I have been in the debt industry for many years.
From writing about it for a range of publications, surviving the financial distress brought on by my own divorce, to being in charge of a project set up by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Credit Ombudsman which saw to the accessibility of financial information to ordinary South African consumers.
One thing that I have always stood firm on is that money is not only maths.
A bad financial situation brings with it as much stress as emotional problems.
Sadly, never has this been more apparent than since we went into lockdown in late March.
Not only do we have to deal with never-before-seen financial tsunamis brought on by the lockdown, we also have to deal with it whilst being with our partners in the same (sometimes small) space 24/7!
Over the years, I have given many financial workshops across all sectors of society, and from the poorest to the wealthiest of SA consumers, something that remains the same across the board is the guilt and shame attached to a bad financial situation.
People will talk about their children being on drugs and their husbands having affairs before they will tell you that their car has been repossessed or that they are behind with their bond.
It is because of this guilt and shame that many bear the burden of debt alone.
Sadly, our communities are quick to pass blame and judgement when something bad happens to someone.
Sentiments like “goetjoe” and “it was bound to happen” often do the rounds.
If you’re in a bad financial situation, please, don’t listen to these people.
Their opinions don’t pay the bills, and chances are they are deeper in the popo than you are!
There are many things which are outside of your control that can lead to a bad financial situation.
Divorce, retrenchment, being put on short-time, unexpected medical expenses and so many other lockdown related issues can be the cause of a loss of or interruption in income.
It is vitally important to acknowledge that these things are beyond your control.
However, this does not discount the fact that many people find themselves over-indebted because of their love for name brands, spending irresponsibly and wanting to keep up with the Joneses.
Here are some tips to avoid falling into overwhelming debt despair:
Don’t carry the burden alone
When you’re struggling with your debt, the last thing you want to do is advertise it to the world. Your journey can therefore be an incredibly lonely one.
Your family and friends who truly care for you, will be there to support you during difficult times, as many of them might be facing the same issues, and especially since the lockdown started.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking to your immediate family and friends, then consider speaking to someone from your church, mosque or organisation which you consider to be a support platform.
Even if they are unable to help you, they may still be able to point you in the right direction for relief and/or counselling.
Financial distress leads to relationship conflict.
How many of us have found ourselves arguing with our partners over money?
How many of these arguments have taken place in front of our children?
Sadly, I have come across marriages and families that have been broken apart because of money issues.
Since we live in a society where we’re not taught to talk openly about money, our focus often comes when it is too late.
Stress, and particularly financial stress, is known to be one of the biggest contributors to certain health conditions like anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and hypertension (high blood).
More importantly, it can lead to a compromised immune system, which is not a good thing as we head into the peak of Covid-19.
Just like you would go to see a physician to deal with the physical symptoms, it is important to go and see someone about the emotional symptoms of your financial distress.
There is light at the end of the tunnel - find it.
When you have bills piling up, debt collectors hounding you and no idea of what to do or where to go, your life can seem very bleak and hopeless.
To avoid becoming further overwhelmed, make a point of finding options and solutions for your financial distress.
Your physical, financial and emotional health matters.
If you are unemployed or don’t have medical aid, Dis-Chem along with the Solidarity Fund and other partners are offering free Covid-19 tests.
You have to apply for the test via one of these avenues:
Contact the Doctors on Call helpline on 087 055 0234 (weekdays from 8am to 5pm).
Contact Momentum’s Hello Doctor service on *120*394#.
If you are overwhelmed by your debt, find out more about debt counselling and your debt options at www.nationaldebtadvisors.co.za.
Emotional and relationship health
For family, marital and Covid-19 related counselling, contact FAMSA in Observatory (Head Office), 9 Bowden Road.
Tel: 021 447 7951 / 082 231 0373
Appointments: 021 447 0170 / 082 231 4470
Email: [email protected]