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Tackling your debts

Don’t keep your debt a secret anymore. Use our 6 Step Plan to come clean.

Posted 27 February 2015

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Are you in debt, but keeping it a secret from your partner? You’re not alone.

 

Hiding debt from your loved ones can be draining. It takes a lot of energy to hide the stresses and strains of owing money from those you love, especially if you live with them. Hiding it from those who are not in the same household is easier, but imagine having to run to the letterbox each morning to see if there are any debt letters waiting for you, then hiding them away so that your other half, or your kids, don’t see. It can lead to lies, which can lead to problems in the family, which can lead to all kinds of other trouble.

 

And, this is a widespread problem, with our survey showing that more than one in ten people hide their money issues from those closest to them. So, if you’re struggling with debt and you’re hiding it from your other half, see if our 6 step plan can help:

Step 1 … Be honest about the amount of debt you have.

There’s no point plucking up the courage to speak about your debt to your partner if you’re not prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It may seem scary, but getting it all out there in one go is going to be much easier than admitting to half the debt, and then having to worry for another two weeks before you admit to the other half.

Step 2 … Work out what you want to say beforehand.

Some people simply don’t know how to approach a subject like this, particularly when it’s a husband or wife who’s being deceived. Numerous forum posts on various websites related to debt reveal that the number one reason for arguments, after there’s been an admission of debt, is because of the trust issues it throws up. So, if you think this may be an issue in your relationship, why not list all the reasons why you didn’t want say anything. Maybe you didn’t want to worry them? Or perhaps you thought it wasn’t fair to bring debts from a previous relationship into this one? Whatever the reason, if you explain it, it’ll help your other half understand your motivations and, hopefully, reassure them.

 

This is likely to be an emotionally charged time, there might be anger, shouting and crying as a result of your admission. So, if speaking the words out loud seems too scary, why not put it in a letter. This allows you to give your loved one all the details in a clear and concise way.

 

Choose your time and place carefully too … you both want to be focused on the issue, not distracted by the kids or the TV, and you’ll need to set aside enough time to have a real discussion.

Step 3 … Provide them with evidence.

This may sound a bit strange, but as your partner has just found out that you’ve been keeping something from them, it may take more than your word to convince them of your honesty now. So, you could print out a copy of your credit card statements and bank account, as well as anything else you have that’s related to the debts to show to your partner. This will also help when you start planning to sort the debts out.

Step 4 … Come up with a payment plan together.

Now it’s time to come up with a solution that you can both live with and afford. It may be that pooling your resources with your partner will be enough to allow you to start paying off the debts without any outside help. And that would be great. A good place to start is by looking at your income and outgoings … you could use a budget planner to do this … and work out how much you could realistically commit towards repaying your debts each month.

 

If you feel able to, then speak to your lenders and let each of them know how much you could afford to repay. However, if you find that you’re not able to cope financially, there are a number of debt solutions available and which one you choose will depend on your circumstances: The options are:

 

Debt Management Plans (DMP)

 

Debt Consolidation

 

Debt Relief Order (DRO)

 

Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

 

Bankruptcy

 

If you live in Scotland you can explore these options:

 

Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS)

 

Trust Deed

 

Minimal Asset Process (MAP)

 

Remember, you don’t have to tackle your debts or your lenders alone if you don’t want to … help and advice is available.

Step 5 … Discuss your attitudes to money.

Maybe now is also the time to address your attitude towards spending with your partner. They may be keen savers, or perhaps they could do with watching their spending too. It’s good to decide together how you’re going to tackle the problem, to make sure that you’re on the same page.

Step 6 … Hand over the reins.

It might also be worth handing over the reins to your partner for a while, especially if they are better with money than you. You can even give authority for your partner to speak on your behalf, so you don’t have to deal with people on the phone, for example. This approach can give you a bit of breathing space, allowing you time to de-stress and regain some balance in your life. Then, when you feel ready, simply take over the reins again.

 

One final piece of advice … don’t suffer in silence. If you don’t feel able to speak to your partner about your debt problems, but you need to talk it over, please find someone else you can confide in … a friend or relative perhaps. Or, one of our expert advisers will be able to listen to your situation and talk you through the different debt solutions that are available (fees are chargeable on some solutions). The advice that you receive from an advisor could help you to start to turn your finances around.

by Shelley Bowers

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.