Money problems: When debt catches up

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Are you a newcomer struggling with finances?

Are you:

  • continually going over your spending limit or using your credit cards as a necessity rather than a convenience?
  • always borrowing money to make it one payday to the next?
  • paying only interest or service charges monthly and do not reduce your total debt over many months?

Additionally:

  • are creditors pressuring you for payment, have obtained a wage garnishment, threatening to sue or repossess your car, furniture or television, or hiring a collection agency to recover money for them?
  • have utility companies cut off service because your bills have gone unpaid?

These are the danger signals leading to a personal financial crisis. If you have said yes to any or all of the above, it may be time to get help.

How to get help

The first thing to do is to recognize your situation and stop the trajectory that you are travelling on. Stop spending and adding to your debt.

Next, talk to someone who can help you. In Manitoba, there are agencies that provide debt counselling. Debt or financial counselling agencies assess your situation and offer solutions to assist you in solving your financial problems. They can also help you deal with harassing calls from debt agencies and give you information to help better manage your finances so that you can be in control of your spending. You can go to:

  • Community Financial Counselling Services – A non-profit agency that provides confidential counselling services for free. It is funded by United Way and the Government of Manitoba to provide counselling education and options for accessing resources, managing income, debt and navigating the financial systems that affect your life.
  • Manitoba Credit Counselling Society – A registered, non-profit service that you can contact by phone, in person or through live online chat. They provide free debt counselling, bankruptcy help and debt consolidation options.
  • You can also approach an Immigrant Serving Organization nearest you. Settlement workers will be able to refer you to the right agency to get help from.
  • Or go to the 211 Manitoba directory to find listings for credit counselling, and Employment & Income Assistance (EIA) services.

You can also access financial literacy and financial empowerment programs from the organizations below. It would be ideal if you could go to these agencies upon arriving in Manitoba so that you can understand how finances work and get strategies on how to handle your money:

If you feel that you can manage your debt on your own with a little guidance, the Office of Consumer Affairs has online tools to help you. Six Steps to Get Out of Debt is a step by step guide that will help you map out a plan to take control of your finances.

Your Rights: Collection agency

If a collection agency is constantly calling you about payments, know that you have rights that protect you from harassment. According to the Manitoba Consumer Protection Office, it is against the law for a collection agency to:

  • Phone or visit before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
  • Phone or visit on a Sunday or a statutory holiday.
  • Deliberately mislead you with a paper that looks like a legal document or a court form.
  • Harass you or your family.
  • Threaten to repossess goods without having the proper authority to do so.
  • Remove any goods unless you or an adult having possession and use of the merchandise is present at the time and is aware of the removal, except with court authority.
  • Harass neighbours or friends to locate the whereabouts of you and your family.
  • Seize or attempt to seize any item other than what they are authorized to seize.
  • Phone or telegram collect.

If you have concerns against collection practices or repossession contact the Consumer Protection Office.

Sources: Consumed by debt? Government of Canada site; and Consumer Protection, Manitoba.ca. All accessed October 5, 2017.

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Community Resources

Making your Money Work booklet by Literacy Partners of Manitoba, Community Futures Manitoba, Canadian Youth Business Foundation and SEED Winnipeg, Inc. is a guidebook to help you understand and better manage your finances in Canada.

Money Management Tools for Newcomers from Prosper Canada is an online tool that assesses your Canadian financial literacy and provides recommendations for you.

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