Singapore man borrows $700 from loan sharks but ends up owing $13,000

Singapore man borrows $700 from loan sharks but ends up owing $13,000
PHOTO: Lianhe Wanbao

He is a security guard who earns $1,600 a month, and also a step-father to a pair of children, to whom half of his income goes to for monthly tuition fees.

A cash flow problem was all it took for his debts to snowball, which led to him losing 11kg due to stress and fatigue.

According to a report in Lianhe Wanbao, Mr Aw, who prefers to remain anonymous, says he met his Indonesian wife 16 years ago.

After dating for two months, his wife confessed that she was abandoned by a man who had left her with a three-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son.

"She was honest about it, and I did not want to end the relationship just like that. So we got married the following year," he said.

After two years of marriage, Mr Aw's wife gave birth to their baby girl, who is now 13. Four years later, Mr Aw filed an application for his step-children to live in Singapore.

He tried three times, but to no avail. The only solution was for him and his wife and him to live separately.

Thus, he stayed in Singapore taking care of his young daughter while his wife took care of her kids in Indonesia.

Mr Aw would travel to Indonesia during special occasions like his wife's birthday, or during Christmas.

He maintains a good relationship with his step-children over the years, and they are in constant contact through text messages.

He is glad that his step-daughter has stellar grades, while his step-son is admitted into the medical school of a local university in Indonesia.

Even though providing for the family takes a heavy toll on him, he feels that his children's future is more important, and thus supports them through university.

With a monthly income of $1,600, Mr Aw sends some $800 to $1,000 over to Indonesia monthly, for his children's living expenses and school fees.

Last year, his wife his wife started residing in Singapore with him. After three months of constant hardship, Mr Aw had difficulty making ends meet and decided to borrow money from a loanshark.

He borrowed $700 from a loan shark in February this year, in hopes of easing his tight cash flow. He promised to pay it off with weekly installments over a span of five weeks.

However, during one of those weeks, Mr Aw failed to pay on time, and was made to clear his debt from scratch. When the interest kicked in, he spent eight months borrowing money to pay off old debts.

After spending more than $5,000, he still owed the loan sharks $8,000. Today, he is no longer able to transfer money to his children in Indonesia.

For the past four months, he had to use $1,000 from his income to repay his debt, while using the remainder to support himself and his family.

Cup noodles and canned food are daily affairs for his household, and his water and electric supply get cut off nearly all the time.

Due to stress and fatigue from overworking, Mr Aw lost 11kg within a month. At his wit's end, Mr Aw turned to a social service centre for help.

As a security guard with diabetes and high blood pressure, and a mountain of debt, Mr Aw tried very hard to look for part-time jobs, and borrowed money from his friends to tide him over.

He said that his landlord has been a frequent visitor to his doorstep in recent months to harass them. His daughter was home alone one time when the debt collectors came knocking.

She was so afraid that she hid at home, refusing to answer the door.

"My daughter has been very depressed for the past few months, but I cannot do much for her. All I can do is to keep telling her that it will all be alright because I am here," he said.

He had to borrow money from his friends to stop the debt collectors from coming to his house. He also had to for look for part-time jobs.

Mr Aw regrets delaying finding help, as he is worried that his children might get dismissed from university.

For the past three months, he has not been able to provide for them, and is worried that if he does not clear their tuition fees debt before February next year, they might fail to complete their studies.

Mr Aw revealed that his finances are in a dire state. His wife, paranoid that he would abandon her like her ex-husband did, calls him every few hours to find out his location.

"I really regret making my family suffer so much, but I am also grateful for their understanding towards me.

"They always tell me to fight on and not to think silly thoughts," he tearfully recounts.

He said his primary concern now is for his family to regain a normal daily life, and for everything to end, so that his children's lives would not be heavily implicated.

This article was first reported in Lianhe Wanbao and translated on Stomp.

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