So now we’ve looked at my 3 biggest mistakes (not asking questions about money, loving money that wasn’t mine and not understanding why I spend money), out of a cast of thousands, it’s time to talk about solutions. While we’ll talk about practical solutions another time, there’s one very important thing you need to do when you are struggling financially.
Now I don’t mean take out an ad in the paper or tell the checkout chick about your financial woes, but you do need to find at least one person (more if you can) in your circle of trusted friends and family that you can confide in.*
This is a scary step, no question about it, especially if you’ve been doing a really good job at covering up for a long time. It’s terrifying to open up to someone and say “I am struggling.” This is probably true for more than just money issues.
You can read about another writers experience with opening up about debt (to the tune of $25,000 and how if they hadn’t actually spoken to someone for help, it would have continued)
I confided in a friend of mine who is one of those self-made types – started with nothing, worked hard, invested money wisely and is obsessive about paying off mortgages. He knows the pain of sacrifice and is now reaping the rewards.
So I sat him down and told him the story through floods of tears. I remember saying “I earn great money and I have nothing.” I was embarrassed, I was sad and I was worried. Most of all, I was waiting for a lecture.
The lecture never came; there was simply support, understanding, pragmatism and just the right amount of sympathy. While divulging my story was difficult and very emotional, it was an instant relief. I had someone to talk over options with, ask questions of and give me a pep talk when I was having a hard time. It was easily the best thing I ever did.
As I started to get my affairs in order and organised my debt consolidation loan, I made a commitment to myself that I would be that trusted person to someone else if anyone ever needed it. I felt it was my responsibility as someone who knew how awful debt was to be a safe person for somebody to talk to. I also made a commitment to myself that if someone confided in me, it would go no further and that I would never be a preachy, reformed spender type. I’ve known enough reformed smokers to know how annoying that is!
I decided to pay it back and help someone else with their debt
One day at work, a colleague of mine mentioned in passing that she was tired after spending all night awake feeling the crushing weight of her credit card debt on her chest. Boy was I familiar with that feeling. I made good on my commitment and let her know that I’d been through the same thing and that I’d found a solution that she might be interested in exploring. I’d like to think I helped just a little that day.
It’s human nature to want to talk about money; especially when you need help
I’ve confided in a few more people since those early days – some with full details and some just a general overview. I’ve made sure to tell them how I am turning my situation around as well and it’s helped in more ways than I had anticipated. It has given people around me the opportunity to understand why I am saying “no” or “not this week” and that I mean it. It’s also made them stop doing the sums in their head about how much money they think I should have based on my income. There is nothing worse than the weight of expectation from people who don’t know your situation.
Everyone has been supportive, some haven’t known what to say and that’s OK. I don’t want you to solve my problem or offer me money, I just want to share with you my story because I’d like you to know and maybe you just happen to have the same story too.
That’s what has been so lovely about writing for an open audience about my own financial situation; the “oh me too” response. So many people have commented or messaged me saying, “gee your story sounds like mine” or “I wish I’d known about that particular mistake before I made it.” It really is incredible to think how many people out there are suffering and struggling in silence.
If you’re having issues with your finances, find that trusted person or people and let them know. A problem shared is a problem halved, at least in the psychological sense.
*If you absolutely have nobody you can confide in, look for a community service organisation in your town that offers financial counselling and tell them.