My aunty has got herself into trouble with credit cards. She is not savvy with money and I really do not think she understood what she was doing. After a lifetime of work, she has $10 in her purse – and $211,000 in debt across 15 cards. She has been cash-advancing to make the minimum payments for years. I think most of the debt is interest, and she has nothing to show for it (no car, holidays or smashed avo). At this rate she is going to lose her home. Is there anything I can do to help her?
It sounds like your aunt is going bankrupt … or at risk of going bankrupt.
It also sounds like she has a gambling addiction.
Now you don’t say whether your aunt has any loans against her home, but she’ll eventually be forced to sell it. If the credit card company, or a debt collector who has bought any of her debts (for cents on the dollar), works out that there’s a chance she may have money left after she pays out her secured mortgage, they’ll carve her up.
Your aunt is facing two battles that you can help her with, but I can’t fight for her:
First, you can help her get some independent financial advice.
Encourage her to sit down with a community-based financial counsellor (call 1800 007 007). They’ll help her weigh up her options (either a debt agreement or bankruptcy). They can also investigate the inappropriate lending she’s received. No one should have a $211,000 credit card debt. There are responsible lending laws in place to stop people getting themselves into this mess.
The second, and most important, thing you can do is get her some psychological support.
You’re right to be worried about the state of her mental health. The debts she’s racked up is a symptom of what’s going on in her head. Something is seriously wrong and she needs professional help. Money comes, money goes, but this really is life and death stuff.