My Years as a Debt Collector

My Years as a Debt Collector

Dear boys,

I held a job as a debt collector for banks in my early years as a working adult. I met your mum in my first Debt Collector job in Standard Chartered Bank. What I learned as a Debt Collector shaped me to become who I am today. There are many moment I am thankful for, lessons and experiences I learned to help me be prudent and thrifty.

Never have an unsecured debt

This is Lesson One. I was handling credit card and Personal Line of Credit debts. In lay person terms, the banks will give you a sum of money to spend, how they decide the amount you get to spend, is determined by the job you have. There is no collateral tied to it, hence the term ‘unsecured’. This is a kind of high risk, low returns, highly addictive, lifestyle gambling. And the bankers always wins.

One morning when I started my work and I remembered taking a call from a lady, which was odd. Usually, no debtors will call up the creditors early in the morning. This lady was calling in to inform me that she has declared bankrupt on her own. She even gave me her bankruptcy number. What else can the bank do? Her credit card bills was barely a month overdue and it was all over, to be written off as bad debt.

With a little more probing, we realized that she has taken a credit increase to cover her wedding expenses, which went into tens of thousands. It was about 3 times her normal limit. Usually banks would give a temporary limit increase for events such as weddings where there will be a large amount of cash transactions. The banks will expect the card member to use the monies they collected from their Ang Pows to pay off those excesses. It was a risk banks take. and usually there is no such issues. until I met this young lady. Our checks with other banks realised that she did the same for them, about another 2 more banks was duped by her into this trap.

These was before the days of a centralised system where the banks can check on a specific person’s credit history and ratings. In my time, we do call up our fellow debt collectors with other banks to trade information.

Spend within your means

Well, this is a no brainer, but like all no brainers, many people never use their brain to prevent this from happening. While there are many people talking about financial literacy, it is simply a matter of common sense. If you earn S$5,000, your spending is anything less than S$5,000. With the allure of 2 times your monthly income, your credit card limit is technically S$10,000. I have seen so many youngsters, particularly from the uniformed services, totally exhaust the credit limit. We are talking about soldiers, sailors, airmen, who earned perhaps a hypothetical S$4,000, getting credit cards and Line of Credits with a total of S$16,000 (S$8,000 for a credit card, and S$8,000 for a Line of Credit) and spend all that in a matter of 3 months. That is with one Bank, these folks usually will apply with a couple of banks and you can imagine the amount of debt this person have to bear.

Spending within your means, also means that you have the cash on hand to pay off everything you spend in your credit card. Heck, just pay in full, instead of the partial payment and let the rest of the balance roll, and incur bank charges. There are people out there who are owing the banks large amount of credit card bills, and paying a minimum; and when the bank decided sot cancel the card, and demand a full settlement, these folks, playing the rolling game, will end up paying through their noses, when their house of (credit) cards come tumbling down.

Be careful who you give your card to

This has to do with a supplementary card. You see, if you have a card, you can actually share that card usage with another person, and that person, most of the time is someone you should be close to.

There are people out there who gave their card to friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, business partners, and without a control element, these people will do you a favour and spend on your behalf. And who will the bank comes a knocking? The person who’s name is on the card, not the person you gave the card to spend on.

While it is nice to flaunt your ‘wealth’, it is basically a useless ego trip, and when you flash your card, you are not flashing wealth, you are flashing credit, flashing debt. So it is not a cool thing to give your credit card to people you like, but not too sure if they are trustworthy.

Credit Cards are like fire

We use them, these modes of payments are convenient. But they are like fire, excellent servants, poor masters. I was thankful to have spend time in a Bank’s credit collections department to learn all these, and understand the pitfalls of trying to look wealthy by getting credit cards. Your mum and I were kept prudent through these experiences and I hope you boys will be able to learn from our experiences.

 

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Loyalty illustrated

When I saw this Youtube post, I know what ‘loyalty’ looks like.

What makes me said that? Look at the video, at the 2.50 mins mark, Saito sensei‘s uchideshi, Tristan Da Cunha demonstrate very strongly and visually the true spirit of loyalty. He held his sensei up, and be on his fours for his sensei, his loyalty mirrors deep respect and commitment to his sensei.

In our capitalistic and consumer centric society, we, students pay a fee, so technically speaking we are customers, and take this attitude with us when go to learn martial arts. Martial Arts schools on the other hand, clamor even more for membership so that they can keep their school alive, pay rentals, make ends meet. Poor service=unhappy students= less students= no more school. Some teachers, hope to get rich this way, some do, many doesn’t.

So many modern schools makes it friendly for students to keep paying, the last thing on my sensei’s mind is being  ‘customer’ friendly. sometimes his rebuke can be harsh, (although he has toned down significantly), some of his remarks can be callous. In our ‘customer service’ centric society, Consumer is king. Why should I pay to have someone pass insensitive remarks at me and hurt my feelings?

Loyalty is not a popularity contest. Loyalty is being there day in day out. Loyalty is the ‘boring’ thing. Taking my sensei’s bad mood with his jubilation. Loyalty seems to fit uneasily with consumerism. After i watched it, there is not more question. The fee I pay for the experience i get and the lessons, is far beyond any monetary exchange. My sensei is not keen about the fees as well. His presence as the sensei and my presence as his student cuts through dollars and cents. He need me as much as i need him, that is what loyalty is about. Without the both of us, there is no Aikido. The importance of our existence is not over hyped, it’s just is.

Who can be sure that we can be with our sensei until death? Can I carry on my sensei‘s teaching and still learn from him until his last breath? Will I be there when my sensei dies? After I saw what Tristan did for Saito sensei, I know when that time comes, loyalty will not longer be a question to ask.

When I saw this Youtube post, I know what ‘loyalty’ looks like.

What makes me said that? Look at the video, at the 2.50 mins mark, Saito sensei‘s uchideshi, Tristan Da Cunha demonstrate very strongly and visually the true spirit of loyalty. He held his sensei up, and be on his fours for his sensei, his loyalty mirrors deep respect and commitment to his sensei.

In our capitalistic and consumer centric society, we, students pay a fee, so technically speaking we are customers, and take this attitude with us when go to learn martial arts. Martial Arts schools on the other hand, clamor even more for membership so that they can keep their school alive, pay rentals, make ends meet. Poor service=unhappy students= less students= no more school. Some teachers, hope to get rich this way, some do, many doesn’t.

So many modern schools makes it friendly for students to keep paying, the last thing on my sensei’s mind is being  ‘customer’ friendly. sometimes his rebuke can be harsh, (although he has toned down significantly), some of his remarks can be callous. In our ‘customer service’ centric society, Consumer is king. Why should I pay to have someone pass insensitive remarks at me and hurt my feelings?

Loyalty is not a popularity contest. Loyalty is being there day in day out. Loyalty is the ‘boring’ thing. Taking my sensei’s bad mood with his jubilation. Loyalty seems to fit uneasily with consumerism. After i watched it, there is not more question. The fee I pay for the experience i get and the lessons, is far beyond any monetary exchange. My sensei is not keen about the fees as well. His presence as the sensei and my presence as his student cuts through dollars and cents. He need me as much as i need him, that is what loyalty is about. Without the both of us, there is no Aikido. The importance of our existence is not over hyped, it’s just is.

Who can be sure that we can be with our sensei until death? Can I carry on my sensei‘s teaching and still learn from him until his last breath? Will I be there when my sensei dies? After I saw what Tristan did for Saito sensei, I know when that time comes, loyalty will not longer be a question to ask.

First published: Aug 6, 2010 5:02 PM

 

When I saw this Youtube post, I know what ‘loyalty’ looks like.

What makes me said that? Look at the video, at the 2.50 mins mark, Saito sensei‘s uchideshi, Tristan Da Cunha demonstrate very strongly and visually the true spirit of loyalty. He held his sensei up, and be on his fours for his sensei, his loyalty mirrors deep respect and commitment to his sensei.

In our capitalistic and consumer centric society, we, students pay a fee, so technically speaking we are customers, and take this attitude with us when go to learn martial arts. Martial Arts schools on the other hand, clamor even more for membership so that they can keep their school alive, pay rentals, make ends meet. Poor service=unhappy students= less students= no more school. Some teachers, hope to get rich this way, some do, many doesn’t.

So many modern schools makes it friendly for students to keep paying, the last thing on my sensei’s mind is being  ‘customer’ friendly. sometimes his rebuke can be harsh, (although he has toned down significantly), some of his remarks can be callous. In our ‘customer service’ centric society, Consumer is king. Why should I pay to have someone pass insensitive remarks at me and hurt my feelings?

Loyalty is not a popularity contest. Loyalty is being there day in day out. Loyalty is the ‘boring’ thing. Taking my sensei’s bad mood with his jubilation. Loyalty seems to fit uneasily with consumerism. After i watched it, there is not more question. The fee I pay for the experience i get and the lessons, is far beyond any monetary exchange. My sensei is not keen about the fees as well. His presence as the sensei and my presence as his student cuts through dollars and cents. He need me as much as i need him, that is what loyalty is about. Without the both of us, there is no Aikido. The importance of our existence is not over hyped, it’s just is.

Who can be sure that we can be with our sensei until death? Can I carry on my sensei‘s teaching and still learn from him until his last breath? Will I be there when my sensei dies? After I saw what Tristan did for Saito sensei, I know when that time comes, loyalty will not longer be a question to ask.

When I saw this Youtube post, I know what ‘loyalty’ looks like.

What makes me said that? Look at the video, at the 2.50 mins mark, Saito sensei‘s uchideshi, Tristan Da Cunha demonstrate very strongly and visually the true spirit of loyalty. He held his sensei up, and be on his fours for his sensei, his loyalty mirrors deep respect and commitment to his sensei.

In our capitalistic and consumer centric society, we, students pay a fee, so technically speaking we are customers, and take this attitude with us when go to learn martial arts. Martial Arts schools on the other hand, clamor even more for membership so that they can keep their school alive, pay rentals, make ends meet. Poor service=unhappy students= less students= no more school. Some teachers, hope to get rich this way, some do, many doesn’t.

So many modern schools makes it friendly for students to keep paying, the last thing on my sensei’s mind is being  ‘customer’ friendly. sometimes his rebuke can be harsh, (although he has toned down significantly), some of his remarks can be callous. In our ‘customer service’ centric society, Consumer is king. Why should I pay to have someone pass insensitive remarks at me and hurt my feelings?

Loyalty is not a popularity contest. Loyalty is being there day in day out. Loyalty is the ‘boring’ thing. Taking my sensei’s bad mood with his jubilation. Loyalty seems to fit uneasily with consumerism. After i watched it, there is not more question. The fee I pay for the experience i get and the lessons, is far beyond any monetary exchange. My sensei is not keen about the fees as well. His presence as the sensei and my presence as his student cuts through dollars and cents. He need me as much as i need him, that is what loyalty is about. Without the both of us, there is no Aikido. The importance of our existence is not over hyped, it’s just is.

Who can be sure that we can be with our sensei until death? Can I carry on my sensei‘s teaching and still learn from him until his last breath? Will I be there when my sensei dies? After I saw what Tristan did for Saito sensei, I know when that time comes, loyalty will not longer be a question to ask.

When I saw this Youtube post, I know what ‘loyalty’ looks like.

What makes me said that? Look at the video, at the 2.50 mins mark, Saito sensei‘s uchideshi, Tristan Da Cunha demonstrate very strongly and visually the true spirit of loyalty. He held his sensei up, and be on his fours for his sensei, his loyalty mirrors deep respect and commitment to his sensei.

In our capitalistic and consumer centric society, we, students pay a fee, so technically speaking we are customers, and take this attitude with us when go to learn martial arts. Martial Arts schools on the other hand, clamor even more for membership so that they can keep their school alive, pay rentals, make ends meet. Poor service=unhappy students= less students= no more school. Some teachers, hope to get rich this way, some do, many doesn’t.

So many modern schools makes it friendly for students to keep paying, the last thing on my sensei’s mind is being  ‘customer’ friendly. sometimes his rebuke can be harsh, (although he has toned down significantly), some of his remarks can be callous. In our ‘customer service’ centric society, Consumer is king. Why should I pay to have someone pass insensitive remarks at me and hurt my feelings?

Loyalty is not a popularity contest. Loyalty is being there day in day out. Loyalty is the ‘boring’ thing. Taking my sensei’s bad mood with his jubilation. Loyalty seems to fit uneasily with consumerism. After i watched it, there is not more question. The fee I pay for the experience i get and the lessons, is far beyond any monetary exchange. My sensei is not keen about the fees as well. His presence as the sensei and my presence as his student cuts through dollars and cents. He need me as much as i need him, that is what loyalty is about. Without the both of us, there is no Aikido. The importance of our existence is not over hyped, it’s just is.

Who can be sure that we can be with our sensei until death? Can I carry on my sensei‘s teaching and still learn from him until his last breath? Will I be there when my sensei dies? After I saw what Tristan did for Saito sensei, I know when that time comes, loyalty will not longer be a question to ask.

I bought flowers

I bought flowers

Dear boys,

I seldom buy flowers for your mum. I don’t buy flowers for her any of our wedding, ROM, her birthday, anniversaries. Valentine’s Day is absolutely out, those bloody thirsty florists, making a killing out of poor blokes buying perishables for dames.

The last time I checked, I bought your mum this bouquet, back in Dec 2014, thanks to google photo, I managed to have this picture in my file.

She likes sunflower for the bright, big cheery colours, who wouldn’t agree with that?

As much as she likes sunflowers, she wouldn’t want me to spend money on such frivolous things. I wouldn’t too.

But there is a reason why I buy flowers.

Simply because I love your mum.

And she is the only woman I allow myself to buy flowers for; my Wife, your Mother. I cannot see myself spending, or wasting money buying flowers for other members of the opposite gender, no matter how close we get. Not even for female relatives. This deed, I only reserve solely for your mum.

I think it is nice to buy your mum a bouquet or two every now and then, although flowers have no pragmatic purpose whatsoever, it does, helps make her feel appreciated, makes her know that the flower is for her, and her only.

Having a relationship is not just about pragmatic, purposeful bonding. when things between spouse gets too functional, the love is diminished. We must not stop doing silly little things for each other, to make each other feel appreciated, and delighted.

Bright, Glorious Sunflowers!

So recently, recently I bought another stalk of Sunflower, three long years after the last one. I bought this from an ‘auntie’ florist near my office. There were 4 stalks of these beautiful glorious flowers that caught my attention across the road. I had to get one for your mum.DSC_0134

Flowers have their own psychic powers to make a person feel good. It is not only for my wife to feel good receiving it, it is also for The Husband, to feel good, giving her nice wonderful, albeit slightly non-practical gifts. These kind of spontaneous gesture helps as smooth out a life long relationship, so always remember never hesitate to get nice things for people you love, as and when you feel like, not necessarily, nor out of schedule. Never hold back, never reserve your feelings of expression. Life is short.

$6!

The girls in my office saw this stalk, and overcame with curiosity Siew Ting couldn’t help but ask me, what is the occasion. To which I told her, there is none. And to Dorothy’s shock, the single, poorly wrapped stalk costs me S$6, while she didn’t say it was freaking expensive, her expression, is like a MasterCard’s advertisement, priceless. $6 is probably a good decent lunch for any hungry person. For Liting, she’d say if she gets flowers from her boyfriend, she’d take the bouquet and beat her beau with it. Well, if her beau gets beaten by her with the flower, then I guess the flower’s sacrifice is well worth it. Die flowers! Die for love!

Let’s be frank, to which I asked them back, which of them would mind it, if their partners, buy them flowers? Would any of the girls say no? Would any girl mind, random expression of love using flowers? That is the power of flowers, notwithstanding that Liting would use the flower as a bludgeon. Well, as the Chinese saying goes “打是疼,骂是爱”. The demise of the flower will be worth it, well worth it.

When your time is up…

A few evenings back, we had our class in a small room, which is long and narrow. It wasn’t the best place to train, but it was the best place to listen to Harry sensei, because in the enclosed confines, we can finally hear our soft-speaking sensei clearly!

He is 78 years old this year, and he spoke about a lot of things, many of which was memorable, one specific thing that stayed with me was the existence of our lives.

Sensei is 78 years old.

He mentioned something like, ‘When someone reaches 80, and asks god if it is time, and sometimes god will decide, well if this person is still useful to others, let this person stay for another year or two.’

That is not in his exact words, but it was enlightening.

What Harry sensei said forces us to think above and beyond ourselves. Specific to training in martial arts, we tend to get caught up in ‘my’ movement, and how ‘I’ throw the opponent, and ‘I’ control the situation. Everything we made up to be, it is all ‘we’.

Although the lives we lived are often a very egocentric, we are born, live a life, and die in the most personal way, no one else can die for us, except ourselves, and no one else can live our lives except us. But the irony is, our existence will not have happened the way it did, had it not been for other people. We cannot be who we are today, without the help and assistance of other people.

So we fear death, and try to hold it at a distance, hoping to live a few more years, doing the things we love. What Harry sensei say urges us to be above and beyond that, we need to live our lives helping other people, make ourselves useful- to other people. Let us become a tool for other to become better people, we extend our lives and longevity as long as we continue to be useful to other people and the world and society at large.

At his ripe old age, Harry sensei is a far more optimistic person than I am. Prior to the class, I was caught in my own familiar self-depreciating mood, questioning my own existence, and the seemingly ‘groundhog day’ mentality. Everyday seems to be the same to me. Even Aikido training feels the same… perhaps it was a plateau…until you hear an old Aikidoka says that. At that age, and pretty much sees whatever he has seen in life, he is still learning, still thinking of how to contribute to others.

While we think of the ‘I” in an egocentric circle, we want people to need us, so we try to build ourselves to a level of importance that makes us feels as if we are the centre of activity. Contrary to that, we need other people too, and these people are as fragile as us. As much as I like to dwell in my own finite existence, Harry sensei said something that tells me, we have to be nice to other people, because as much as we will not be around for our next breath, others are also having the same existential crisis. They might not be around for the next breath, and we might lose that opportunity to show kindness and love to these folks who, we need, and needed us.

My Black Belt

My Black Belt

I got my black belt status like everybody else, when I got my 2nd Kyu, that allows me to wear a black belt, but not a hakama, which will be one more grade away.

It was a bummer because I was wearing a Brown (obviously!); and I was young, who could see the need to spend money getting a black belt. In the spirit of being ‘eco-friendly’ ( truth is, I was quite poor then), I wanted to dye the brown belt black, and bought some colour dyes, it wasn’t very successful, due to my inexperience. I don’t know how the conversation came about, but I told Steven about it, and we promptly headed down to Liang Seng to get a Black Belt. Steven bought me my Black Belt.

Since it was a gift, I didn’t choose the thickest, most expensive one. I choose an Adidas brand, a thinner, cheaper one. I was thinking that I might get another one a better one, with my name stitched in gold or yellow, maybe sometime later.

There are many black belts worn by people who spend money getting their names and other fancy words stitched to their belts. I took out the Adidas logo and got my wife to hand stitch a simple ‘林’ on it, and because ‘林’ can be read from both sides, it saves us the trouble of hiding the stitches on the wrong side. And because 林 can be read from both sides, one side of it pays homage to the person who got me my belt, Steven Lim, and of course, the other side, is the surname of the owner, moi. Incidentally, Steven shares the same surname as me, and for his generosity, the ‘林’ will stay with my belt.

My belt is purely pragmatic in existence. The hand stitching is not so much to make this belt unique to me, it serves as a form of identification, as I’ve been to hombu dojo, and seen Gis, belts and hakamas placed all over the changing room. Without a name to your person item, someone might mistakenly take yours and that wouldn’t be a very gracious thing to have happen in Hombu. Hence there is a need for identification. Albeit a simple one for me.

I never got to buying another belt, as this one serves me really well. Although it is thinner, and sometimes, it doesn’t hold the hakama up as well as I’d wanted to, there is still no need for me to get another black belt. I rarely wash it, so it still looked almost the same as the day I bought it. The black is a little faded, the strings coming off in places here and there, but it still serves its purpose, hold the gi together, and let me wear my hakama.

Some people out there will put their belt to wash, not for the purpose of cleanliness, they want to age the belt, so that it look old and seasoned. I never see a need for that, and it has never occurred to me to have a belt that looked aged. It is all there for a practical reason, and I’ll wear it until it falls apart, and only then will there be a need to replace it, and that only after I’ve mend it until it cannot be mended.

I think I’ve been wearing this belt for almost ten years now, and I don’t think I’d be replacing it anytime soon. This is a gift to me and I am reminded of the kindness that was shown to me, every time I put it on.