physically, emotionally, psychologically maim others permanently.

 

We have become too politically correct. Too lenient.

AND

We are sliding back into the cave. Fast.

 

It is time for the Common Folk to march on the institutions who are supposed to govern and get them to get “our house” in order – or to leave.

 

The alternative – I fear – is that people will suspend with the authorities and take things into their own hands – as I said: and slide back into the cave.

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“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE”

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Part 1 of 3 from Chapter 1 of my next book “WELCOME TO THE ONE BROKEN LEG CLUB”


 

“COME PICK UP THE OTHER HALF ON THE DROP ZONE”

 

I am sure there are other versions of this story.

This is mine because I was the guy on the back of the flatbed truck …

 

Martin, colleague, friend and parachuting aficionado, and I had a few beers on Friday night 30 September 1983 in my favourite pub around the corner from my apartment. Note that I can pinpoint not only the date but also the day of the week.

I: “So what are you guys doing this weekend?”

Martin: “Skydiving”.

So I let it slip for a beer and a few songs.

I: “Silly to throw yourself out of a fully functional aircraft with just a handkerchief above your head, isn’t it!”

Not silly, just stupid. And on second thoughts, it’s not a sport. Running is a sport. What’s so fancy with sitting in an airplane and then just jump out? No sweating. No muscles required. Just jump.

As the pub band was finishing their night’s entertainment with “Sweet Dreams” from the Eurythmics Martin took a R10 note out of his change on the table, tore the note in two and placed one half in front of me.

Martin: “Come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow – if you dare. Or better still, we can pick you up at 6.30 a.m. That way you don’t have to drive there and back. You are not chicken are you, hmm?”

I stubbed out my cigarette, looked at the half-torn note like it was diseased, then looked up at Martin to see if this was a joke. There were more than twinkles in his slowly narrowing eyes. I was painted into a corner. This was my regular pub nearest to home. The band had stop playing. Other patrons overheard the challenge.

My fear of ridicule was greater than my fear of fear. And the slowly spreading sly smile told me that Martin enjoyed the stab at my fear – and pride.

Acceptance was the better part of valor. I reminded myself to review our friendship and drinking habits, especially on Friday evenings. Now to get this story past my Mom who was living with me due to a family circumstance.

It took three cigarettes (me), two cups of coffee (Mom) and all the skills of a defense lawyer trying to break up a hung jury to get Mom to see it my way. Or rather Martin’s way. I prayed for severe storms all night. Daybreak left me less of a believer. And the Ten Commandments didn’t help either.

Can I call in sick?

Not many hours later there was a cheerful knock on the door. You know the sort of “tap tarra rap tap – tap tap I got your number” type.

Martin: “Good morning Ma’am. Is Kris ready? Don’t worry we will look after him and bring him home, no problem” (well for Martin that is, I thought, but silence was the better part of a rather stretched friendship at this point).

I felt like Atlas as we shuffled off to the elevator.

The 160+ km ride was – well – less than cheerful, from my side that is. The other guys were in much brighter spirits, looking forward to another adrenaline kick. My thought were more of the pillow-and-mattress type kick. And my hang-over talked back in capital letters.

The camaraderie was tangible as we arrived. The talk infectious. Friends from a few places were arriving one after the other and were greeted with a cup of coffee, talks of the weekend’s impending jumps and stories of past jumps.

I was pulled aside into the shed to fill out the obligatory paperwork and answer a few questions on any reasons that would stop me from jumping – which we sailed through without a hiccup.

And missed my chance of being disqualified and declared incapacitated.

On to a look at the training gear. A dummy parachute much like a backpack (hmm I hope I get a real one to jump with) and I started to feel the slow creep of excitement.

The agenda was to include some theory, then two practical sessions in which to climb onto a tower (about 3 meters high) and jump from there with the objective to learn how to land, to collapse the legs and to fall towards a preferred side.

Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast. So I practiced a few times before lunchtime. There was another practice session scheduled for after lunch. Right?

“Ok guys, what’s for lunch?”

Things were shared and then someone handed the weather report to the co-ordinator.

Co-ordinator: “Guys, the forecast says we will have rain late this afternoon, so the options are, we get ready and do our jumps now, or we delay till tomorrow morning”.

I saw a heaven-sent opportunity. My challenge was to “come pick up the other half on the drop zone tomorrow”, which was – well- today. So if there was no jump, then I will just walk onto the drop zone and claim the other half of the note.

Easy. I can do that. Piece of toast.

Quick vote. Tonight we’ll have a BBQ, so let’s do it now.

My toast just got burnt!

Co-ordinator: “OK tog up, we will jump soon”.

(Part 2 of 3  will be blogged in two days from now)