People get into financial difficulties for many reasons. If you find yourself in debt, there is help available.
If you cannot meet your financial commitments, contact the creditor (the business or person you owe money to) as soon as possible to discuss a repayment plan.
When negotiating a repayment plan, be realistic about what you can pay, taking into account your other financial commitments. Be honest with the creditor or debt collector about your situation.
Prepare and stick to a budget to avoid debts building up and taking you by surprise.
Keep copies of bills, payment receipts or receipt numbers, any letters you send or receive, and notes of any conversations you have with the creditor.
Call the National Debt Hotline on 1800 007 007 for free and confidential advice from professional financial counsellors. The hotline is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday.
You can also visit the National Debt Helpline website for step-by-step guides explaining how to fix common debt problems, such as what to do if you can’t pay your energy bills, internet or phone bills, mortgage, credit cards, or payday loans.
A free and independent financial counselling service may be able to help you if you are having trouble paying your debts or managing your budget.
Free financial counselling services are available in every state and territory – find out more on ASIC’s MoneySmart website.
If you’re threatened with legal action, get advice about your options as soon as possible. Free legal aid and community legal services are available in every state and territory.
Many industries (such as banking, telecommunications, energy, water and insurance) have their own ombudsmen & dispute resolution schemes. Legal proceedings against you generally cannot be started while a matter is being considered by an ombudsman.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) handles complaints about banking, credit, loans and debt collection, life insurance, superannuation, financial planning, insurance broking, stockbroking, investments, managed funds, timeshares, general insurance, finance and mortgage broking.
Your credit report has information about your credit history and is used by credit providers to work out whether you can afford a loan.
You should check your report to confirm the information is accurate and fix any mistakes. For more information on credit reports, including where to obtain a copy of your report and how to make sure it is accurate, visit the ASIC MoneySmart website.
A debt consolidator can provide services to help people struggling with debt. However they will charge a fee, either up front or as a commission on a new loan.
Be cautious and find out what services you’re getting from such a business and how much it will cost you. You may be able to get the same services from a financial counsellor for free.
For some people in debt crisis, bankruptcy or a Bankruptcy Act agreement may be an option, although this has serious consequences.
If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy, it’s very important that you get advice from a free and independent financial counsellor or a qualified financial adviser. You can also get information on personal bankruptcy from Australian Financial Security Authority.