Some quick Don’ts first:
- Don’t get advice on debt from anybody who is getting paid to advise only on debt.
- Don’t bother with the “IVA”s, “easy bankruptcy”, or “we’ll do the negotiations with creditors” people that advertise on TV.
- Don’t even consider bankruptcy, signing any agreements etc. until you’ve talked to somebody from one of the organisations I’ll mention.
- Don’t go for a “consolidation loan” or extend the term of a loan until you’ve talked to somebody from one of the organisations I’ll mention.
If somebody makes a living out of “advice” to people in debt, where do you think the money comes from?
Businesses are there to make money. If somebody is going to do legal or accountancy work for you (setting up some agreement like an IVA, drafting bankruptcy proceedings) or is going to act as your agent (negotiating with people on your behalf) they have got to get paid for it. If you aren’t paying them, the other side is. That means they are acting as the other side’s agent, not yours.
If you are going to pay anybody for advice, use a proper Financial Adviser who is qualified to help you with all things financial, not just debt. However, if you are seriously in debt already I’d suggest that you investigate free help rather than paying for it, at least to start with.
If you want to look at loans, go to a bank (but watch the APR), or better, a Credit Union. You can look up the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL) at Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 OAS, call them on Tel: 0161 832 3694, or mail on E Mail: email@example.com. They also have a search facility
In terms of your rights, whether relating to finance, your house, or anything else there is a legal advice service, Community Legal Advice. It is a free, confidential service paid for by legal aid so there are conditions applied to who qualifies, but it may be worth contacting them to check. 0845 345 4 345
Another general advice service is Citizens Advice. They operate locally (but are a nationally organised charity), so you can talk to somebody local.
For dealing with debt itself, if you are happy to deal with somebody by telephone, you can contact National Debt Line Tel: 0808 808 4000
Credit Action does mainly training for advisers (including private and public organsation staff) on how to handle debt, but they have some great resources on the website and on their money basics site, including a good budget planner.
The CCCS is the leading debt-counselling charity and provides free and confidential advice on debt issues by phone 0800 138 1111.
If you want to DIY yourself through debt, there is a “work through” guide that was developed over three years, works really effectively and is proving very popular.