I picked a tough time to change careers:
Last year I went back to study so I could become a community-based financial counsellor.
In January I was sent off to help survivors on the bushfire frontlines. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Then came corona.
Right now I find myself on the financial frontlines as a counsellor.
Let me tell you a couple of things I’ve learned from sitting across the table from people who are financially broken:
The first hour of the meeting is often a write-off.
The client will tentatively sit down … and then verbally vomit at me. Nothing makes sense.
That’s because they’re consumed by fear. They’re ashamed about their situation. They feel out of control.
Understand this: no one makes good financial decisions when they’re in a state of fear.
And, right now, a lot of people are consumed by fear. I can see it in the thousands of emails I’m getting each week.
They stay up late ‘doom scrolling’, which makes them worry about getting sick … and dying.
Or they worry that the economy is going into a recession … or a depression.
Will we be shut down till June? Or Christmas?
Fear is debilitating. It freezes you up, and shuts you down.
So what’s the antidote?
You need to take action … alpaca style.
Let me explain (it’s kind of weird):
A few years ago we inherited two alpacas, whose job it is to protect our lambs from foxes.
They’re surly buggers … they’re basically camels without humps, and as aggro as Alan Jones.
When the bushfire came through our farm and burnt most of their flock, a ranger turned up the next day with a gun to finish off the wounded sheep.
The alpacas were wounded themselves. Their burnt hoofs made it hard for them to stand.
But they did.
They shielded their sheep. They stared down the barrel of a gun … and charged at the freaked out ranger.
No one was messing with their flock!
And in a time of crisis, when you’ve lost your income, you need to do the same.
Every dollar you get should go first into protecting your flock:
You put food on the table.
You keep the lights, heating and internet on.
And you keep a roof over your head.
These are non-negotiables.
If you have money left over you can make repayments on other debts, but these are your priorities.
Here’s how you do it:
First, work out how much your basic needs (above) realistically cost each week. Write down the figure.
Second, go through your bank statements and cancel your direct debits and other non-essential payments.
Third, email your creditors, explain your situation, and request a payment extension.
You won’t solve everything quickly, and you shouldn’t expect to. That’ll come later.
Right now, your only job is to protect your flock.
Tread Your Own Path!