When in Debt, Dig yourself Out!

Sat in with clients for a FA-conducted Personal Financial Planning Course (with certification) on Saturday. This is a very good 2-day workshop covering all aspects of personal financial planning – from cash-flow and debt management, to investments, to wealth protection, to estate planning. Even though there are 1-2 sessions that are specific to Muslims, overall it gives a very good foundation (or even review, to those who already have some knowledge) for one to take charge of their finances and bring it to another level!

One slide in particular, struck an emotional chord in me. I remember how due to unforeseen circumstances and naivety / lack of planning, I “fell into” debt before embarking on this financial advisory career. The full story will be told another time. However, suffice to say that it was a very scary position to be in, especially with little to no income to cope with the escalating interest and original sum owed. I risked losing my (then only) life insurance policy, and in a twist, my insurance policy helped me some way in paying back my debt. No, I did not surrender the policy; and fast forward about 5 years later, I now have 7 policies to my name. I would like more, however these cover at least my basic needs for now. (How much insurance one needs is specific to each person’s circumstances. Contact us for a consultation and review.)

Anyway, what I wanted to bring across to those who are in debt, is:

  • Not to hide your head in the sand and ignore it (the problem will get bigger, and it is only a matter of time before the bank or loan sharks call you to task).
  • Not to get into more debt (spend within your means or not at all!. Temporary sacrifice and some pain even, might be necessary to get yourself out of the hole.)
  • Never borrow from unlicensed moneylenders or loan sharks!
  • *Do work on a debt repayment plan and stick to it. It is possible to get out of it, and the sooner you start, the better. Otherwise, a $5,000 debt can become $17,000, and a $10,000 debt can become $34,000 or more in 5 years. 
  • Stop looking for more short-cuts that are likely to mire you in more debt and trouble. This is akin to gambling. We all know who is the consistent winner in gambling. It is not the gambler.
  • Do seek assistance if you need to. (You can approach me or CCS www.CCS.org.sg for example.) There might be a cost, however the few hundred that you spend to RIGHT the problem, would be much less than the interest and penalty amounts that are burying you into more debt.
  • There is no shame when you are working to solve the problem, and you are responsible and teachable / humble enough to get help or someone to be accountable to.
  • Be patient and long-sighted. Just as time is needed to grow your investments / savings, time is also needed to reverse the effect of unwanted compounded interest from debt. You will be in a much stronger and better position years from now (time passes fast), because of the decision you make today, and the daily follow-up action after. 

After this whole episode, you should have a new set of habits that will set you on the path of financial stability. (Just keep in mind to reinforce these positive new habits, instead of letting the old habits creep back.) Hello, peace of mind, rest, pride, and harmony!

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