Seniors often use credit cards as a means of financing extra or unexpected costs that they otherwise could not afford. While using credit cards and other money-loaning schemes can provide a quick-fix solution to those struggling with finances, the debt racked up by these expenditures can cause significant stress, especially for older adults.
Facing debt at any age can be daunting; however, for seniors, knowing how to deal with debt can be difficult and overwhelming, particularly for those who live alone. If you are a pensioner experiencing money worries, don’t bury your head in the sand. Below, we discuss the issue of debt and offer some advice to help you manage your finances and regain control:
When to Tackle Debt
At first, getting into debt may not seem like too big of an issue. However, further down the line, your increasing credit card bill may start to cause you concern, especially if you are spending more than you initially thought you would. You should consider getting help with your debt as soon as possible if you find you are:
- Feeling low, anxious or depressed about money
- Relying solely on your credit card or overdraft for sustenance
- Struggling to pay bills
- Missing or avoiding bill payments
- Purposely failing to respond to those chasing bill payments
Who can Help with Debt
There are a variety of companies that can assist you with managing your debt, however, many charge for their services. Alternatively, to save you spending even more money, you can contact any of the below charities who offer free debt advice services for those seeking financial help:
- Age UK – can put you in touch with companies that can help
- Advice UK – offer free guidance from their independent advice network
- Citizens Advice – provide help through face-to-face, telephone or email services
- Debt Advice Foundation – offer financial guidance via its helpline (0800 043 40 50) and website
- National Debtline – provide over-the-phone (0808 808 4000) and online support along with a self-help information pack
- StepChange Debt Charity – provide telephone (0800 138 111) and email advice services through which a tailored repayment plan can be created
Ways to Help Yourself
As well as seeking expert advice, there are also things you can do yourself to help tackle your debt:
Decide on a Repayment Method
Figuring out the best method of paying back your debt is a good place to start when facing the problem. If you have one significant debt, try and work out how much you could afford to pay back on a regular basis without making life difficult for yourself.
If you have several debts to repay, you could approach these in two ways: you could start by making payments on the debt with the highest interest rate, repaying as little as possible on your other debts. Alternatively, you could pay off the smallest debt entirely while contributing minimal payments to your other debts, meaning you’ll have one less debt overall, which could encourage you to make further repayments on the rest.
Monitor your Spending
Paying off your debts successfully is only possible if you have total control of your spending. Consequently, it is worth sitting down and looking closely at your outgoings to identify firstly, where you are spending the most money and secondly, where you could save money. Small changes can make a big difference, so don’t be afraid to make them. For example, cancelling a newspaper subscription or reusing leftovers instead of buying more food could significantly help you make savings.
Be Aware of Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status that enables a person to write off their debt as the result of being unable to pay it. However, filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process due to the fact that there are several types of bankruptcy, many of which may not suit you. Similarly, going bankrupt has several consequences that may impact you financially for the rest of your life and could stop you doing the things you want to in the future once you are back on your feet. Ultimately, declaring yourself bankrupt should be a last resort, but is a resort nonetheless.
If you are a pensioner struggling with debt, take action now to regain control of your finances and become debt-free. For more information on money saving or to receive legal advice for elderly friends with money worries, visit our money and legal pages now.