Don’t rush to judge a person in debt.
Debt can be a crushing weight on a person’s mind and heart, and it doesn’t help to form preconceptions about why someone has ended up in debt.
Many personal finance writers (like myself) spend so much time going on about budgeting and frugality that it can seem as though we assume that keeping our finances in the black will be easy for everyone. However, the reasons for debt can be extremely varied, as my own experience shows.
I’ve spoken to individuals who have ended up in debt because of relationship trouble (including being defrauded by a spouse), personal illness or illness in the family and gambling addiction, as well as simply spending more than they earn. Far too many of us simply don’t earn enough money to support ourselves and our families, and those of us who have the means of comfortably doing so shouldn’t assume that life is the same for everyone else.
The reasons for slipping into debt are often composed of several factors, and a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not help; rather, it can heap on the stigma, adding to the indebted person’s mental distress and stopping them from taking the action or getting the help they need.
It can cause psychological and physical harm
Debtor’s gaol may be a thing of the past, but carrying debts around can feel like a prison in itself. Your debts – depending on how large they are – can restrict your choices as to almost every aspect of how you live, even your love life. It’s easy to see how the stress of debt, demand letters and bailiffs can mount up and cause a person to make even more poor financial decisions… that stress can even cause physical illness.
It’s best to take pre-emptive steps, like careful budgeting, to try to avoid it… but if it’s too late to avoid it, then chastising isn’t going to help.
Even a mountain of debt can be tackled – it’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Although most of us would wig out at the thought of having to repay tens of thousands of pounds of consumer debt, it can be done! I’ve featured real-life stories of people who have faced down mammoth sums of debt and come out the other side, brimming with the hope of helping others like them.
They’ve learned good financial habits and principles and used their bad experiences and mistakes to launch them into financial independence.
Sometimes it has taken many, many years for individuals to get to their lowest point and realise that they had to make a significant change in their mindset in order to wipe their debts out. Still, what this shows is that, even those whose financial patterns may perhaps once have been unhealthy can and do change.
The person you judge today may turn into the person who helps you tomorrow.
Sometimes external help is the only way to go.
Inspirational tales are great, but let’s face it: sometimes we need more. It may be as simple as a friend lending an ear or some advice on cutting costs, but sometimes it may be something more along the lines of a formal debt management plan.
There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it. None of us immediately have all of the answers for all of our lives’ questions, so we shouldn’t expect others to immediately have all of the answers for theirs. Instead, we should try to be the one who helps instead of judges from afar.