I wasn’t rich as a 30-year-old. Yet if I wanted to, I could have leased a Porsche, borrowed loads of money for an expensive, flashy home, and taken five-star holidays around the world. I would have looked rich, but instead, I would have been living on an umbilical cord of bank loans and credit cards. Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
In 2004, I was tutoring an American boy in Singapore. His mom dropped him off at my house every Saturday. She drove the latest Jaguar, which in Singapore would have cost well over $250,000 (cars in Singapore are very expensive). They lived in a huge house, and she wore an elegant Rolex watch. I thought they were rich.
After a series of tutoring sessions the woman gave me a check. Smiling, she gushed about her family’s latest overseas holiday and expressed how happy she was that I was helping her son.
The check she wrote was for $150. Climbing on my bicycle after she left, I pedaled down the street and deposited the check in the bank.
But here’s the thing: the check bounced—she didn’t have enough money in her account. This could, of course, happen to anyone. With this family, however, it happened with as much regularity as a Kathmandu power outage. Dreading the phone calls where she would implore me to wait a week before cashing the latest check finally took its toll. I eventually told her that I wouldn’t be able to tutor her son anymore.
Was this supposed to be happening? After all, this woman had ...