Recognise the signs of financial stress

Personal Finance · 26 Nov 2019

Financial stress can impact anyone at any time, particularly if someone’s circumstances change unexpectedly - but talking about money difficulties remains something that most people find too embarrassing and difficult…

Financial stress can impact anyone at any time, particularly if someone’s circumstances change unexpectedly - but talking about money difficulties remains something that most people find too embarrassing and difficult to talk about.

If you’re worried a friend or family member maybe be stressed and struggling to get on top of their finances, there are some telltale signs that you can look out for. Individually, each of these signs may not be a problem - but when you recognise several of them in combination, it might be time to offer help.

The person seems to be living beyond their means

If there’s someone you know who always has the latest designer labels or expensive electronics, and you know they don’t have the income to afford these things, that could be a sign of a growing debt problem.

They’ve had a recent life event that has reduced their income or increased their expenses

Debt problems can often begin to spiral after a major change in income or spending. Examples of life events that could trigger this include getting divorced, a death in the family, being made redundant or having a new baby.

They are behaving secretively or avoiding talking about money

This can be a hard one to spot, as people in problem debt will often go to great lengths to hide their spending. But if someone regularly changes the subject when you talk about financial topics, this could be a warning sign.

They seem anxious, withdrawn or depressed

Like any other source of stress, money worries can lead to anxiety and depression. If the person seems not quite themselves, a debt problem could be a contributing factor. Also look for other common signs of depression, such as sudden weight loss or weight gain or having difficulty sleeping.

There’s been a change in their spending habits

You might notice that the person stops spending on things they usually enjoy, like going out with friends. This could be an indication that they’re struggling to meet debt repayments. Alternatively, you might notice that they’re spending on credit like there’s no tomorrow, with no plan for how they’re going to repay the debt. This is a sign they’re in denial that there’s a problem.

How you can help

Identifying someone with a debt problem is tricky and trying to persuade someone to open up about to a debt problem is even harder.

Try to approach the conversation gently and tactfully, making sure your tone is not judgmental. You might like to mention any money problems you have had yourself in the past, to help them feel at ease.

Once you’ve managed to get a conversation going, it’s important to try and make sure that person feels they’re not alone and their situation is not hopeless.

Encourage them to seek some free debt advice. There’s plenty available. The National Debt Helpline has excellent advice and is a great place for anybody to start addressing their debt problems. The Salvation Army financial advice is another good place to find a free financial counsellor.

Studies show that most people who seek debt advice find that they immediately feel better about their situation, and wish they had asked for help sooner.

What should you do if you’re struggling with your Harmoney loan?

  • Talk to us as soon as possible, whether your circumstances change overnight, or you can see you might miss an upcoming payment. Just as our personal loans are personalised to each individual, we can assess circumstances on a case-by-case basis.
  • Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for Unforeseen Hardship. This means you are unable to reasonably keep up your payments (this may be due to illness, loss of employment, the end of a relationship or other reasonable cause) and you can apply to Harmoney to vary the terms of your loan.
  • If you have any concerns about making repayments, just contact one of our friendly customer service team on or 1300 042 766, we're open 9am - 6pm, Monday - Saturday.

Other articles you might like:

How to talk to your partner about money

Managing your money in your 30s and 40s

What is debt consolidation?

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