09/05/2018 11:35 SAST | Updated 09/05/2018 11:35 SAST

Just Because You've Been Granted Credit For It, Does Not Mean You Can Necessarily Afford It

Some have been known to downplay their financial responsibilities to get credit, only to be hurt in the long run, said financial expert.

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A successful credit application does not mean you can necessarily afford the car, house, credit card, clothing account, personal loan, or whatever it is you're applying for credit for.

Former employee at a debt counselling firm Scelo Hlophe made this point on Twitter:

"It's the truth," said debt counsellor and clinical therapist Stephen Mulima.

"The thing is when you apply for anything on credit, the creditors deal with whatever expenses are registered at the credit bureau," Mulima explained.

He noted, however, that some people may downplay their financial responsibilities or are not completely honest with creditors about their expenses in order to stand in good stead for the credit — a choice he believes hardly ever serves people well in the long run.

"A person may think in a few months things will be better financially and so they will be in a better position to afford whatever it is they lied to get credit for — yet they fail to calculate how a car, for example, complete with insurance and petrol may shoot their expenses up. They fail to take to account of petrol price increases, and other living costs that they may go up unexpectedly."

Hlophe made an example of a previous client , who earned R25,000 per month after deductions, but appeared to be in way over his head.

"This is not surprising. We see this constantly with clients," said Mulima, who added that most of them have no savings for rainy days, and find themselves having to turn to creditors in emergencies. "Some do not take care to even have life or funeral cover, and they live paying off one credit card with another."

Hlophe also pointed out that the pressure to live a certain lifestyle as one of the reasons why some people, although they earn relatively well, are in debt.

Mulima also made a point about microlenders, who grant credit at maximum interest rate. "Unfortunately, microlenders do that. Remember, with each credit there's a benchmark with interest rate, and microlenders have been known to charge exorbitant interest rates — as much as 30 percent. Yet people desperate for cash — or perhaps not literate in matters of credit and interest rates — don't compare their options, but just sign on the dotted line."

This is why, he argued, some people find themselves in a perpetual cycle of debt, as the interest rate was high and they had no idea.

Hlophe's advice:

"People end up in psychiatric institutions because of stress. I have seen it. We need to take financial matters very seriously, and as much as possible, be realistic and responsible with our finances. We also need to be very careful of credit, and do as much research as possible — ask questions — before we sign anything," concluded Mulima.