Minimum payments and the wisdom of R' Shimon

OK, I know it's not the time of year designated for the study of Pirkei Avoth, but I was struck by this thought just now. I have in front of me an invoice for a credit card. It offers me a choice of paying $60 or a figure with 4 digits before the decimal point. Which do I choose? If you know me, you know my answer.

But I happen to be seeing that choice all by itself protruding from the ripped corner of the envelope. Seeing  it in isolation, I finally realized how those who opt for the lower amount see it. That's the key: they see the choice of two amounts -- one small and easy, and the other large enough to give many people pause. They  do not pay attention to the larger picture that paying the smaller amount now will result in pay far more over time than paying off all that is owed on this bill.

What struck me is how this is a prime example of what R' Shimon advocates as the trait a person should acquire: being roeh es hanolad -- seeing the ramifications of one's actions. Sure enough the parallel bad trait he gives in the next Mishna is borrowing without paying back.  It's a simple enough idea, but so many people never internalize this notion of foreseeing the consequences of opting for the more tempting choice at present. They see it in isolation, not as something connected to other parts of their life.

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