By: Shmuel Shayowitz

An extremely successful businessman was on his deathbed and called his three sons to his side. Two of them were executives in his corporate empire, and the youngest was a simple scholar. The three entrepreneurs talked about their many achievements in business and how much wealth they amassed over the years. Not having much of a relationship with his family, the scholarly son sat quietly on the side as they mocked him for his lack of ambition and prosperity.

With his remaining strength, the father said to his youngest son, “You always said I couldn’t take it with me, so I want to prove you wrong.” He went on to request that each son place $1,000,000 of their own money into his coffin upon burial. Of course, he knew his youngest son didn’t have that kind of money and assumed it would require him to be at the mercy of the other two brothers and perhaps finally admit his failure as a mere academic.

The father passed on, and everyone gathered at the funeral, eagerly anticipating how this would play out. The eldest son stepped up to the podium and dropped his million into the coffin. He pronounced, “You weren’t much a father, but you helped me get rich.” The second son approached the casket and said, “You always told me that money was the most important thing in life. I can’t believe you are wasting a million dollars this way.”

The youngest son stood up and slowly made his way to the front of the room. Everyone watched with suspense. The brothers were readying to mock and taunt him for his inability to honor their father’s dying wish. He walked up to the podium clearly without any stock of cash. He reached into his pocket and turned to show all those in attendance what he was holding. He held a check written out to his father for three million dollars. He placed it in the casket and took the two million dollars as change.

I thought of this story as I read countless articles this week about the rise of debt in the U.S. Over the first six months of 2022, credit card debt has skyrocketed 15% this year at a record-breaking pace. Added to the anguish is that the average APY on credit debt has risen 4-6% with all the Fed hikes, only expected to increase further. The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by three-quarters of a percent next week with more pain ahead projected, per Fed chair Jerome Powell.

In addition to soaring credit card debt, a new phenomenon is rapidly becoming more popular of late, which is “Buy Now Pay Later” (BNPL) shopping. Many online stores, retailers, merchants, and the like allow customers to purchase items with no upfront cost. Instead, they will require installment payments in the weeks to follow. For starters, the problem is that many consumers are not getting the statements. Not being accustomed to this process, some overlook the bills altogether. Many are not able to pay when the statement comes. Others regret the purchase and are unable to successfully get timely refunds or credits. Those who don’t pay as required face stiff penalties, excessive late fees, default interest, and derogatory credit.

The moral of the story is that there is no such thing as “free money,” and debt has a subtle way of accumulating when least expected. I would be remiss if I didn’t also note that this is the season where we should take stock of our private debts that we have amassed over the year with Our Creator. We have received many things on “credit” from the Almighty, yet we keep deferring our appreciation and repayments of His Will. May we maximize the remaining few days of 5782 and earn great blessing and prosperity in the coming year.

Shmuel Shayowitz (NMLS#19871) is President and Chief Lending Officer at Approved Funding, a privately held local mortgage banker and direct lender. Approved Funding is a mortgage company offering competitive interest rates as well as specialty niche programs on all types of Residential and Commercial properties. Shmuel has over 20 years of industry experience, including licenses and certifications as a certified mortgage underwriter, residential review appraiser, licensed real estate agent, and direct FHA specialized underwriter. He can be reached via email at Shmuel@approvedfunding.com.

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