Adam was living a reasonably comfortable life, but buying a car saw him driven nearly to the edge of depression and financial ruin in wealthy Singapore, where increasingly only the rich and wealthy are able to afford a car.
The 32 year-old civil servant was earning $2,300 a month when he first bought the car, an off-peak hatchback, for $60,000.
By having a car, he thought of the status and convenience the vehicle would afford him. He did not need to pay a downpayment, and was also enticed by the $5000 cash back that was offered by the car dealer.
Within 3 months when the cash back ran out however, Adam soon ran into a mounting spiral of debt. At the worst stage in his debt crisis, he had maxed out at least 12 credit cards and six credit lines, chalking up to about $50,000 in debt – just to pay for the loan instalments and other essentials required to maintain a car.
“It was hell, really a living hell being in so much debt,” he said. “I was living comfortably before that, with some excess cash from my salary.”
“It wasn’t just the $600 monthly instalments, but the petrol, parking, insurance and other hidden costs, which came up to about $1,000 a month.”
Unable to maintain his car, he had to rely on credit cards and lines, opening accounts with six banks just to have enough to survive daily. His wedding costs in 2011 added to his debt, and his honeymoon was spent bitterly answering calls from the banks chasing him for payment.
He said: “I could not sleep. The banks kept calling and the first few months of my marriage were rough. I had many arguments with my wife.”
His wife too came with her own debt. The couple only realized how much each other owed the banks after the first few months of their marriage.
“I remember that during our honeymoon, we kept receiving calls from the bank and it really affected the mood,” said the 31-year-old.
“Later on we couldn’t really spend on a lot of things. Going out wasn’t even an option.”
Due to the costs of using the car in an island where car ownership is the most expensive in the world, Adam ended up being unable to use the car despite owning it.
“I took out loans and credit lines to pay the bills, and ended up having to live on just $50 a month for two years after all my essential expenditures.”
He would get by with just one meal a day and even that meal was a homecooked one.
“If I really had to eat out with my friends, I would eat at home first before going,” he said.
“I would then use the excuse that I’d already eaten at home, which was true.”
He added that this drove him to take up even more loans from the banks.
“It was very hard to survive on that kind of amount monthly, which drove me to withdraw and use money that I did not have and did not belong to me,” he said.
“It made it worse, to the point that I got blacklisted by the banks.”
His debt woes only made a turn for the better when he approached Credit Counseling Singapore (CCS), who helped him structure a repayment schedule and renegotiated his loan repayments with the banks.
Adam has been made to sell his car, and he will finally be able to pay off his debt, which has plagued him for close to 5 years, by the end of next year.