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How to start a conversation about your debt

StepChange, the UK’s leading debt advice charity, helps over 600,000 people with free, impartial debt advice each year. They see first hand how talking openly about money issues helps people, so we asked Dan from StepChange to tell us more about how to open up and what you can expect from them if you do.      

We know that talking about money, and in particular facing up to your debt situation for the first time, can be daunting. Our 2019 research shows that opening up and seeking debt advice really makes a difference, with 56% of people saying they felt able to deal with day-to-day life better than before they sought debt advice, and 51% saying they were able to sleep better compared to before they got help. 

Hannah was constantly stressed and anxious about her financial problems until she decided to get in touch. “It was a huge relief to know that I wasn’t alone and had someone to talk to. It eased the pressure off me, and that night, I actually managed to sleep for the first time in a long time.” 

We hear so many stories just like Hannah’s. In fact, as the UK’s leading debt advice charity, providing free, impartial debt advice online and over the phone, we listen to over 600,000 stories just like this every year.  As Zopa launches as a UK bank, we’ve been working closely with them to share the stories we’ve both heard, and work together to make our tools and services available to Zopa’s customers, so they can access support if they need it.   

We know money can be a very emotive topic and it can be hard to start a conversation – personally or with someone else who you believe might be struggling. Our finances can make us feel upset and anxious, and we know this can be a barrier to talking about it for the first time. 

We’ve found that it’s best if you’re open and honest about your financial situation, even though it can be difficult. Opening up can help you feel less alone. At StepChange, our specially trained expert advisors will never judge you, but instead help you take that first, all-important step to getting you back on track.

If you’re ready to get debt advice but don’t want to talk about it over the phone, our online debt advice tool is available 24/7. So, if making that call feels too overwhelming right now, help is still available. 

Take a look at our guide to talking about debt for more support and guidance. 

How do I know if I need debt advice?

There are many warning signs of a possible debt problem. If you often find yourself relying on credit to pay for essentials like food and bills, or you find yourself stuck in your overdraft month after month, these could all be signs that you’re struggling financially. 

Our simple, 60 second debt test can help you understand how close you are to having a debt problem, and whether you might benefit from free and confidential debt advice. 

What are some of the potential solutions?

There are many debt solutions and different ways to resolve a debt problem. It’s important to find the right solution to help with your particular situation. Our expert debt advisors can help you understand what might be the best option for you. Here are some of the range of debt solutions we offer: 

  • Debt management plan

If you’re on a debt management plan (DMP) you’ll make a single monthly payment, based on what you can afford, which is then shared amongst the people you owe money to. This type of plan is normally best if you’re struggling to meet the original repayment amounts you’ve agreed with those you owe. 

  • Individual Voluntary Arrangement

An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA), is a formal agreement allowing you to make monthly affordable payments towards your debts over five or six years. At the end of your IVA, any unsecured debt still left to pay is written off. You can also choose to make a single lump sum payment, known as a lump-sum IVA. 

  • Debt consolidation

Debt consolidation usually means taking out one unsecured loan to allow you to pay off all your other debt, meaning you make one more manageable monthly payment, instead of making multiple payments towards multiple debt. If you’re considering this option, it’s important you understand there can be extra costs involved. To understand all the risks, it’s important to get impartial advice before going ahead with debt consolidation.

Everyone’s situation is different and all of these options above come with different risks, as well as impacts on your credit record, so it’s really important you fully understand these before beginning a solution. A full list of the debt management solutions we offer at StepChange is available on our website as well as our quick, easy benefits calculator, so you can see if there is anything you can claim to help improve your situation. 

How do I get debt advice?

Once you’re ready to get debt advice, we recommend gathering up-to-date information about your finances, including your income, outgoings and debts.  

You can then use our online debt help tool to get debt advice online at your own pace. 

Or, if you’d prefer to talk to someone, you can call our debt experts on 0800 138 1111. They’re available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm or Saturday 8am to 4pm. 

Daniel Woodhead is Business Development Manager at StepChange Debt Charity. StepChange help over 600,000 people each year deal with debt and for over 25 years have collaborated with partner organisations to help people take back control of their finances and their lives.