76 % of Indians are financially illiterate as per a Standard & Poor Survey done across the world. Traditional methods of imparting financial education have proved ineffective and costly. Indeed, the problem is so large that only technology can help in addressing it. AskCred is an AI based chatbot that helps customers to answer their credit queries and stay out of debt traps. How?

Let’s look at the following examples.

I

Mandakini (34) had a flourishing career in advertising and was headed home one evening when her car met with an accident. With multiple fractures temporarily restraining her movement, she couldn’t go to work for several months. Owing to her stupendous performance, her company put her on an indefinite unpaid leave.With no pay, mounting medical bills and poor physical condition, Mandakini couldn’t pay off her credit card bills and car loan on time. Financial debts were put on the back burner. By the time she completely recovered from the mishap her pile of bills had inflated enormously.

What could have been done: Often a medical emergency, an accident or a catastrophic event can lead to unplanned expenses and you may have to delay paying bills. Remember, you owe your lenders in spite of an emergency and your bills become due at the same time every month. One should always have an exigency fund should also buy adequate insurance to cover for such mishaps in life.

II

Rahul was a carefree, jovial, “life-of-the-party” sort of person. He had a thriving career as a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, there is no humour in missing payments. For some strange reason he was careless with his debts. He also assumed that lending institutions wouldn’t mind if he missed his payments by a few days. After all he was working with a top notch company and he was paying off though with lag. Moreover, he had some very expensive habits and often indulged in unrestrained spending sprees. Coupled with being ignorant about how it will impact his credit standing had devastating effects on his credit score. Owing to a busy schedule, frequent travels and sheer carelessness added fuel to fire.

Soon Rahul was drowning under debt more than he could afford to repay. He decided to take a large personal loan to settle scores with other lenders. He couldn’t believe it that he was denied the loan despite his self-perceived status.

What could have been done: It is a myth that one’s status is akin to one’s eligibility for loans. Missed payments are treated equally for all borrowers. Never live beyond your means!

III

Rhea, like most youngsters became increasingly over-dependent on credit facilities. Rhea had quite a few credit cards. She even took two personal loans from two different banks – one to purchase jewellery and the other to fund her Europe tour. Soon she was feeling the pinch of EMIs. It was becoming so difficult to manage all her bills. She couldn’t meet all her payments every month. So she began to rotate her payments by paying one loan in one month and the other in another month. Her balance never seemed to reduce as she was repeatedly missing either one loan payment or the other.

What could have been done: It is important to understand the implications of your borrowings on your CIBIL score. Before taking a loan, one must understand the terms carefully, do the math on what will be the EMIs and how will they be repaid. Remember, loans are long term liabilities and they must be serviced continuously. Also, compare loans so that you can take advantage of better terms. Know that secured loans carry a lower rate of interest than unsecured loans.

IV

Manpreet was working with a leading multinational bank when one fine afternoon he got a call from his senior who told him that his “services were no longer required by the bank”. This sudden news dashed Manpreet’s hopes and shattered his plans in a single stroke. He couldn’t come to terms with it but started working on his CV immediately. He applied to every job in sight but in vain. He remained unemployed for nearly the next six months. Finally, he took up a front desk job with a bank at another location. All this while he was making ends meet with a shrinking pool of savings. The thought of repaying his debts hardly crossed his mind. On top of that, he mostly used his credit card and repaid only a minimum amount due every month. Manpreet didn’t want to but he had to default his payments. It took him over a year to get out of the debt trap he had fallen into.

What could have been done: Losing a job can put you in a tight spot because of which you may not be able to meet your debt obligations in time. At such a time, keep a close watch on your expenses. Until you are once again gainfully employed, avoid using your credit cards. Block them or keep them away but don’t take more debt. Shift with a relative or a friend, use cheaper modes of transport, cut back costs to save money but don’t miss payments. When you make minimum payments, your rolled over balance is charged with interest and it rises exponentially, thrusting you further into debt.

All the above examples above have one common thread. Lack of awareness…Without an understanding of basic credit concepts, people are not well equipped to make decisions related to financial management. People who are credit literate have the ability to make informed financial choices regarding borrowing, interest rates, savings and more. Such knowledge is especially important in times where increasingly complex financial products are easily available to a wide range of the population. For example, with the Indian government’s push to open bank accounts for everyone, the number of people with bank accounts and access to credit products is rising rapidly. Financial ignorance carries significant costs. Consumers who fail to understand the concept of interest compounding spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, and incur higher interest rates on loans. They also end up borrowing more and saving less money.

This is where a technology based solution like AskCred can be very helpful.

AskCred is designed to be India’s premier credit helpline which will help users to navigate the financial maze of loans, credit cards, debt traps, budgeting, credit scores and a lot more. What’s the best home loan in the market? How do I decide which bank to choose for a credit card? What’s the fastest way to get a personal loan? What do I do when I feel I am a victim identity theft? Can my low credit score be improved? Trusted financial advisors are tough to find.

AskCred is India’s first AI based credit helpline which helps users to navigate the financial maze of loans, budgeting, credit cards, debt traps, credit scores and a lot more. Trusted financial advisors are tough to find. The objective is to provide users with a seamless, unbiased, low cost and trustworthy experience

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