Volume 91, Issue 91

Friday, March 20, 1998

Lynn and Tonic


Focus on counselling: Financially speaking...

By Brad Lister
Gazette Staff

Sliding down a slippery slope.

That's the apt metaphor that Andrew Holt, executive director of Credit Counselling London, uses to describe the financial hardships of a lot of the clients he sees.

"We sit down with clients one on one and get to know their financial situations," says Holt. Of these, he adds, 98 per cent have specific problems while the other two per cent just want to make sure they are following good budgeting practices. The problems can range from falling behind on bill payments to 'I have four collection agencies coming after me,' Holt explains.

Bob Young of Credit Crisis Counselling Service says he deals with much of the same situations. "When I see people they are usually at the end of their tether." Young says that of the 100 calls he gets in the month, he refers about 10 per cent to a bankruptcy trustee.

"It is definitely a slope you slide down and they come to us on any point on the slope," says Holt. He explains that most of his clients seek help because they have either lost their job, have experienced marital breakdown, sickness or are former students who can't seem to pay back their student loans.

Holt explains that a counsellor works with the client and takes a look at their assets and debts and try to get a handle on the situation. "[Counsellors and clients] try to get the problem reversed," he says. The counsellors also try to help the individual overcome the bad financial management skills that may have led them into their problems in the first place.

"Sometimes it may be a job loss that may lead them into financial crisis but they may have been teetering for a while," says Holt.

Young claims that often the budget just needs some rejigging. "They can put money in savings but they can't seem to pay off their bills."

The best advice Holt can give those who are doing well financially is to have some financial goals and stick with them. He also adds that before anyone takes on debt they should ask themselves if they really need to or can other options be explored. Young echoes those sentiments and says, "it is too easy to get into and extremely difficult to get out of."

To Contact The Focus Department: gazfocus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998