Pawning valuables no big deal for the young

Pawning valuables no big deal for the young
ONLINE CONVENIENCE: Customers can submit photographs of their items for appraisal on MoneyMax's online valuation platform. If they are satisfied with the valuation, they can then visit a shop.

Wearing a black football jersey, bright red sneakers and a pair of trendy headphones around his neck, student Leonard Lee walked confidently into a pawnshop in Toa Payoh Central and placed a silver Seiko watch on the counter.

"I'd like to pawn this, please," the 19-year-old told the staff.

About 10 minutes later, he walked out with a pawn ticket to join his girlfriend of the same age, who had been looking at second-hand jewellery in the shop's display cabinets.

The watch, which cost him $500, was appraised for $400 at the counter. He borrowed only $200.

He said: "Well, I needed the money because I need to pay my phone bill. I stupidly forgot to turn off roaming services when I travelled last month.

"(Pawning items) is pretty fuss-free. I'll be back to redeem the watch soon enough."

A customer his age was a rare sight a decade ago, said a pawnshop manager who gave his name only as Mr Cheng.

But these days, younger customers are common, he said.

"One in five of the people who walk in here is below 30," estimated the manager, who has more than 10 years of experience.

"Today's young people aren't afraid to come to the pawnshop. It's an easy way to get cash without needing to pay huge interest," said Mr Cheng, who is in his late 40s.

LOWER INTEREST RATES

Several younger customers told The New Paper on Sunday that pawnbrokers are a better alternative to moneylenders or banks, mainly because of lower interest rates.

Instead of the 10 to 30 per cent interest rate that moneylenders can charge, pawnbrokers charge rates as low as one per cent of the amount borrowed each month.

Mr Lee said: "I have read many news articles about people going broke from paying off bank loans, or getting into trouble with moneylenders.

"But I have never read the same things about pawnshops."

Pawnshops came under the spotlight last month after Parliament passed new laws to regulate the pawnbroking industry, requiring pawnbrokers to conduct stricter checks on customers.

The number of pawnbrokers has almost doubled since 2006, and the value of loans they have granted rose from $1.6 billion in 2006 to $7.1 billion in 2012, before declining to $5.5 billion in 2013.

As of 2013, there were 204 pawnbrokers here.

Shyam Masumbar, 18, believes it is better to borrow from a pawnbroker than from one's parents.

The Institute of Technical Education College West student, who pawned his $300 gold ring to borrow $100, said: "My parents will give me money if I ask, but I want to be independent. I don't think this mentality is unique to me either."

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