How Some S’poreans Got Bankrupt Just Because They Wanted to Impress Their Friends

This is going to be easy: Sit back and think of a friend who has overspent and got into debts just to impress others with his fancy car, expensive clothes and branded watch.

Oh, wait—you’ve thought of six friends? Seven now? Eight now? I’m not surprised. I’ve many.

More than enough, I would say, since I’m at the age whereby people around me tend to be either very successful after a few years of working or living a very “jialat” life.

I’m at the age when we get to show our potential. But beyond the Mercedes and Rolex, I know it’s Gardenia or Sunshine bread as lunch and dinner.

Yes, I’m being mean. But the truth is never kind.

Affluence To Influence & Finally To Debts

In Singapore, when one has enough education, one would move on to the next stage: Impressing others. No matter the cost.

That’s when profit-driven companies see the need.

singaporeans getting into debts
Image: Theethawat Bootmata /

Banks deploy credit cards promoters everywhere. Cars distributors provide loans that cater to young people. Luxury brands create a line catered to borderline buyers.

I’m very sure, during the planning of their marketing plan, they’ve said this before: “Target those people who aren’t earning a lot yet they still want to live the high life. These are the ones who don’t mind having debts.”

They just want to impress their friends. After all, with demand, there will be supply.

And what does that lead to?

Articles in newspapers about young professionals who has a $50,000 debt. Friends going bankrupt. Cars repossessed. Emotional break-ups. Emotions run wild. Suicidal thoughts. Suicides.

And it starts from a single, simple spark: I want to impress you even when I don’t have the resources to do so. Why exactly are we doing that? If you would ask me, I’ll say that it’s a matter of “face”—a report card.

You see, when you’ve got to meet your friends, or your relatives every Chinese New Year, it seems like the culture and SOP is to give a report card.

This report card says either “successful” or “not successful”. And the worst part is? This report card can be manipulated with a plastic card called the credit card.

When you were young, you never had the chance to manipulate your—literally—report card. You experienced the wrath of bad results—now, given the chance, it is so tempting that tomorrow’s debts can wait. Today’s report card takes priority. While it is an unhealthy trend, it is still ongoing.

I applaud the authority’s move to stop this, but eventually, it boils down to each individual’s mindset—should we, during gatherings, continue to exchange report cards?

Or should we now redefine how we define the word “successful”?

This Singapore love story set in the 90s shows you why you should never wait for tomorrow. Watch it without crying:

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This Singapore love story set in the 90s shows you why you should never wait for tomorrow. Watch it without crying: