When chaos or crisis forces you to pivot!
It could be the COVID challenging your life, but it might have been a divorce, an unexpected or unwelcome lay-off, health issues in your family, maybe your student apprenticeship has been halted or maybe your college or university has left you in a hard place.
No matter what the underlying cause, there will most certainly be those having a hard time at the moment – or in moments to come.
How can you keep your chin up when your life seems to take a turn for the worse?
Let me share some of my experiences when I was a divorced, single mom of four children, barely making ends meet and then could not land a job!
I never thought I would find love again, start my own business and love paying my bills, but I did and so will you!
In 2003 I was working downtown for a terrible boss and I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I put in my notice. I thought for sure I would be able to find something else, but it was over the Christmas season and I didn’t receive any interviews, every week I got more and more depressed.
If I would have known that it would take me almost six months to find work, I certainly wouldn’t have taken that risk that led our family into bankruptcy.
What leads up to bankruptcy?
After a divorce a year earlier, moving, unable to pay off all our debts and trying to make a new life in a new city we were already in a critical situation.
If your bills are more than 3 months late, if you have no one left to borrow from and you can’t pay your rent or mortgage, if your car payments bounce, and there is no money coming in to bring you back to square one – that is a strong indicator that you might need to look at bankruptcy.
If your credit card debt keeps getting higher and higher that is a sign of potential trouble. Maybe you called your bank to ask them to increase the limit? If you are trying to fund your own hard times, paying back at 19% will take you forever. Your credit card statement will tell you just how many years at the minimum payment it will take you to get to zero – mine was 101!
So, if you lose your job, have no incoming cash flow, no business on the horizon, a last resort might be pursuing bankruptcy.
There are many ‘insolvency’ (when you can’t pay your debts) companies.
But before you give up completely, there may be the option of using an ‘Orderly Payment of Debt’ program. In Alberta there is a non-profit agency called Money Mentors that offers debt counseling and they can go over various options with you – debt repayment might be possible.
If you claim bankruptcy your credit rating drops to the worst with a R-9 (best is R-1) for seven years but if you are able to opt for a repayment of debts it is a bit better.
What happens after bankruptcy?
When I walked into the office and signed the bankruptcy papers, I thought it was going to feel like the worse thing I ever had to do, but to my surprise I experienced a great relief! I felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders because someone had helped me.
After feeling so ashamed, helpless and alone, I had finally met with a professional who could navigate me through these unknown waters and I really was grateful.
Now, just because you claim bankruptcy doesn’t mean you are completely off the hook when it comes to your debts. I still had to pay a monthly amount to the insolvency company for one year.
I wish I would have known about the resources that might have been available to me and my children during that time. I remember going into a social service office and the counselor didn’t even tell me about a food bank!
My advice is to ASK! Ask everyone what resources might be available. Ask your friends, your social services office, call your church, ask your kid’s schools – ask everyone what you might be able to access to help ease the burden of what is going to be a challenging year.
The new face of poverty.
I was watching Global TV News this week and the Women in Need Society was being interviewed and they said that the new face of poverty is your neighbor. It isn’t the obvious homeless people on the streets, this is now happening in households all up and down the streets.
I’m sure when I was suffering through this hardship, my neighbors didn’t know what was going on with me. We still had nice clothes to wear, we still acted ‘normal’. They might have had a clue when, stretched beyond my limit and nothing to offer my son for his birthday dinner, I approached my neighbors and asked if they might have any empty bottles we could take to the bottle depot. Thankfully, they did.
You don’t know what your neighbors may be going through.
What happens after Debt Repayment or Bankruptcy?
After that year is the time you try to rebuild the financial stability that was lost.
I wish I would have had access to a counsellor or money coach to help me through this time. My mental wellness was definitely affected and so I didn’t seek out the help. Often, when we are going through hard times, the last thing we feel like doing is reaching out for help!
[If you are not going through a hard time, it can be very helpful if you would reach out to your neighbors and network with your support and friendship.]
The irony about debt is that in order to rebuild your credit, you have to borrow money! The most ridiculous thing! After having a credit card maxed out the last thing I ever wanted to do was use one again!
There were very few tactics I could find that would help me to build my credit back. I got a secured credit card [I had to save up and extra $100 to put it on the card and after two years they returned the deposit to me], I had a small car loan, but I couldn’t stomach taking on any more debt.
I did my absolute best to pay my bills on time; my cell phone, my utilities and did everything possible to get back on top of our financial situation.
We didn’t take holidays, there was no eating out at fancy restaurants, no new clothes and if we were able to walk somewhere instead of using gas, then we walked.
Seven years after claiming bankruptcy, I was invited to speak at the Food Bank to share my experience which lit a new fire in me! I had never considered that I could give back by sharing parts of my story with others. [You can find it on youtube ‘Sue Styles speaks at the Calgary Food Bank’]
I realized that my children didn’t need as much money as I thought, but they did need my attention and love. We found many unique ways to enjoy life without spending money.
‘Crisis brings clarity’
I actually just published my children’s stories that I wrote for my own kids and now read to my grandchildren, “Seven Super Stories” [available on Amazon].
I am re-married and own a business consulting agency for Solopreneurs – I have been there, I get it! If anyone can accomplish results on a shoe-string budget you are looking at her! I invite you to my website www.SueStyles.com
If you are going through a hard time, I feel for you.
I have three pieces of advice that I give to anyone going through crisis and chaos. Keep reading and start taking back control of your future.
- If you have never done an exercise like this, I would suggest that you immediately develop your own family emergency plan:
- How will you live if you don’t make your quota/income? [Emergency fund? Taxes saved you could dip into, TFSA, RRSP……]
- What are your top three resources if you run into trouble [ food bank, 211, loan from a bank, family who could loan or help, coach who could give professional assessment….]
- If required, how could you downsize?
- What internal resource do you have if you are not in control? [faith, meditation, spiritual guidance or practice…..]
- Talk to people, read about other stories, get as much insight as possible.
I did zero research before I claimed bankruptcy. I just did what a friend advised, but in hindsight, I should have taken more responsibility and learned about my options.
Learn to love your budget!
I am now HAPPY to pay my bills, I am thankful when I can pay my credit card, I am grateful for the ability to manage my money. If budgeting isn’t in your wheelhouse a great resource I found is MEVEST.ca. They have a simple budget you can use and work from and they also offer money coaching.
‘If you don’t know what your options are, you have no options.’
Build a financial framework!! Budget, face your fears, keep your head out of the sand.
One of my favorite books on building wealth is “The Richest Man in Babylon”.
- Save and pay off bills
- Save and pay yourself
Many times I would learn of a solopreneur who was a single parent and struggling through the hard times and I would just drop off a card with cash in it – what I wished for so many times myself!!! It is empowering to be able to give to others whether it is through your church, a charity or just personally.
- And finally, if I had only one piece of advice to offer, it would be;
‘keep trying UNTIL!’
Your life is up to you, it is your responsibility, don’t drop the ball or check out. You will not always be in this situation; things never stay the same! Perhaps through your own journey, you will be able to give back and help others in your own special way.
We all need each other; your experiences can help others, and those who have gone through similar chaos can help point you in a better direction.
You can do it! Have the courage to meet the demands of your reality.
And if you would connect with me, I am here to support you!
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