“Too much month left at the end of the money?”
Warning signs of financial difficulty.
Today we are featuring a blog post written by Crystal Buhler: Licensed Insolvency Trustee with C. Buhler & Associates Ltd. (www.Debtfreenorth.com).
It’s happened again – payday came, and went, and so did the money. You feel frustrated that you never seem to be able to make the money last. From kids' clothing to making sure utility bills are paid, there just never seems to be enough. Don’t worry – you aren’t alone. Financial difficulties are common among women for many reasons - longer life expectancy, fewer working years due to caretaking roles in the family, and the wage gap just to name a few.
In recent years, the gender split between males and females who choose to take advantage of Canada’s Insolvency legislation – the laws that govern reducing or eliminating debt for those in serious financial trouble – has decreased. In the most recent years, the split is much closer to 50/50 between the sexes than it was even 10 years ago. As the typical Canadian household demographic changes, we see the financial responsibility increasingly shift to women.
So, how do you know when you are in a position where you need to consider formal debt relief options? Do women reach the point of considering formal debt options before men, or do they wait longer? How does debt impact women differently than it might impact their male counterparts? There are many gendered aspects of debt, and we seek to educate women on the warning signs and red flags they might see and provide options about where they can seek help.
Warning signs of financial difficulty for women can include the following:
Feeling ‘stressed’, even when not thinking about finances, or paying bills: Women tend to carry a lot of stress, which can impact their physical health. If you haven’t been feeling rested, if you feel more on edge without a specific reason why, or if you just can’t seem to concentrate, you may be feeling the impacts of financial stress. Some of these symptoms can also be related to other conditions, so it’s important to have a good relationship with your primary care health provider. However, when you are speaking with them, be sure to let them know about all stresses you are facing, including financial ones. Perhaps an upcoming change in your family situation, such as expecting a baby, considering retirement, or welcoming an adult child back home is contributing to your financial stress. More immediate concerns, such as an upcoming large home repair bill, or vehicle replacement may be impacting you more than you think. If you are carrying this type of stress on a long-term basis, your health will begin to suffer.
Receiving calls from your financial institution, or collection agents: many women are very busy and wear many different ‘hats’ for their families, their employer, and their community. A financial warning sign that often signals impending difficulty is receiving collection calls, whether from your bank, or perhaps from a collection agent. If you’ve been too busy to spend time managing your budget, you might find you’ve missed a payment. Several missed payments begin to impact your credit history, which will affect your ability to get future credit. Although sometimes missing payments are a sign of being overly busy, the reverse is also true – sometimes you are busy to avoid dealing with your inability to make the payments. In either case, phone calls or collection messages are a sign that it’s time to slow down, and get a handle on your finances, either on your own or by reaching out to a professional (more on those options below!).
Having difficulty affording necessities without using credit: when you are at the grocery store, you may be accustomed to paying with your credit card in order to earn points or travel miles. However, when you are choosing to pay with credit because you don’t have the cash available, this can be a financial warning sign. The same goes for any necessities that you need credit to afford – utility bills, fuel or transportation costs, and insurance. Using credit to support a struggling budget is not a long-term financial solution and is a red flag that you need to work to revamp your budget, either together or with a professional.
Relational difficulties when discussing topics around money: Does it seem like every time you mention money, your partner becomes distant? Or perhaps it’s you who isn’t too keen on having ‘the money talk’. Do money issues keep your relationship from progressing, or does your significant other seem reluctant to discuss sharing expenses? For the sake of your relationship, and your sanity, consider working with a financial professional to open the lines of communication about money, debt and retirement. You may find that long-held beliefs about money, stemming from how you viewed money as a child are still impacting you today. Perhaps you saw good money mentorship habits, or you were not so lucky. No matter your past experiences, you can work together to design the future – financially and relationally – that you want. Seek help today and encourage your partner to join you.
So, I’ve decided I should probably reach out to discuss my financial situation with someone – where should I go?
Depending on the help you need, there are several options available. We’ve outlined a few below for you:
If you are in need of education: there are many reliable, not-for-profit agencies in Canada that are knowledgeable regarding debt, life changes, and financial issues facing females. You might consider working with a Credit Counselling Agency to find ways to stretch your budget, learn how to talk to your partner about money, or take advantage of their learning resources such as webinars, helpful materials and templates.
If you are in need of debt reduction: the only professionals licensed in Canada to reduce or eliminate your debt are Licensed Insolvency Trustees. Most Trustees will offer a free financial consultation, virtually or in person, and can advise you on topics such as debt reduction, working with your creditors, or federal debt relief options such as Consumer Proposals or bankruptcy. Attending a consultation with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee does not impact your credit and does not get reported on your credit bureau. They are licensed by the federal government to provide you with all the information you need to make the best possible choice, in your circumstance. You can find a Trustee near you by using this tool.
If you are in need of counselling: you may feel that your financial problem is temporary in nature, or is not large enough to consider formal debt reduction options. Sometimes a listening ear or a refresher on stress management techniques can be very helpful. If you have benefits through your work, you may find that your Employee Assistance Program has connections to counsellors. By working with your benefits provider, you can be connected with professionals who understand what you are going through, and can provide you with support. If you aren’t eligible for group benefits, you can reach out to mental health services and supports in your community by using the directory at www.ementalhealth.ca , a non-profit initiative listing numerous community supports across Canada.
What’s Next? Stay tuned for 2 more posts on the topic of bankruptcy
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