Ignoring debt is foolish

It is true that mounting financial pressures are having a negative effect on households, making it difficult to cope with debt repayment.

It is true that mounting financial pressures are having a negative effect on households, making it difficult to cope with debt repayment.

But burying your head in the sand, hoping the situation will go away, is the worst way to deal with this predicament.

Experts believe the higher interest rate and inflationary environment in which South Africans currently find themselves has resulted in people who were coping with debt repayments about a year or so ago finding it difficult to do so now.

If you are unable to pay your debt each month or unable to afford to live once you have paid your debt, you should realise that that is one of the telltale signs of over-indebtedness.

Borrowing money to pay debt or skipping monthly payments on accounts to make it through the month are also classic warning signs of over-indebtedness.

"But worst still is ignoring your debt and hoping it will go away," Ronel Killian, head of bond origination for Amdec Property Development, warns

It could lead to sleepless nights trying to overcome insurmountable problems that you could have solved earlier.

Remember, you could lose everything, including your house and other assets if you don't do something about your situation.

Killian says: "Rather face the situation head-on and proactively manage the situation."

Most importantly, advises Killian, if you have a bond it is essential to contact the bank where the bond is held and explain your situation.

Negotiate the possibility of a lower repayment plan until you get back on your feet.

"Bondholders are much more likely to arrange more convenient payment terms if you contact them before you miss payments," Killian says.

She says once a bank starts legal steps it is almost impossible to get it reversed and it could cost you your property.

"Most banks would rather collect your money at a slower rate than not at all," Killian says.

But paying off less also means you will be paying off for longer. So, she says you should only consider lower payments as a temporary relief. Try and get back to the original, or even a little more, as soon as possible.

So, what is the way forward? Ooba, formerly MortgageSA, advises that you prioritise spending.

Your car is not as important as your house. Unless it is a camper and you are prepared to move into it permanently, consider buying a smaller second-hand car, says Ooba.

You will not only save on repayments and insurance on a cheaper car, but also on petrol costs.

Carefully assess your expenditure, do away with luxuries and retain only essential expenditure.

But until things improve:

l Don't hide. By facing your potential financial difficulties proactively you are more likely to make a plan before you miss a bond repayment.

l Speak to your lender. They do not want your house, they want you to maintain your bond instalments.

They are open to discussing your bond repayments but will want to see a commitment from you to reduce expenditure, particularly luxury ones, before agreeing to amended repayment figures.

l Get financial advice. The cost of a professional financial adviser might end up saving your home. They will be able to objectively look at your finances and suggest alternative ways of saving money.

Remember, your home is one of your most important assets. So make a plan to keep up with repayments in the short-term and you will be rewarded in the longer-term.