Frivolous spending, too many holidays or just greed are common
reasons why people who are not in debt believe others get into
I gathered a group of people round a table last week, with
nobody owing any debt other than a mortgage, to ask them their
thoughts about why debt problems existed. The answers were
"Because they buy, buy, buy and don't think about the
"People just think, I'll spend it now and pay it later without
having a plan."
"It's because people can't manage their money."
Some people realised it wasn't just overspending in an
uncontrollable fashion causing debt problems, but a change in
circumstances. However, nobody sympathised towards a person dealing
with a debt problem and certainly didn't think they should offer
I personally still have debt - my student loan from my time
studying is still being repaid. The interest rate is low and it's
being cleared slowly, but surely, from the original balance. I too
have used credit cards and paid them off, but if circumstances were
different, for example divorce/separation or a drop or loss
of income, then I could have had a credit card debt which I
couldn't repay in such a structured way. Most people may need to
turn to credit to survive at a difficult period with the honest
intention of repaying the debt in the future.
The Debt Support Trust charity was established because I have
witnessed the crippling social and economic destruction debt
problems can cause. I've watched friends and family struggle; their
plight known by nobody, with their pain, worry and stress almost
being masked with a stern, emotionless façade to conceal the true
gravity of the panic their situation was causing them.
In reality, debt problems occur for a variety of different
reasons. It can be down to overspending on day to day life where
the credit cards become a noose around your neck and you face a
struggle to get free. Rarely have I ever spoken to somebody
overspending on credit who has said they did it deliberately and
without concern for their creditors. A debt problem can occur
through a divorce or separation. The household costs, which were
once paid from two incomes, have now to be paid by one. Even if
somebody takes action to address the deficit each month, it will
take time to put the plans in motion and all the time the total
debt is increasing. Injury or illness can force a person to stop
working and their pre-existing debt, which was manageable, still
has to be serviced but on a much reduced income.
There are various reasons why a person could get into debt and
it's not always as simple as "they just overspend and buy whatever
People contacting Debt Support Trust often feel frightened,
unsure and alone. Frequently people cry when they explain how they
have reached this point in their life. Their partner, family and
friends may not know the full extent of their money problems and
speaking to our charity advice team is the first time saying out
loud: "I have a debt problem".
When helping people overcome their debt problem, they don't want
our sympathy or pity or for somebody to judge their situation. What
people really want when they call the charity is for somebody to
listen to their financial predicament and offer useful, relevant
and tailored solutions so they can take control of their finances,
Breakdown the Stigma
There's only one route to resolving a debt problem and it's
through a direct and honest approach to the situation. It's
uncomfortable and for many people they won't have opened their mail
or spoken to their creditors about their financial problem for
months. Taking the first step is the hardest and is often a
knee-jerk reaction when contacting us for advice - "today's the
day" is what we hear frequently.
Through breaking down the stigma of debt we're encouraging
people to seek debt help. It may not be from Debt Support Trust but
instead the team at the local Citizens Advice Bureau, but seeking
professional advice is important to take the first step back out of
debt. Attitudes and opinions to debt need to change as people need
the encouragement and strength to deal with the debt head on.
Being in debt is a miserable experience for anybody, so when
somebody is struggling to repay their debt they require support and
that's what Debt Support Trust is available to offer.
Former businessman Dermot turned to Debt Support Trust for
advice after he'd been made bankrupt over a £70,000 debt owed to
the Inland Revenue.
The 45-year-old married dad-of-two faced financial troubles with
a number of creditors after his successful business hit hard times
when he lost a number of regular contracts.
Dermot admitted he got into 'severe financial trouble', making
matters worse by having his 'head in the sand' over growing money
worries and avoided even sharing his financial woes with his wife.
His marriage broke down and Dermot faced major health issues with
stress and depression.
Since being made bankrupt In 2012 he's faced further issues when
legal moves began to force the sale of his family's home to release
equity to reduce his debts. He's still locked in a court battle
over the case.
Dermot said: "Without question Debt Support Trust has saved my
life. At one stage I felt I had nowhere to turn to and I was being
put under incredible pressure. Their advice and support has been
"Their team has allowed my voice to be louder and clearer as
I've faced organisations who see me simply as a case number in a
file on someone's desk. They've helped me write letters and given
advice at a time I wanted and needed it and I just don't know what
I'd have done without them. They've never judged me - they've just
Stuart Carmichael is the Chief Executive of Debt Support Trust
which is open 8am to 7pm Monday to Friday and supports people with
advice and solutions to their debt problem.