real life

“I couldn't sleep." Within two years of her divorce, Sarah was over $35,000 in debt.

When I got pregnant with my daughter, life was going well. I was in a happy relationship, lived in a lovely home, my career was heading in the right direction and I enjoyed stints of overseas travel. I felt settled and accomplished.

Things quickly unravelled as my pregnancy progressed, and my relationship continued to deteriorate after our daughter was born. 

So, a family breakdown led to my current set of circumstances. And that’s been made worse over time with family law processes and basically, having to start my life all over again. 

Watch: We share our relationship deal-breakers. Post continues below.


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Following the divorce, relocation and job change, I found myself losing sleep over unmanageable debt for the first time in my life.

Despite working, being a single mother meant family expenses pushed me towards credit cards and personal loans to make ends meet.

My financial struggle quickly ballooned into problem debt totalling over $35,000. 

When I couldn’t repay my debts, I tried to find a consolidation loan with cheaper rates and reduced repayments. I spent many sleepless nights applying for loans and devastatingly, halved my credit rating in the process.

Time and time again I was told I didn’t have enough income for a consolidation loan, or asked to pay fees over $10,000, or that my only option was bankruptcy.

Being a single parent meant going bankrupt was off the cards, and I certainly didn’t have spare money for fees. 

*****

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That’s when I finally got in touch with Bill who is a financial hardship advisor at Way Forward, a charity helping Aussies get out of complex, long-term debt.

First, Bill negotiated a significant debt waiver with my creditors. 

He then worked with me to put together a realistic debt repayment plan with money spare to manage living expenses. 

I went from fortnightly debt repayments of over $500 to $153 and a clear goal of being debt-free within five years – as long as I stuck to the plan. 

Having a manageable repayment plan is a huge weight off my shoulders, being able to sleep again, not stressing out, not staying up all night, not losing time with my child over the anxiety of dealing with this. 

I only wish I had done it sooner.

When I got to the point where I knew I had to call for help, I felt a real sense of failure and that I shouldn’t be in this position.

So having someone like Bill on the other end, who was so helpful and kind, felt encouraging. 

He wasn’t trying to get me into a worse position or wasn’t trying to sell some ridiculous, expensive solution. He was genuinely trying to help.

*****

I was very fortunate that following my divorce, I had a career to fall back on and I was able to secure housing and to keep my small family safe and well. 

While any marriage breakdown is heartbreaking, it impacts many Australian women not only mentally but financially. 

This is why I wanted to share my story so others know there are ways out that leave you in a good position.

So don’t feel like you’ve failed if you ask for help. You won’t regret it, you’ll get your life back. And you’ll have a true solution put in place where everyone wins – even your creditors who are still getting repaid, but at a rate that is manageable for you.

I can’t understate the feeling of relief and happiness moving forward from my desperate situation. 

It was truly impacting every area of my life, physically and mentally, from headaches to stress to even physical pain. 

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That’s all been taken away now. And it's all because of this one easy payment that's affordable and regular so I don't need to worry.

While homeschooling my daughter recently, I realised I was really enjoying our time together again. And I thought, I’ve been absent, not being able to connect as much because I’m always concerned. And she has felt it too.

It’s wonderful to feel truly connected with those I love again because I don't have this anxiety over finances on the way. 

According to Way Forward’s new report on the mental health impacts of debt on Australians in financial hardship, 76 per cent worry about money, regardless of income, and most (65 per cent) had less than $1,000 savings in the bank – an issue especially prominent among women. If you have an income but are struggling to meet your debt repayments, reach out to Way Forward. As a registered charity, their service is completely free, with 100% of repayments going towards reducing your debt. 

The author is known to Mamamia, and names have been changed to protect the author's identity. The feature image used is a stock photo from Getty.

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