A Positive Approach To Debt Problems

The consumer credit boom of the last decade or so has led to record levels of personal debt, to a large extent secured against ever increasing property prices. Most analysts now agree that this era of cheap and easy credit is over, and that there are storm clouds gathering on the economic horizon. Whatever the prospects for the economy as a whole, there's no disputing the fact that a rapidly increasing number of people are finding that their debt levels are causing problems in their lives, whether through a lack of disposable income because of escalating repayments, or - worse - serious problems in meeting commitments, with the specter of personal insolvency being raised. Problem debt is difficult to face up to.

It's sometimes easier to leave mail unopened, and finances unexamined, in the vain hope that the problems will rectify themselves. This, however, is the absolute worst approach you could take if your debts are getting out of control. If you're to come out of your present difficulties with wellbeing intact, both financially and emotionally, you need to take a positive approach to the situation, however difficult that might be. First, you need to take a good look at your income and outgoings, drawing up a sensible budget that you can stick to. Are there any economies you can make in your life which can help ease the financial strain? Any costs you can cut out? Any ways of getting hold of a little extra money? After examining your finances in this way, even if the prognosis looks bleak, at least you'll have a realistic picture of where you are and any possible ways forward. Also, the psychological effects of starting to take control should not be underestimated - it feels better to be doing something rather than being buffeted helplessly.

It is at this stage that you can begin to examine your options for getting out of difficulties. A good debt adviser will be invaluable in this process, but the basic choices boil down to redrawing your budget, debt consolidation, debt management, or insolvency. Redrawing your budget can involve a total change in your lifestyle. By cutting out as much spending as possible - and this could involve trading in your car for a cheaper model, for example - you will have more cash available to begin clearing your debts. Also, you could consider trying to earn extra money by taking on an extra job or working extra hours if this is an option.

If this is inadequate, a popular choice is to take out a consolidation loan to clear your current debts, leaving you with a more manageable monthly repayment albeit at the cost of higher insurance payments overall. It's important that consolidation isn't just used as a financial sticking plaster. If the reasons you got into debt in the first place aren't addressed, then consolidation can make things much worse years down the line. A more drastic option is entering into a debt management program whereby you, or someone acting on your behalf, negotiate a new repayment program with your creditors on terms that you can realistically stick to.

This will, however, be very damaging to your credit rating. The final option is the extreme action of bankruptcy. This is something that should be avoided at all costs, as the ramifications will last for years into your financial future. The choices you make will be in large part determined by the scale of your debt problems, but one thing's for sure: unless you take a positive approach and begin work on solving them, your problems are only going to get worse and worse.

Martin writes for Debt Sorter, specialists in solving debt problems through consolidation, management, or individual voluntary arrangements (IVA).

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