Debt is not a four-letter word.

Debt is not a four-letter word.

For many the shame attached to not being able to keep up with their debts can be all consuming.

I can understand this as we never want to feel like we’re failing or losing control, and while seeking help is the best thing to do, for many doing so can be as hard as admitting an addiction.

While we might often talk with our friends or family about other challenges we’re facing, the topic of debt often remains a taboo subject.

The problem is by not confronting our debt problems they just get worse and left unattended they can lead to significant stress, the loss of assets and businesses and even the breakdown of relationships.

The main objection to seeking help seems to be “I’m worried what people will think of me.” I once heard a saying “you’ll stop worrying what other people think of you when you realise how little they think of you.” I know that sounds harsh but it’s true. If your main concern is your neighbour finding out about your debt problems, imagine how you’ll feel when a “for sale” sign is nailed to your fence.

While it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person with debt problems, the fact is you’re not. Many people go through difficult financial times in their lives, it’s common but the problem is most of us feel alone and embarrassed. This is understandable when all you see on social media is everyone’s perfect worry and debt free lives. It’s not true of course, rather than bringing people together, social media can make us question our self-worth leaving us feeling more alone than ever. Confronting your debt problem is the first step to recovery so here’s a few ways to summon up the courage to start.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself
Sorry for the tough start but I needed to get your attention. While it’s easy to feel like you’re the only person in Australia with debt problems, nothing could be further from the truth. Most people will have an issue with debt at some point in their lives. Chances are you’ll know a family member or friend that has struggled with debt, they most likely felt the same way you’re feeling now but they got though it and so will you. Debt problems are common, you’re not alone, stop feeling like a victim and take charge.

Your debt problems don’t define you
We often tend to measure what we have with who we are. It’s easy to look at someone driving a nice car and think “they must be happy and doing well.” For all you know the payments on that car are behind and the tow truck is on the way. You are not your debts and they don’t define you. With a little help and determination, you can get through the problem and get back to being you, remember that person? The one that looked forward with optimism rather than backward with regret.

Stop beating yourself up
I’m giving you permission to forgive yourself. You most likely didn’t end up with debt problems because you were running off to Paris every weekend or buying a house full of expensive shoes; well okay maybe a few pairs of shoes. My point is most people’s financial problems stem from an event such a failed business, a separation or illness, and it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed yourself or anyone else. Remember, everyone takes knocks in life, the difference between winning and losing is your ability to keep getting up and moving forward.

Seek help
Ever heard the saying “knowledge is power”? This is absolutely the case when getting through debt problems. It’s time to seek good advice and I’m confident that when you take this step you will feel instantly empowered. You’ll no longer just be waiting around for something bad to happen, instead you’ll be taking positive action and you’ll be the author of your own recovery. See, you’re feeling better already aren’t you?!

Now’s the time to sit down and make a list of the people you can talk with. Perhaps it’s your parents, I bet they’ve gone through some tough times in the past, or perhaps a brother or sister. You might even know a professional such as an Accountant or Solicitor that you can make contact with. The good thing about people like these is they will often have contacts they can refer you to. There are also some very helpful financial counselling services that you can find online.

Contrary to the press, the banks too can be very helpful when it comes to helping their clients that are suffering financial hardship. This can involve reducing or stopping payments for a period of time or even reducing account balances. if your debt issue is with a bank then the best thing you can do is call them straight away, I think you’ll be surprised with how understanding and helpful they can be.

Although it can feel insurmountable at the time, the truth is most financial problems can be overcome, however you need to be the driver so get behind the wheel and take charge.

John Dickinson

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