Just How Involved Do You Really Need To Be In Your Debt Review?
Dealing with debt is stressful. So getting professional help with your debt from a Debt Counsellor can be a great idea. You can get to sit back and relax for the first time in years. But can you? How involved do you really need to be in your debt review?
Before entering debt review you will admit that your debt situation was out of control. It felt like no matter what you did you could never catch a break. Over time you slowly had less and less available credit until eventually everyone was upset with you and chasing you for payments.
You had the daily stress of earning an income (and that is tough enough in itself these days). Then you and your family had to decide what necessities to try to buy with the available funds you had as slowly your available balances shrank each month. Eventually, you had the stress of dealing with collections agents and then trying to duck and dodge their calls and messages.
What a relief then to go to a professional Debt Counsellor and have them look over your financial situation and hear them tell you that everything is going to be ok. They will tell you they have seen situations much worse than yours and successfully helped people get out of much more debt.
It is natural to feel relieved and excited. It’s like someone has taken a huge weight off your back, a stone out of your gut and you can finally breathe properly for the first time in ages.
Given that it is natural not to want to think about something that has been stressing you out for so long and given that you are now getting professional help why might you need to stay involved in what happens next?
‘it is natural not to want to think about something that has been stressing you out for so long’
Debt Review Is Not Perfect
The process is great. It has helped hundreds of thousands of people deal with their debt but that doesn’t mean that the National Credit Act (which is the law that introduced debt review) is perfect. In fact, it has repeatedly been pointed out by courts across the country that there are issues with the Act. Amendments have been made but some major issues have repeatedly been ignored by the law makers for some strange reason. This has left huge gaps in the act that credit providers (and even Debt Counsellors) have abused.
This means that in some cases debt review will only “kinda” work for you and” kinda” protect your assets. If you completely ignore the entire thing you might find you are facing some big issues you never even knew could come along. For example, getting out of debt review early before paying off all your small debts is still tricky and not provided for in the Act.
Debt Counsellors Are Not Perfect
Debt Counsellors and the people who help them are by no means perfect and all powerful. You cannot expect this small business owner to have more clout than all the countries banks combined. Also, they (very rarely) make clerical errors. A staff member may capture an account number incorrectly or the Counsellor might forget to include a necessary document along the way. This is why they carry professional insurance, in case they mess up.
It is also difficult to understand at first but even though you, as the consumer, are paying the Debt Counsellor each month they actually don’t work for you in the traditional sense. They work for the courts and help the court to restructure your debt. That is not to say they don’t care about you but they need to treat you fairly and balance your needs with those of the credit provider.
Credit Providers Are Not Perfect
Though they are multimillion Rand operations with hundreds of staff all credit providers make mistakes. This even happens with debt review. They neglect to send requested information, they don’t capture court orders on their system quickly, they work out fees and interest incorrectly. Sometimes they don’t even send you a statement with the amount you owe. They may even have one department helping you with debt review while another tries to set lawyers on you to collect the very same debt.
PDAs Are Not Perfect
Payment Distribution Agents have great computer programs that help Debt Counsellors organize how your debts will be repaid. They send you monthly statements of what happened to your money but they are also able to hit some snags. It is possible because of a hiccup with an account number or because of an incorrect reference number that you use for a payment to not get to your credit provider (Just another reason to check those monthly statements). They are also businesses that face financial challenges in an environment where government doesn’t want to help them cover their costs by adjusting their fees.
Whose Debt Is It?
Now you can go through the entire debt review process and never hit a single snag. Many consumers never have any issues other than making sure their monthly payments are done on time. However, knowing that there are a lot of moving parts (we never even spoke about the courts and your attorneys) it is smart to get to learn a bit about the process you are using to sort out your debt problems. It is your debt after all.
‘Could you ask your personal trainer to do exercise for you and expect to get in shape? No, obviously not’
It sometimes helps to think of a Debt Counsellor as being like a personal trainer at a gym. They can really help and advise you showing you what and what not to do. Could you ask your personal trainer to do exercise for you and expect to get in shape? No, obviously not.
The same is true with debt review. The Debt Counsellor can help and advise you but you are the one with the debt and you need to keep your finger on the pulse.
At first, it is natural to let the Debt Counsellor and Attorneys do all the work (that is also why most of the fees you ever pay are upfront) but once the initial few weeks of feeling relieved and stress free are gone it is wise to keep an eye on how things are going. Here are some things you can try to do:
- Communicate with your Debt Counsellor. Don’t go overboard and start messaging them at 3 in the morning but stay in touch. Check in every now and then and ask how things are going.
- Get to know your proposed plan and the plan the court eventually grants (they might differ a bit and the one form the court is the most important).
- Check your PDA statement each month and see if payments are reflecting on your credit provider statement. They may differ slightly but if you see missing payments or the balances starting to get big then let your Debt Counsellor know.
- Get to be great at living on a cash budget. Learn to shop like a pro and get the best deals. Save a little every month for those annual costs (don’t forget about them).
- Look for ways to increase your income (that won’t burn you out or make problems with your current boss). If you get a significant increase or bonus then be sure to talk to your Debt Counsellor about how best to use the extra funds.
- Learn more about how debt review works and how credit works too so that you understand how you are going to eventually leave the process and then hopefully never need it again.
‘Getting help with your debt really is a great way to reduce your stress. Your entire life will change for the better’
Getting help with your debt really is a great way to reduce your stress. Your entire life will change for the better but it is also wise to not hand over responsibility for your debts entirely. Rather learn how the debt review process works and work alongside your Debt Counsellor to turn your financial future around. Make sure you are actively involved in this journey to financial freedom.