How to lose a flat in 6 years

How to lose a flat in 6 years
DOWNWARD SPIRAL: Sam and Mary sold their flat to pay off the debts they had incurred. At one point, the couple with three children were living on the beach at East Coast Park.

SINGAPORE - If only we hadn't borrowed. If only illness had not struck. If only the business had not failed. If only I had realised help was available.

These "If onlys" litter this young family's journey from a four-room flat in 2006 to being homeless and living on the beach.

Life was rosy when Sam, 32, and Mary, 28, got married in 2006. They bought a flat in Woodlands and had a son soon after that.

Sam was an officer on board a ship, drawing about $2,000 monthly. But things started spiralling downwards when Mary's father was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2008.

Mary, now a nursing student, said: "My mum remarried, so I had to look after my dad. I'm the eldest girl among six siblings."

She has an elder brother and her sisters are still schooling.

To help his wife cope, Sam quit his job and worked as a courier-service driver, earning about half his previous salary. To supplement his income, he also worked as a valet at night.

But this loss of income had serious consequences, especially with the medical bills and mounting household expenses after their second child arrived in 2010.

Mary's 51-year-old father died several months later, but soon after that, her grandfather became ill too.

And the nightmare began again. Struggling to cope with the mounting bills, the couple started borrowing from illegal moneylenders.

Mary said: "We were so desperate. We couldn't cope any more and nearly divorced."

Sam said: "It was a stupid thing to do. When the time came to pay up, I borrowed from another 'ah long' (Hokkien for loan shark). I didn't think of how to repay (the debts)."

Unable to cope, they sold their flat in 2012 and moved in with Mary's grandparents.

They used the $100,000 profit from the sale to pay off the debts they had incurred in the form of credit-card bills, hire purchases, loan-shark debts, outstanding medical bills and money used for daily expenses and transport fees, which came up to about $80,000.

With the remaining money, Sam started a logistics business using rented vans, but it failed last year.

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