When I speak to family and friends about the work I am fortunate to do as a Licensed Insolvency Trustee, I am often asked about the hardships that I must see and hear about on a daily basis. Let’s face it, facing financial difficulties, credit card collections, the loss of one’s home or a personal bankruptcy is a true hardship that affects people from all walks of life — people you might see walking down the sidewalk or standing quietly right next to you at the checkout counter. In fact the number of Canadians facing these issues might surprise you. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) recently released a Stressed About Money infographic citing a recent survey conducted on behalf of the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC). The survey found that 42 per cent of Canadians rank money as their number one source of stress, and 34 per cent of Canadians feel stressed when trying to keep up with bill payments
Why is this so? And what are the outcomes? I posture the following:
Canadians don’t talk about money.
Although I haven’t kept the statistics over my 17 years of helping families with budgeting and personal bankruptcy, my professional experience is that money and finances are the most guarded of our personal items. If you were dealing with a health issue or your marriage was failing you would talk to friends or seek out community support. You might get fruit baskets and sympathy cards. And you would consult with a doctor or a marriage counselor. However when we have debt problems we guard those issues out of a fear that we will be judged or chastised by those around us. A 2015 Ipsos poll for BDO revealed that 51 per cent of Canadians don’t tell family and friends the truth about their financial situation. One quarter of respondents admitted that they would talk more openly about their finances if they didn’t feel judged. Talking about financial problems gets everything out in the open and creates dialogue. Stress reduction is about taking action. By sharing our problems we can sometimes find the strength to tackle our problems or find a solution.
Financial stress affects your relationships
Once again without the benefits of statistics, but with years of listening to financial hardships stories, I would suggest that financial difficulties and marriage and/or family breakdowns go hand in hand. When you hold onto financial stress for too long without taking action, it can lead to being dishonest with family and friends. It can also lead to poor decision making such as borrowing from parents or friends when you have no ability to repay — these actions are a pathway to having those family members and friends turn their backs in anger. What is often worse, is the effect on your personal health and finances, if the individual that you have been lying to about your finances is your spouse. Right or wrong, money represents security and trust. Break these bonds with your spouse and your next call might just be to a divorce lawyer, which is often disastrous financially, compounding the problems that put your relationships in harm’s way in the first place.
Financial stress affects your health
Anyone who has followed my blog is aware that I am not a doctor — I don’t even play one on TV. However, I don’t believe that one needs a medical degree to appreciate that stress from financial concerns can be as destructive as stress from any other source. Stress affects your health and well-being. Surveys such as the one cited by the FCAC report that financial stress causes individuals to lose sleep and feel anxious. Furthering the effects financial stress has on health is how many people tend to deal with stress and anxiety, a quick internet search shows page after page of articles on stress and alcohol consumption, stress and smoking, stress and fatigue and how that may restrict our desire to cook at home or exercise. All of these unhealthy ways to deal with stress cost money which you may not have in the first place, and certainly affects your overall health.
So what is there to do about financial stress?
If financial stress is affecting you, treat it similar to other life stressors and health issues.
- Talk to a debt help professional — be it a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or a not-for-profit credit counsellor.
- Search out information on budgeting or formal solutions such as a consumer proposal or a personal bankruptcy and make a plan.
- Like any problem that faces you in life, trust those around you that care about you, and share your fears with your friends and family. They may have quietly gone through the exact same situation and might have some advice on how to proceed.
Jayson Stoppel is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Chartered Accountant with BDO First Call Debt Solutions. With over 15 years in practice, Jayson assists individuals, families and companies with financial difficulties in Thunder Bay and throughout Northwest Ontario. To reach Jayson by email: JStoppel@BDO.ca