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Post No.: 0527debt


Furrywisepuppy says:


Mental health problems and debt problems correlate significantly – mental health problems can cause severe debt (e.g. some people on the bipolar spectrum are prone to overspending during a ‘manic’ episode), and severe debt can cause mental health problems due to the stress and anxiety of experiencing financial troubles or poverty.


Financial problems aren’t just about the money – it’s a major cause of stress, relationship breakdowns, and one’s home could be at risk, for example. So try to keep on top of and sort your finances out when you’re well and when things are going well for you because if you unexpectedly become unwell, you’ll find it harder to mentally work out what to do. (It’s like fetching the firewood, collecting the water, setting traps, building a shelter and so forth when you’re well-nourished and doing fine in a wilderness survival situation, rather than when you’re suddenly desperate for water, food and shelter, and are tired and least able to do these critical tasks.)


Mental illness or severe debt may affect your motivation and judgements. You might not have the energy or confidence to deal with phone calls, or to even complain against other people’s errors or maltreatments that aggravate the problem for you. Even directly physically, if you’re under-eating because you cannot afford enough food to eat, or cannot sleep well due to either being homeless or sleeping rough, or if you’re too cold in winter because you cannot afford to put on the heating – that’s not going to give you the energy to function well or to work for an income.


We should all be responsible borrowers but lenders evidently aren’t always responsible themselves (hence the subprime mortgage crisis that contributed to the 2007/2008 Financial Crisis, for instance). Well student loans, mortgages and more are almost an unavoidable part of living in the modern world and not all debt is bad debt. Therefore even those with mental health problems shouldn’t be denied credit. As long as it’s planned for, fully understood, affordable and as cheap as possible then accepting debt can be a rational decision.


But if you do get into serious debt then understand that all debt problems are solvable! Don’t put dealing with it off since debts compound. Not opening those letters won’t mean they don’t exist. If available, get in touch with a non-profit debt counsellor or charity in your country or area – they’re there to help, not judge. Ask for the help of a trusted family member or friend. Practical help is best, such as going together to the bank or to a doctor’s appointment, sitting together whilst making a call, looking after credit cards, and making plans.


They may also agree to let you know if they ever think you’re not feeling mentally well. We really should all be looking out for each other in society for we logically cannot expect people who are mentally unwell to easily recognise that they’re mentally unwell on their own, until perhaps it’s gone too far, because their unwell minds may be too unwell to realise it. Therefore rather than deride people’s potential early signs of exhibiting mental health problems (e.g. for buying too many things they cannot afford, for rapidly putting on or losing weight, for being a loner, for gambling too much), we should take a more educated and compassionate view. Early recognition and treatment is key for a swift and successful recovery of depression too. Woof.


Calculate all of your current ingoings and outgoings. Prioritise your debts (pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first). And draw up a budget and a plan of action. Although it can be broken down into months or weeks, this budget should cover at least one year rather than focus on one month or week at a time, so that those big, one-off yearly or emergency expenditures will also be accounted for, like Christmas, car insurance or boiler repairs. It should be detailed so that nothing is left out. See where you can save costs, what you can claim (you may be entitled to certain government benefits) or can reclaim back, what discounts and freebies you can get, and maybe how you could earn a little bit more (e.g. by selling off some needless or unwanted possessions). Check for any errors on your credit files too.


Stop spending on non-essentials! Recognise your triggers for impulsive spending – for instance, it might be whenever you experience a drop in self-esteem and want something to improve your mood, or whenever you walk past certain shops, or it could be loneliness or boredom. And pre-plan what to do – you might leave your credit cards at home or temporarily give them to your partner, and use the parental controls to turn off online purchases or block certain e-commerce websites altogether. You could sleep on it before clicking ‘buy’ on something, work out how long it’d take to earn the money that item costs in hours worked, or simply not go to the shops. Maybe keep a diary to find out your pattern of behaviour. Sometimes just recognising one’s triggers is enough to take control of one’s impulses.


If your debt is manageable – as in you don’t yet have a cash flow problem to meet the minimum repayments on all debts and to pay for all essential expenditures – then try renegotiating it with your creditors. (Disclosing your mental health problems may need to be done carefully though as they may use it against you even when or once you’re feeling mentally better – so seek advice on this.)


To live sustainably – instead of asking how you can get that shiny new gadget, car, fancy holiday or whatever on your current income, ask what’s the best furry lifestyle you can possibly have on your current income?


A person can fall into bad and unmanageable debt because of a variety of reasons – some reasonably unavoidable because it’s due to bad luck (e.g. an unexpected redundancy or downward change in market conditions, an injury that affects one’s ability to continue working), but some reasonably avoidable because it’s due to spending on things that aren’t necessary.


Many people try to portray an image they want others to see them as, rather than the people they are, such as by pretending to have a higher wealth status than they really have through what expensive clothes and other material accoutrements they display but can barely afford. (Although far more rarely, people can also pretend to have a lower wealth status than they really have in order to seem like just a ‘regular person from the block like everyone else’.) External accoutrements are often used to assuage or compensate for perceived internal insecurities or insecurities about other parts of one’s life, such as a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, and for the sake of social comparisons and image (playing on the assumption that ‘wealth’, as indicated by the expensiveness and/or extent of one’s visible possessions, equates to ‘success and status’ or even intelligence). Some young adults on social media don’t even want to be seen being photographed wearing the same outfit they’ve already worn before, which is terrible for the environment too. Or even if one’s luxury possessions aren’t for showing off to others – buying things can give us a momentary impulsive hit of rewarding dopamine in our brains each time we purchase something; and businesses know how to deeply exploit this.


One must find healthier and more sustainable ways to improve one’s internal or intrinsic self-worth, self-esteem and happiness than thinking that spending is the core solution. Nice things are nice to have, as long as you can truly afford them – otherwise they’re more trouble than they’re worth because that feeling of ‘newness’ and ‘look at what I’ve just bought’ doesn’t last as long as we think, due to hedonic adaptation, hence precisely why, if we step onto this cycle, non-consumables psychologically feel like consumables and we feel like we need to buy ever more new stuff to feel happy.


Find healthier alternative hobbies to retail therapy. Truly wealthy people might be able to get away with doing it because they can truly afford to without getting into debt or sacrificing more important things like family or their health; but even they live a fragile life if they don’t cultivate a robust sense of intrinsic self-worth because monetary wealth can be quickly lost or rendered useless for not all problems in life can be solved with money. Or at least you’ll virtually always meet someone who has more money than you, thus if you measure your worth via external materials then, according to your own standard, they must be better people than you (when I reckon they’re not better than you but of equal worth).


Some people who have experienced deprived upbringings may, when older, spend money to try to make themselves feel better by giving themselves, and their own children, the things they didn’t have as a child, which might lead to debt problems. Their parents likely weren’t around much, or could’ve been physically there but not really socially or emotionally there, and they felt they lacked any quality time with and affection from them, as well as lacked the material things that they saw their peers as children had.


Even if parents do buy their children lots of material things, a hardworking but never-present parent may be trying to earn money to give their child a good life, but a good life for a child also involves one’s parents being attentively and lovingly around enough. Money isn’t a substitute for genuine love. A chronic ‘I don’t have time to spend with you and can’t you see that I’m busy you ungrateful child because I’m trying to earn this money for you’ attitude, is not great parenting, or alternatively great family planning. If it’s about trying to afford branded clothes, fancy toys, a bigger house and things like that for your child, rather than to literally find the next meal or keep a small roof over the family’s head because one is destitute, then it’s no substitute for quality time. That money and stuff is for your ego and personal comparison with other parents, not for your child.


If one experienced a deprived upbringing then, if one was relatively lucky, one will have quickly learnt that it wasn’t so much about not getting those material things when young but really the lack of time, attention and affection one received from one’s own parents (e.g. you buy a nice car for yourself as a young adult but realise it doesn’t address or make up for your troubled relationship with your father at all). This will then hopefully guide your own parenting style towards your own children i.e. the answer isn’t about doing the complete opposite of one’s own parents by spoiling one’s own children materially, but about spending more quality time with them.


All this is another reason why financial literacy for everyone, starting from as young as possible, is so paramount. It’s also recommended that both partners in a marriage should completely understand the household finances before something terrible happens to either person, as well as sort out the wills and powers of attorney in good time. Post No.: 0233 talked about discussing death and dying because it’s inevitable for all of us thus we need to make plans regarding it. Our instincts may tell us to constantly avoid dealing with the subject but it can cause real yet preventable headaches for our surviving partners or children in this modern world if we do.


Woof. If you’d like to enlighten others then please tell us, by using the Twitter comment button below, how you think your upbringing experiences or lessons when young helped shape your attitudes towards money, for better or worse? And please look after each other because debt is connected with mental health but all debt problems can be solved.


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