Lying about your debt is bad for your health

27 November 2012

There is such a negative stigma around debt that consumers try to pretend it is not there, writes Luke Hirst, MD of Debt experts DebtBusters.

A recent study in the United Kingdom shows that 1 in 3 consumers hide their financial problems from their family. The UK’s “hidden” debt amounts to an estimated £55-billion.

This statistic looks just about right for the South African consumer in debt.

It is a common problem that we see all too often. A consumer is ashamed of their over indebtedness and instead of taking the steps to correct the problem, they bury themselves in sleepless nights, anxiety and alcohol abuse.

The UK report shows that one in five consumers are hiding their debt from their partner, while a tremendous 78% of people who have hidden debt have never confessed to the true extent of their financial dilemma. Of the 22% who did, the majority (60%) were caught out rather than chose to come clean.

The research report went on further to say that of those who were found out, a quarter (25%) reported that they still tried to deny everything, despite the same proportion (26%) stating that hiding the debt only made their money problems worse. A breakdown of spending habits showed that expenditure on clothing was the item women were most likely to lie about while for men it was alcohol.

The dishonesty led to anxiety, with 43% complaining of loss of sleep, 21% of mood swings and 12% admitting that they drank more alcohol; 12% said they could no longer do their job properly.

There is such a negative stigma around debt that consumers try to pretend it is not there. This is not a solution and only exacerbates the problem. Consumers need to be aware that there are debt settlement solutions out there which are specific to each individuals needs.

With 161 749 applications for debt counselling in South Africa to date, and this number climbing every month, more attention needs to be given to Debt Review as an option. The stigma surrounding asking for help and approaching a registered Debt Counsellor needs to be removed.

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