Neil Campbell on June 30th, 2010

If you are in debt one the worst things you might have to cope with is isolation. A lot of people are ashamed of their debt problem and try very hard not to share it with anyone. This of course is the wrong way to go about solving any problem.

Even if you decide not to share the details of your debt problem with your friends and family (and I would seriously suggest that you ought to do so with your close family) you still need to have an outlet for all your concerns and emotions. This should help you to keep your problems in perspective and makes it more likely that you will be able to find a solution to your problems.

In my case the two people that I discussed my problems with most were my sister and my doctor (as I was depressed at the time). My sister provided non-judgemental support and I really looked forward to our weekly conversations. The experience of discussing my problems with my doctor was similar, but he was totally detached from my situation so in some ways it was easier to talk to him. Both were invaluable as I battled to solve my debt problem.

So who should you choose to help you through your debt problem? It could be a family member (ideally one not directly affected by your problems), a minister, a close friend, a doctor or even a debt support group. You need to make sure that whoever you choose is able to listen to your problems and offer advice if requested without being judgemental. They also need to be available and willing to help you. My experience of asking my sister for help was that she was pleased to be asked (although of course a little sad at the state I had got myself into).

Once you have started discussing your problems with someone you must keep on assessing whether this is helping you or not. If it isn’t working for you then never be afraid to stop the conversations (politely of course).

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A debt crisis is one of those life events that ranks right up there with losing your job or family bereavement for stress creation. I know that when my finances finally went completely out of control it had a terrible affect on my state of mind and my health. If you find yourself in the same situation what can you do to deal with the range of emotions that you may be feeling?

Helplessness

I remember feeling that there was nothing that I could do. I had lost my great salary in the IT industry and I couldn’t see how I was going to get it back. My debt repayments were far in excess of what I could afford even though I had cut out all the spending that I could.

If you are feeling like this you need to start to try and take control. Make a budget and see how close you can get to being able to pay your debts. Get some advice on the debt solutions that are available to you.

Shame/Remorse

It’s OK to feel regretful about the decisions that have led you to a debt crisis but do not overdo it. Blaming yourself too much might lead to depression and inaction. This is the last thing that you need. Try and remember that although you may have made some financial mistakes that does not make you a completely bad person. You still have good points!

Stress

If you have started missing debt repayments you will (or you very soon will) be receiving calls from debt collection agents. Their tone is aggressive and their mission is simply to get you to pay them as much money as they can. They have no concern about whether you can afford to feed your children.  If you have serious debt problems then they are not going to be solved by speaking to debt collection agents. My advice would be to ignore their calls while you select your debt solution. Try and create some space for yourself to make this important decision without interruptions.

Isolation

Debt is a very isolating thing. You may feel that you do not want to discuss your problems with anyone. As usual, keeping things to yourself doesn’t help. Find someone that you can share your problems with in confidence. Either a family member or a friend, a priest or a counselor. Try looking up any debt help groups in you area. It really will help you to deal with your debt problem

Conclusion

If you’re in a debt crisis then you will probably have a whole range of negative emotions. If it is too much to sort them all out at once then take one thing and change it for the better. When you have done that then move onto the next thing. If you are feeling stressed and alone then try posting a message here – you will get a sympathetic response.

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Neil Campbell on May 27th, 2010

The Point Is...
Creative Commons License photo credit: kamshots

A piece of advice from an old man (well not quite THAT old, but getting there!)

A while ago I read a post on a money blog about how it was possible to negotiate a substantial increase in ones income if one knew how to go about it.  It contrasted this with the more limited benefits to be gained by concentrating on cost savings.  This got me thinking, as I had always been slightly wary of the type of advice that gets you spend a lot of time switching utility providers to save a limited amount each year.  Perhaps my time would be better spent trying to increase my income by a larger amount?  Widening this thought process a bit I decided to write a post about what my priorities for life would be if I was starting out again. This is to try and put the whole personal finance “thing” in perspective!

1 – Live Your Life and Make it Full of People

It is a bit of an over-used saying, but money doesn’t make you happy.  It is people and satisfying relationships that make you happy.  Of course money is important and having sufficient can make being happy a lot easier.  However I find it possible to imagine a situation where I was poor at the end of my life but surrounded by loving friends and family.  I would be happy!  Contrast this with a situation where I had spent my life pursuing material wealth and alienated my family.  I could die alone and be very miserable.  Of course the ideal is to have both, but this extreme example makes it clear to me where my priorities would need to be.

So how to achieve this?  Make time for your friends and family.  Do fun things with them.  Keep up with your network of friends from each stage in your life (school, college, different jobs).  be involved in the community through charities, clubs, or religious organizations.  Have financial aims that are not only about enriching yourself, but also giving to others.

“I would rather die a pauper with friends than be like Mr Burns in The Simpsons – rich but reviled by all.”

2. Be Brilliant at What You Do

In your career, find something that you enjoy and/or are good at.  Strive to be the very best that you can be at this and you will reap the rewards of job satisfaction and (very probably) financial advancement.  If you think about it, the rewards from excelling at your profession are more or less unlimited.  If your current job does not offer any prospect of excelling or rewards for doing so then consider something different. Get some training or consider starting a part-time business.

“I would rather be a doctor with a debt problem than a janitor with a high credit score!”

I will cover priorities 3 and 4, and how I measure up in my next post……

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