THE URBAN JUNGLE interviews Tommy Wentworth, now 26, about how he ended up with $28, 000 debt, and whose fault it might be.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: How old were you when you first got any form of credit?
I was 18 when I got my first credit card.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: How did you get that credit card?
I think it was offered to me.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: What were you earning then?
20k a year? Maybe less?
THE URBAN JUNGLE: Why did you get it?
Young and naive, credit then felt a lot different to how I see credit now. It felt like free money. $3,500 was a lot to an 18 year old working part-time for $15 an hour.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: How did your debt escalate?
I pretty much considered credit as cash. I bought anything and everything I wanted without reason. I used to get cash advances to buy all sorts of unnecessary things; cigarettes, drugs, beer, clothes, etc. It began spiralling out of control, as I just ignored most of the letters/calls from the bank because I had no where near the income needed to support a credit card with that limit. I ended up buying a $15,000 classic car (ridiculous car, mind you), among other stupid things which still haunt me.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: How much did you owe at the height of your debt?
I recently just cleared my debt (end of 2014), which had been lingering for more than 7 years. At 23 I owed $28,000, which all spawned from that initial credit card.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: Any times that you’ve been offered more credit in any form?
Many times, too many to count. My current CBA credit card has a limit of $29,000, and its the same credit account I initially got at 18 years old. I’ve probably upped my limit 15-20 times.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: What was, and is, your attitude to debt/credit?
It’s pretty awful, and pretty soul shattering at times. There have been many times that rent/loan/CC have been due in one week and wiped a paycheck. It has left me with literally zero savings. It’s a crappy situation to be in, and I feel that I’m only now emotionally equipped to have one, and even then I have trouble trusting myself with finance.
The thing is, it’s totally unnecessary. I have used my credit card for ’emergencies’ (which is the reason I got it) a handful of times. Most purchases are impulse and indulgent in nature.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: Whose fault do you think it is that young Australian’s have more debt than ever before?
I don’t really want to pass the buck, as I feel its 99% my fault for getting into debt. It’s naivety at it’s finest, as the majority of young people are not equipped to start a debt. I do however think it shouldn’t be offered to people willy-nilly, as surely banks know what they are getting people into. It is a little unfair offering a $3,500 limit credit card to a broke 18 year old, as they are going to bite at it.
THE URBAN JUNGLE: Any advice to young people considering over-reaching themselves?
Avoid credit cards at all costs. If you must have one, I would suggest getting a really low limit at a young age ($500-$1,000), and use it strictly for emergencies/travelling. Being in debt drains the life out of you. I haven’t received a paycheck in 7 years that went directly to me, its always destined to pay something off. My tax return goes into debt, lump cash from freelance work goes into debt— it can be a bit heartbreaking!