Significant development in your financial life starts with responsibility, says Candra Chahyadi. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Commentary: Taking Financial Responsibility in an Increasingly Indebted Society

BY :CANDRA CHAHYADI

JULY 06, 2015

Although Indonesia has enjoyed respectable economic growth rates in recent years, there are still lingering questions that we need to deal with honestly and objectively: Are we doing better financially, either individually or collectively? Are we able to improve the quality of our lives through higher income and able to create new business opportunities?

Ironically, during this positive economic growth period, anecdotal evidence shows that people are seemingly regressing economically (measured by their real purchasing power) and are more indebted than ever. Clearly, there is a big distinct difference between economic growth and the increase in purchasing power. When a country experiences a positive economic growth, that merely means that the country is consuming more than before and that increased consumption, in many cases, is fueled by higher use of debt.

It is quite obvious that our economic growth relies heavily on use of debt. You can see the higher use of debt phenomenon almost everywhere, both in the urban and in the rural areas. You see people are spending much more than what they can afford and this phenomenon will not go anywhere anytime soon. This type of consumption is unsustainable as people do not build appreciating assets but accumulate more liabilities. People borrow more money to pay off their old debt and to consume some more. At the end of the day, this will create a systemic economic problem because when the “perpetual debt cycle” music stops, someone (particularly, the lender) will not get paid.

Taking out a loan is not such a bad idea as long as the borrower understands responsible money and debt management concepts and applies those concepts. When a borrower wisely uses the credit to build or to expand a thriving business, good things start to happen.

We have heard many inspiring stories about how poor people have benefited from the use of a loan and they were able to lift themselves out of the poverty cycle. We have also heard stories about how some prudent borrowers were able to take their business up to the next level by using and managing his debt well. But it is also not uncommon to hear horror stories about people who abuse their loan privileges and use the expensive loan to fund their expensive lifestyle and many other consumptive activities. Eventually, they end up getting in deep financial trouble and must go through the agony of financial distress.

This does not have to be the story of your life! Do not give into any peer pressure to consume more using borrowed money. You do not have to have an expensive lifestyle that you cannot afford yet. Even when your family has been financially troubled and heavily indebted, you can put an end to the crippling cycle of debt.

You truly can have a better financial life and start building assets. To do that, you need to start with yourself and you need to take personal responsibility. Many times, people are scrambling to find scapegoats to their financial woes. Dare to be different and start doing things differently. Albert Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Your financial transformation should begin with transforming your mindset. There are countless people who cling to their old mindset while desiring a new life. You cannot have continued change in your financial conditions if you do not first change your mindset. Decide that you will do whatever it takes to change your financial conditions and that you are fully responsible for that. Stop blaming other people and your life circumstances. It is your personal responsibility.

Continue to learn new concepts and surround yourself with positive who have the same objective as you. As you spend more time with these people, a new mindset will emerge and drive out the old one. Please note that in the process of changing your mindset, you may fail from time to time and it is perfectly fine to make mistakes, but it is not okay to make excuses. Making a mistake is a part of the process and that will make you better and wiser in managing your financial resources.

Please be honest with yourself and do not pretend to be someone that you are not. Do not buy things that you do not need, using the money that you do not have to impress people that you do not like. You are not obliged to live an expensive life. You are free to live your life the way you feel is best for you. In many cases, trying to be someone else can cost you a lot of money and can set you back financially. Learn to accept who you are and only befriend those who can accept you just the way you are.

Do not forget to make some small financial changes every day. Small changes can lead to big changes and you will also feel better about yourself. You need to realize that money is just a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Candra Chahyadi is an associate professor of finance at Eastern Illinois University. He can be reached on Twitter, @CandraChahyadi, and at www.beruangcerdas.com

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