Credit Card Company Board Meeting
I've never sat in on a board meeting at one of the top credit card companies, but I imagine it involves an ivory table surrounded by crushed velvet chairs, all occupied by cigar-smoking, mafia-looking characters -- each wearing the most expensive Rolex and (pant)suit money can buy.
At the front of the meeting room, I see an overhead projector screen displaying two pictures. The picture on the left is of a happy, moderately dressed consumer, accompanied by his/her equally happy spouse and children. The picture on the right of the screen shows the same consumer as on the left, but in this case, the consumer is not accompanied by a spouse and is extremely sad, broke, and depressed.
Just to the left of the overhead projector screen, I see a character who looks more devilish than the rest. This devilish character is explaining to the round table of high-priced subordinates that the key to increasing their already shamelessly huge bonus checks is to come up with better and faster ways of turning the consumer pictured on the left side of the screen, into the consumer pictured on the right of the screen.
Of course, the reason the leader of the board meeting is the leader in the first place is that he and his peers were asked to come up with barely-legal ideas for turning happy consumer families into unhappy, broke and broken families. It was his idea to offer their unsuspecting customers the option of making "minimum payments" that would barely cover the interest charges. A raucous standing ovation ensued, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Land of the Free?
Not really. Thanks to credit card companies and their minimum payment imprisonment schemes, "America, land of the free" should be changed to "America, land of people who might have 30 minutes of freedom right before they go to bed."
Over the past 20-years, we Americans -- who've always been so proud of our freedoms -- have consciously and unconsciously traded most of our freedoms to lending institutions. As a result, most of us no longer have the freedom to choose what type of work we do, where we work, how much of our time we spend working, or where we will live. Those once-free choices are now dictated by how much the wardens (lending institutions) tell us we have to pay them every month.
Think I'm wrong? Maybe I am. But if given a choice...
- Who would choose to spend 2-3 hours a day stuck in rush hour traffic?
- Who would choose to transport their beloved children (who are only children for a short while) to a professional child-raising facility 5-6 days a week?
- Who would choose to spend their days being a worker bee in a honeycomb of 10' X 10' cubicles, performing a work that allows for no creative self-expression?
If those are choices you are making because that's how you like your life, then my hat is off to you for at least having the freedom to make those choices.
Minimum Payment, Maximum Sentence
No matter how you look at it, increasing your debt serves to limit your freedom of choice. The more debt you have, the less freedom of choice you will have. And the more you choose to make only the minimum payments on your credit cards, the longer it will take you to get back the freedoms you once enjoyed.
By the way, there is a segment of our population who have very little freedom of choice. We call them "inmates." If you want to remain an inmate in the debt prison and ensure that you get to serve the maximum sentence for your financial indiscretions, then by all means, make only the minimum payments on your credit cards and do your part to help the credit card company exec's to set new, all-time-high records for year-end bonuses.