With New Year’s resolutions still fresh and season’s spending bills looming, many consumers may be considering their financial status this time of year. Blair Mantin, a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Vice-President of Sands & Associates meets with people all year round who are looking for solutions to better manage their debts and says there are a few signs consumers should take note of when evaluating their debt situation.
Blair joined BT Vancouver to share these 4 warning signs that you may have a debt problem – and where you can get debt help.
Watch the clip here and read more below:
Signs of a Debt Problem
Avoiding Your Credit Account Balances
If any of these things sound familiar to you, chances are you have a debt problem:
- Having unopened bills or collection agency mail or emails;
- Guessing on balances or ignoring correspondence leaves you exposed to ‘surprise’ legal actions or ramped up collection activity. It’s always best to remain in the know about your account balances and activity.
- Postponing filing tax returns because you know you owe money;
- Not filing a tax return won’t help avoid a further balance owing and debts with Canada Revenue Agency accrue interest and penalties daily. The longer you wait to file the bigger the balance can be, and Canada Revenue Agency often employs extreme measures to prompt people to file overdue returns.
- Screening phone calls and text messages to avoid creditors;
- Being worried about answering your phone is incredibly stressful – talk with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee as soon as possible so you can get solutions and peace of mind.
- Not sharing your financial situation with your spouse;
- It can be difficult to talk about money problems you may be having, whether as a couple or on your own. It’s often better to have open communication than continue to try to hide what’s happening.
It can be tough to admit debt has gotten out of hand but it’s always best to assess your situation truthfully, confront the challenge and get back on track.
Adding to Your Debt
Most debt problems don’t go away on their own and continuing to add to your balance with these types of actions instead of making progress on paying debt down is an almost certain indicator it’s time to get debt help to address the underlying problem.
- Constantly relying on credit to bridge the gap between your costs of living and your income;
- Take a close look at what’s taking up so much of your budget – debt payments might be taking up more than you can afford.
- Taking out payday loans;
- Using payday loans often starts a borrowing cycle that is very expensive, and tough to break.
- Shuffling money from one credit card or line of credit to make payments on another;
- Simply keeping your accounts from delinquency doesn’t mean real progress is being made.
- Considering a debt consolidation loan;
- Although debt consolidation loans can be a useful strategy to manage multiple debts, they can be difficult to qualify for if you hold a significant amount of debt or don’t have a major asset to pledge towards the loan.
If you do have some ability to repay a portion of your debt but have been unable to get a consolidation loan through a traditional lender, consider investigating whether consolidation through a Consumer Proposal would be more efficient – and affordable.
Making Just Your Minimum Payments
Keeping your account up to date is of course a good thing, but if you’re only making minimum payments that is one of the top signs that you may have a long-term debt problem. “Minimum payment only” plans can cost thousands in interest charges, keep you in debt for years, and eventually added interest can push you into a financial crisis. Consider:
- How long will it take you to pay off the debt at the current payment rate?
- Check your credit card statements to easily find this information – you may be surprised that even a small balance can take a decade or more to pay off.
- Can you afford to make a higher payment?
- Look at your budget to get a better sense of just how much money your debt payments are currently using, and if you could afford more without stretching yourself too thin.
In 2018 58% of people who made a Consumer Proposal or filed a personal bankruptcy reported “only making minimum payments” as the main indicator they had a debt problem.
Debt-stress can impact our personal well-being, our relationships, family and even our work. If any of these debt-stress symptoms sound familiar to your life, please know that you are not alone – and there are solutions!
- Constantly worrying about your debts;
- Being scared or anxious about your financial situation;
- Feeling desperate or hopeless.
There are legal debt management options that give you the right to a financial fresh start. Meet with a non-judgmental debt help professional at Sands & Associates to learn more.
If you recognize any of these signs of a looming debt problem or are concerned that your debts will soon become unmanageable, reach out to meet with a local Sands & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee. It could take as little as an hour to get a plan to become debt-free with a confidential free debt consultation.
Ready to get started with a debt-free plan? Book your free debt consultation with Sands & Associates now.