“Whatever circumstances or your social economic background, asking for help is not a bad thing”

Dinesh was in a well-paid job as a high functioning insurance professional who never thought he would be facing threats of repossession from payday lenders.

But that is exactly what happened when he ended up in financial hardship.

The problems started when his wife became unwell and couldn’t work anymore, meaning he was the sole breadwinner. Expenses to fund her recovery from a chronic condition, stretched their family budget beyond what they could afford.

“My wife had to travel overseas a few times, she was hospitalized a couple of times, plus, psychiatric treatments are quite expensive.

“I was able to manage the day-to-day expenses but the extra expenses plus living on a single income for two or three years, meant that even though I’m on a decent income and I’ve got a stable job, all of it was going into the debt payments.

I’m pretty good with numbers and had a detailed Excel sheet but it was just mathematically impossible to make the repayments I owed with the income I earned, even though I had a decent income.

“For example, on one credit card I was paying $300 per month but $150 was charged on interest. The balance wasn’t really moving anywhere.

“I applied for financial hardship with my creditors, but it was only a temporary arrangement. There wasn’t like a set plan like Way forward does where you’re making a lump sum payment.

“After exhausting all my options, I became very stressed. My credit score was affected. I had reached that point where I had run out of all my options.

“I was not sleeping and only thinking about debt and finances. That went on for about six months. Out of desperation one night, at like 2am, I was looking online and came across Way Forward.

“I was aware of debt agreements and bankruptcies, but my situation wasn’t that bad. I didn’t want to go down that path anyway.

“Most hardship arrangements gave me repayment relief for a three-month period and the maximum was six months, but you are charged interest and a late fee. This extended the term of the loan, so my overall situation remains the same.

“For the 3 months I was on hardship, I used any income I had to pay another debt. After that hardship arrangement finished, I was back to doing the same thing with another creditor, and then paying another. Once you’ve exhausted all your options, you’re back in the same situation.

Payday Lenders were ruthless

Most of Dinesh’s debts are with payday lenders, who he describes as “ruthless”.

“The difference between a larger institution who are professionally trained and accountable to the regulators means that the banks show more empathy and listen to your situation, whereas with the secondary lenders, it’s a difficult conversation.

“Rather than listening to what repayments I could afford during a period of financial hardship, the payday lenders were ruthless. They told me that default will be listed and that they can start repossession.

“I was getting so many phone calls and it was creating a lot of anxiety. If you miss a payment by one day the calls from payday lenders start coming in one after the other.

It had a huge impact on my mental health anxiety. I’ve never had a drinking problem, but I started drinking more just to just to numb out that pain and just forget about my worries for the night.

“They are threatening compared to large institutions.”

Mental health impacts of debt

Dinesh explains that impact that had on his wellbeing: “I was living a double life where in one part I’m high functioning individual going to work every day in a senior to mid-level position, but the other is that I’ve got nothing left in my bank account and people are chasing me.

That has an emotional impact on you. You start questioning your life choices: where did you get wrong?

I can handle pressures but this time it just broke me. I was just not sleeping. It got to a point where I stopped picking my phone up.

Dinesh felt he was alone in managing his financial issues.

“My wife has gone through serious mental health problems, so I wasn’t able to share my wife.

“I shared with my father, but there’s not much he could do.

“My family had already helped me out a couple of times, but then in the end it’s even worse talking to them because they understandably think that they can’t fix it for you, so I kept it to myself.

Way Forward offered hope

Dinesh has been working with Kelly from Way Forward who spent several months co-creating a budget and repayment plan.

“Kelly explained that we work through a solution together.

“Having someone listen to you carefully to understand your situation gives you hope. I remember sending an email back to Kelly to say, thank you, I’ll sleep well tonight.

“Kelly has been patient and regularly keeping me up to date about the process.

“We went through a detailed budget that she had shared with me, which made sense. And then we worked on it together to ensure it was realistic. The whole process took 4 to 6 weeks.

Going through that process with someone who’s obviously done that many times with others was very beneficial.

“With my budget, I had all the expenses like utility bills, and internet, car registration, or most of that stuff was covered, but what I forgot was my own personal needs.

It’s important to save something for yourself, even if it’s having an occasional breakfast at a cafe to lift your mood or being able to afford a cup of coffee without thinking twice about it. Those little things can make a huge difference to your mental health.

Financial hardship can impact anyone

“If someone can learn something from my story, please know that a program like Way Forward’s is for anyone in trouble, even if you have a high-level, well-paid job. It’s not beneath you to ask for help.

“Don’t be deterred that you wouldn’t qualify, just because there are people in a much worse situation to you.

“I was driven by ego. I thought I could sort it out myself. But whatever circumstances or your social economic background, asking for help is not a bad thing.

“People like me, especially anyone who has a job and might see themselves as high functioning individual might find it hard to ask for help.

“My message to people like this: Way Forward’s program is not just for people who are in a lower socio-economic situation. It’s for everyone.

“Asking for help is a good thing.”

By Rachel Ryan

Rachel is a policy and communications specialist with over a decade of experience working in government, education and not-for-profit organisations. She is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Way Forward’s clients to assist them in sharing their story on their terms, in a way that is empowering and uplifting.