Take My Word For It

I use them for online orders, plane tickets, work expenses, and for a couple of recurring monthly bills: credit cards. Visa, MasterCard, Discover – all of them have high interest rates if you don’t pay off the balances at the end of each month, even higher for people with low credit scores or no credit history. American Express has a yearly fee for the privilege of not leaving home without it. To get one, you sign a piece of paper (virtual or physical) that says you are responsible for whatever debts you incur. Some say it’s modern day usury.

Then there are mortgages, car loans and leases, and student loans. A deposit and a signature, and you get keys or an education (and a monthly payment for ten to thirty years, give or take.). You sign several pieces of paper that say you will act in good faith to repay the debt.

When you think about it, it’s an act of trust for the lender, that the money given will be returned; it’s an act of faith for the borrower, that there will be work that allows the repayment of such debts. These are promises, written in ink or with a virtual pen. And there are consequences if those promises are broken, sometimes severe ones.

In the last few decades, predatory lending practices have ruined the family finances of those who didn’t read the fine print or didn’t understand it. I wonder if this would be changed if both borrower and lender saw these transactions as promises, and did their best to insure that the promises made weren’t just words on paper but the beginnings of mutually beneficial relationships…

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