"A debt advisor? For chartered accountants?!" This is a reaction I am used to hearing. I've worked for CABA for nearly seven years and during this time have helped hundreds of people with debt issues.
I can assure you that, in the current economic climate, nobody is immune from experiencing financial difficulty. It is never easy to make that first contact but I hope this blog will show you that you have access to a supportive and confidential service that can help start to get things back on track. Below is what a typical morning might look like for me.
Emily, a student in the final year of her ACA training contract, gets in touch with us via our live chat function on the website. She's doing well with her studies and has passed all of her exams. When she was at university, she spent heavily on a credit card and while she has worked hard to get her finances in order, the high interest rate is preventing Emily from making a reduction in the balance. She's had to turn down an invitation to a colleague's leaving meal and her cousin's hen do and is feeling embarrassed about it.
Emily and I work out a budget that she will adopt moving forward. There are a few changes she can make such as switching her car insurance and cancelling some barely used subscriptions that will give her flexibility to not only maintain her minimum payments but also reduce the balance too.
I then receive an email from Mike. Mike runs a small practice alongside his wife, Debbie, and they have a longstanding solid local client base. Over the past year that client base has reduced, with two major clients going under and another one dying. Mike and Debbie have used personal credit cards to bridge the gap and ensure their mortgage is covered but they are alarmed at how quickly their debt has grown.
Mike, Debbie and I have been working together for a couple of weeks now. Mike admitted he was very reluctant to contact CABA. He felt it was something he should just be able to sort out himself, and had convinced himself that I would tell him he'd been a fool and to pull himself together. My own philosophy is that any successful debt advisor needs to be empathetic and non-judgmental. In order to help people, we need to make them feel comfortable to discuss an uncomfortable subject.
Together we've looked over what options they might have. Mike and Debbie have agreed they'd like to try an informal arrangement with creditors, where they repay an amount each month to their creditors with the interest frozen. I'm going to be negotiating with their credit card companies on their behalf and this is a process that will take a few weeks but will help take some of the strain off Mike and Debbie.
Lastly, I take a telephone call from Gladys. Gladys lost her husband, Arthur, three years ago. Arthur was a chartered accountant and managed all of the household expenses. Unbeknownst to Gladys, Arthur had accrued debt on their joint accounts and this was distressing for her to learn while she was still bereaved.
Gladys has made great progress since she first picked up the phone and called CABA three years ago. Together we've worked out the best way to manage the debt and we've even managed to convince some of her creditors to write the balances off. CABA has also offered financial support to Gladys, helping her pay for her husband's funeral costs, a replacement clutch for her car to keep her on the road, and a short break to Cornwall.
I ask her how she is doing. She tells me she is sleeping much more soundly lately and is really looking forward to a visit from her son and grandchildren this week. She also mentions that she's spoken to her creditors this week and has sorted out some payment issues. I can tell she is so much more confident now – three years ago she dreaded the sound of the phone ringing and asked me to speak to all of her creditors for her.
If you are struggling with debt, I would urge you to please consider speaking to CABA. Our specialist debt advisors can provide impartial and confidential advice. We'll work out a plan that takes the pressure off.
For Emily, Mike and Debbie, and Gladys, there are no quick or easy fixes. It will take time before they become debt free, but all of them are hopeful for the future.
Written by: Paul Day
CABA Senior Support Officer
Paul Day is one of CABA’s debt support officers, providing assistance and support to Chartered Accountants in financial difficulty. He is a certified member of the Institute of Money Advisers, having completed his certificate in Money Advice Practice in 2013.