Your best friend is in debt trouble, what can you do?

The sparkle in your best friend’s eyes has faded, and after noticing a series of other signs, you believe the reason behind it to be debt related. What can you do?

Someone struggling with debt can experience extreme emotional misery, which may lead him or her to act in a number of ways.

A person suffering from too much debt will normally:

  • Act out of character: They may not want to socialise anymore and have excuses to go out with friends and family. They may also be aggressive, lose weight and show signs of depression.
  • Avoid calls: They may avoid answering their phones, especially the first week of every month.
  • Borrow money from you or family members: They may frequently borrow money from you or others mid-way through the month.

According to a study done by Dr. John Gathergood of the University of Nottingham, financial problems are double as likely to cause depression and anxiety. Kirsten Kuchar, highlights other feelings experienced by people with too much debt in her article entitled The Emotional Effects of Debt, namely resentment, stress, anger, frustration, regret, shame, fear etc.

As a result your friend may be feeling any or all of these emotions and if you don’t address it correctly, you can potentially scar your friendship.

Here are 4 things you can do to help your best friend cope with debt:

1. Talk to them in person, confidentially.
You may want advice from a mutual friend on how to address the issue, but this will do more harm than good. Discuss your concerns with him or her first. Remember, this is an incredibly sensitive issue. So, rather invite your friend for lunch somewhere the two of you will be alone. Create a safe space and then ask him/her if they are okay and if they are coping. They need to know that you have not discussed this with anyone else and that you are there to support him/her when he/she is ready to confide. If they don’t confide at first, don’t worry. Just stay the good friend that you are, and check up on them regularly.

2. Do research.
Once your friend confides about their debt problems, assist them in creating a plan of action. You may have to do some research on the best way forward. If your friend does not want your help with it, forward your research to them so that they can make an informed decision.

Tip: If he or she has a job but they are too over-indebted to make ends meet, recommend debt counselling as it is a way for your friend to pay what they can afford.

3. Don’t lend your friend money!
Hearing the cries of your best friend’s financial problems are devastating. However, resist the temptation to lend out money. Lending someone money does not solve the issue. Instead, it has the potential to create a divide between you.

4. Offer on-going support.
Rather offer advice and on-going support. The process to becoming debt free is a long one. You being there for him/her helps make the journey less lonely. Offer your support by suggesting budget-wise events, avoiding money talks (unless he/she brings it up) and treating him/her to something special every now and again.

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We look forward to the opportunity to get you debt-free!