As this is my last blogpost for MoneyAware and my last day as an employee of StepChange Debt Charity I wanted to sum up what I’ve learned in my six years working here.
I started at the height of the credit crunch, and debt was a subject on everyone’s lips. In my time here the economy has been in turmoil and there’s been a squeeze on wages that has affected most people.
My first job in the charity was as an IVA drafter in our sister company StepChange Voluntary Arrangements (this was in the days when the charity was known as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service).
So in those 5+ years, what have I learnt?
Truth 1: Creditors will generally accept your best offer of payment
My job was to give advice on debt solutions and draft the actual individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) documents for clients. I drafted around 300 IVA proposals in about two years. All but one of them were accepted by creditors. If you make your best offer to creditors, we’ve found they’ll generally be willing to accept.
Truth 2: Debt can happen to anyone
While working as an IVA drafter I heard many stories of how people ended up in debt. In most cases debt problems are caused by life-changing events such as unemployment, relationship breakdown, accident or illness. I learned that problem debt can happen to anyone.
Truth 3: Bust out the budget
In my time here I’ve helped a lot of clients to put together a budget; as someone who is keen on budgeting I was sometimes amazed that some had never put an accurate budget together before. Over the years I’ve seen the clients who paid careful attention to their budgets be successful in repaying their debts. I now spend at least an hour a week looking over my budget to make sure I stay on track. An emergency fund is also a vital part of a budget, whether you have debts or not.
Truth 4: Credit isn’t necessarily bad
I’ve learned that credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself and, like most things in life, it can even be good in moderation. It’s vital not to over-commit yourself though and you should be prepared as your life can change at any time. Despite their bad press creditors aren’t all bad either, as long as you’re honest about your situation. As a charity we want to help the ‘can’t pays’ rather than the ‘won’t pays’; creditors tend to share this attitude.
Truth 5: Never pay for debt advice
I’ve also learnt that there is genuinely no need to EVER pay for debt advice. Our advisors are brilliantly trained and highly knowledgeable and will always strive to give the best advice for your personal situation. We’re not for profit but we are for giving free advice.
Truth 6: My colleagues are great at helping people in debt
I’ve made some great friends while working for the charity and together we’ve served a great common cause – ‘free debt advice’. My colleagues are knowledgeable, committed, ethical, funny and warm and they treat people who contact us with a great deal of empathy and never judge them. It’s time for me to hand over to another person to take on my role now. I hope they enjoy it and learn as much as I did during my time with this great charity.