Thursday, October 17, 2013

Never take out a loan to pay off another. Young adults often have a tendency to overestimate their revenue while publicity gives them the impression that everything is affordable

Said : Karim Bortolussi, a social worker from the Bern-Jura Protestant Social Center (CSP) at the Centre for Professional Training in Moutier, canton Bern. He was speaking to a class of second-year apprentices at the Centre that provides training to Swiss youngsters with regard budgeting and various expenses in order to avoid the debt trap. 

According to a Swiss daily, youngsters - seduced by adverts and special offers - are increasingly getting caught in debt traps. The Center for Professional Training offers various courses to young adults consisting of future mechanics and restaurant managers aged between 17-25 who don't realize how easy it is to get into debt. 

The average monthly salary of an employee who has undergone an apprenticeship is less than CHF3,989 ($4,300) before tax, which is defined as the low salary threshold. According to Bortolussi, one in five young people are confronted by financial difficulties and rack up their first debt by the age of 25. The course is financed by canton Bern which is Switzerland’s second most populous canton with roughly 985,000 inhabitants.
Credit Suisse, Zurich. Wally Gobetz photo

The debt prevention course focuses on giving practical advice: setting a budget, looking at how health insurance, taxes and different contracts work (mobile phones, gym, leasing schemes), the cost of loans and the pitfalls of credit cards and client loyalty schemes. It also covers how easy it is to fall into the spiral of debt and how hard it is to escape. According to Bortolussi, once in debt, youngsters first try to get out of trouble themselves, by taking out another loan or contacting private loan companies which have very high interest rates. When they contact us after several years, their situation is often very bad. The Swiss Debt Advice, an umbrella organisation for 40 cantonal and community debt relief service centres, is active in promoting prevention measures in schools. Such services are found to be very essential but are still insufficient. 

In a country that gives lots of space to banks and credit businesses to flourish, its hard to believe that excessive debt is a problem people face in Switzerland.

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