Do you need debt help?
Do you need expert and trustworthy debt help? Rhetorical question really, isn’t it?
It’s a bit like asking if someone with a toothache needs a dentist, or somebody with a broken leg needs a doctor? The words ‘stating the obvious’ spring to mind.
We would not dream of asking anyone other than a qualified dental surgeon to treat a dental problem, nor would we ever suggest that an enthusiastic but untrained amateur should be entrusted with tending to our shattered femur or tibia. So why on earth would we entrust anyone other than an expert on debt and its many convoluted ramifications to counsel us on that subject? Bizarre idea.
Debt is a complex matter to which a number of separate but related issues contribute. In view of the problems it is going to create for them, there can’t be too many, if indeed there are any, who would knowingly and wilfully choose indebtedness – and all of the misery, worry and despair that flows from it – as their preferred economic status. One would imagine that almost certainly they will have slipped slowly but ever-deeper into debt rather than having jumped gleefully into the quagmire.
There will be plenty of well-meaning, would-be Alvin Halls happy to let you have their tuppence worth of advice on debt issues. Relatives, work colleagues, that bloke next door, your man in the pub, that other guy whom you know who will tell you that he “had a problem just like yours.”
You wouldn’t listen to them if they were sharing their views on any other important matter which, if it is to be properly understood, would entail a lengthy period of study followed by examinations designed to confirm knowledge of it, would you? So ignore them.
The noun, debt, incorporates a wide range of versions and sub-divisions. Any borrowed money constitutes debt, be it of the secured or unsecured variety – mortgages, overdrafts, credit cards and loans in whatever shape of form they come including those from friends, relatives, pay-day outfits or pawn-brokers whose re-emergence and proliferation on the main thoroughfares of our towns and cities underlines the seriousness of the plight in which so many now find themselves.
In 2015 more than 9,000 people in Northern Ireland sought debt help from Citizens Advice. And research into the Northern Ireland debt problem, conducted by the Money Advice Service last year, found that 217,000 people – roughly 15% of the adult population – were over-indebted, that is in over their heads.
In January 2016 a Belfast Telegraph report by Claire McNeilly stated: ‘Almost 250,000 people in Northern Ireland are facing a debt time bomb – but are doing little or nothing about it.
‘Families account for 62% of those currently in serious financial difficulty and, in over half of these cases, both parents are working.
‘New figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph from Citizens Advice have laid bare the shocking extent of the problem, and the agency has said it expects the crisis to escalate in the coming months following the Christmas excesses.
‘There are also concerns that the level of reliance on debt to make ends meet is beginning to increase again as the economy slowly begins to recover.
‘Money Advice programme co-ordinator at Citizens Advice, Kathy McKenna, said people should get help sooner rather than later.
“The Bank of England’s Money and Credit report for November revealed that the amount of cash borrowed by consumers ahead of Christmas was the highest that it has been in any month since February 2008, at the height of the credit crunch,” she said.
“Many households, particularly those on low incomes and those vulnerable to income shocks, may not be able to handle the extra borrowing. Citizens Advice is expecting an increase in debt problems in the new year as a result of this.
“Our experience shows that people generally wait a year before seeking out debt advice. However, waiting means their financial situation can spiral even further out of control, leaving them deeper in debt.”
It is significant that Citizens Advice’s Kathy McKenna urged people to get debt help sooner rather than later. It is significant, too, that she did not advocate working it out yourself. That suggests the agency’s Money Advice programme co-ordinator recognises the need to seek assistance from those who, as a result of having encountered them on a daily basis. are familiar with such problems.
That is because debt does not just go away. It does not shrink, diminish or disappear. It remains and while it does it grows, grinding people down by virtue of the fact that although they feel its grip on them and their families tightening, they imagine themselves to be powerless.
They are wrong; they are not powerless – there is debt help, there is advice, there are options and there is a real possibility of a return to better times.
It is important you realise that a good, caring, qualified debt adviser is not going to judge you but is going to help you. Know, too, that whatever your problem and whatever the size of your debt it is highly unlikely that your adviser will not have dealt with something that dwarfs it.
Negotiating a route out of debt requires co-operation and trust on the part of you and your adviser. Together you must agree on a route, a structured plan and a commitment to seeing it through.
Exactly how it can be tackled and the length of time it will take from start to finish depends on the scale and type of the debt(s), the nature of the contract(s) into which you have entered – and with whom – your income and the essential outgoings (food, fuel, clothing, transport, energy, phone, rates, insurances, car tax) for yourself and your dependants. Who are those dependants and what are their ages?
Are you a home-owner and, if so, are you in negative equity? If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, that too is added to your debt. What is the nature of your mortgage and from which bank or building society did you borrow? What is the state of play with your mortgage repayments?
When the answers to these questions are known, the possibilities will be assessed in order to decide how best to set about rescuing you. A proposed solution can only proceed with your agreement; your advisor cannot go ahead without your signed consent. The plan must be acceptable to you.
There are four main methods of dealing with personal debt – debt consolidation, a debt management plan (DMP), an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) and bankruptcy. In each case there are pros and cons so the aim in working alongside your adviser is to choose what is the best option for you in your particular circumstances.
After much experience in this field, Get Help With Debt – Belfast-based financial advisers – believe IVA to be the best solution to the problems presented by most of their clients.
Why? Because it is a negotiated settlement and because it stops your debt growing by freezing interest and penalty charges on each of your unsecured loans. Ultimately it writes off debt you are unable to pay and, importantly, it means you avoid bankruptcy.
This is done via a settlement proposal which, acting on your behalf, GHWD will present to your creditors. Your representatives set out the facts and figures and in almost 100% of cases – last year they failed in just one – they achieve a write-off of 80 to 90% of their client’s debt.
If that sounds like the sort of help and advice from which you would benefit, contact GHWD now.