If the board game “Monopoly” replicated real life more closely, the rules would have to be changed to include buying whatever you want even if you can’t afford it, multiple credit cards and loans from the bank for each player, and a ‘Get Out of Debt Free’ card from the community chest. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t come with the card…

Most people experience nagging debt at some point in their lives, but for those that are in serious long-term debt trouble with what appears to be no way out, the consequences to their personal lives can be tragic. Excess stress of any kind can lead to an increase in various health problems, and when the stress is long-term those health issues may become chronic or even deadly. Over 70% of adults in America feel stressed about money (25% are continuously stressed), with one in three couples claiming it has strained their relationship. It is crucial to identify and acknowledge the problem early, and deal with it before it takes a toll on you and your family. There are countless signs of debt trouble, and you don’t have to be guilty of too many to be in a serious predicament.

Serious Debt Problem Checklist – How many are you guilty of?

Credit Cards

-Never or rarely paying more than the minimum payment
-Applying for another credit card to pay an existing card
-Near the limit on each of your credit cards
-Consistently charging more each month than you make in payments
-Working 2 jobs or overtime to keep up with your credit card payments
-Carrying more than four credit cards
-Using your credit card to buy necessities like food or gasoline because you have no money

Loans

-Borrowing money to pay off other debts
-Refinancing a loan to reduce your monthly payment
-Needing a co-signer because you’re a high credit risk
-Getting turned down for credit, consolidation loans, etc
-Consolidating your loans but not closing the paid-off accounts
-Borrowing against the equity in your home
-Financing your vehicle for six or more years

Your Financial Snapshot

-No savings
-Bouncing checks or missing payments
-Not knowing how much you owe
-Receiving phone calls or letters regarding overdue accounts and/or disconnected services
-Dipping into designated savings such as kid’s education accounts or your retirement funds to pay monthly bills
-Lying or hiding financial matters or purchases from your spouse / family
-Depending on parents, family, or friends to bail you out
-Ignoring bills
-Considering bankruptcy

Credit Counseling

When you finally realize you are drowning in insurmountable debt, having to pay for debt counseling feels as though the life raft just got pushed farther out to sea. Fortunately there are non-profit organizations that offer these services for free or at a very low cost.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a non-profit organization consisting of almost 600 member offices throughout the United States. Since 1951 they have been providing counseling on all matters related to an individual’s financial health. Their Certified Credit Counselors provide a financial review unique to each person’s particular situation addressing things such as debt, housing, and money management skills. The NFCC also provides many free and/or affordable counseling services in areas such as credit/debt, bankruptsy, home ownership financial issues, student loans, financial education, etc.

Credit Counselling Canada can help you locate not-for-profit credit counselling agencies throughout Canada. These agencies provide unbiased and objective advice when assisting people in sorting out their personal finances. Inability to pay is not a barrier to receiving the support you need, thanks to donations from creditors, grants, some fee collection, and other sources of funding. A Certified Credit Counsellor will assess a client’s financial situation, offer guidance in the development of a household budget, and help them examine various options to come up with a plan that suits their circumstances.