finance

'How I turned around $185,000 of credit card debt.'

Being $185,000 in credit card debt didn’t begin with one huge, ridiculous purchase.

It all really started because I became stuck in a vicious cycle of overspending and then being in debt. Every time I looked at how much debt I had, the worse I felt, and that would trigger more spending to make myself feel better. It spiralled from there.

And even though I was in $185,000 of debt, I was in denial about the severity and how many credit cards I had.

For those who want to know the depths of debt denial I was in, I had 11 credit cards. Six were from Canada and were maxed out at $100,000. Five were from Australia and were maxed out at $85,000.

I had 11 creditors chasing me across two continents and at my lowest ebb I was getting phone calls in the middle of the night.

But all the time it was easier to get more credit, or another credit card, to pay for things I didn't have the money for rather than for me to deal with the reality of my bills and how far I was living beyond my means.

I realised I was in deep trouble when I could no longer sleep at night. In addition to the debt collector phone calls waking me up at various hours, I was waking up with anxiety at all hours because I was so out of control.

There was no golden 'A-HAH!' moment when I decided I needed to stop this cycle. It was more something had to change because by this stage I was in chronic fear of answering the phone or opening the mail.

When I finally decided to face my debt in my 40s I looked into all the options for making more money and preparing for a comfortable retirement.

It was a deliberate process.

I negotiated a higher salary for my 'day job' and I built skills as a coach and trainer so that I could develop a side business and and earn extra income. In short, I had to put one financial step in front of the other. There was nothing dramatic - just a desire to have a realistic plan to get rid of this debt.

Mine was "earn more money, spend less, pay off credit cards".

One of the most important financial issues I knew I had to tackle was my super. I wanted to start getting serious about it – trying to work out a way to jump on the train without missing too many stations as I was already ‘so far behind’ my friends and colleagues.

This was something that would set me up for my future.

I learned:

  • Women tend to live longer than men, yet on average, they retire with around half as much superannuation as men.1
  • Around 90 per cent of women will retire with inadequate savings to fund a comfortable retirement.1
  • Women earn on average, $700,000 less than men during their lifetime.2
  1. The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, 2015.
  2. 2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014. Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, 6302. ($700,000 based on an average 45-year career).

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In a short time, I’ve managed to really get clear about how I would boost my super. I wanted to make sure there was no stone left unturned when it came to realising potential growth leading up to my retirement.

Here’s what I did.

Alice Crawley offers life advice. Image: Instagram.

1. Consolidated and simplified

I was so disorganised around money that keeping track of my super was beyond me.

It’s OK to feel a bit overwhelmed about the paperwork involved in getting organised – but make sure you take one small action each day or week towards checking on and/or consolidating any super. There are some fantastic free resources online which makes finding your super easy – check out the bank’s or government’s resources on line – www.ato.gov.au/super or https://findmysuper.com.au or www.moneysmart.gov.au.

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If you’ve got super floating around in different accounts, combining your super into one account can help you keep track of your money. It can also help you avoid multiple sets of fees.

2. Get educated on investment options 

If you haven’t made a choice about how your super is invested, you’re probably letting your employer decide. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the ‘default’ they choose may not specifically suit you. If you’re still a long way from retirement, and your super is being invested in low-risk assets (eg in a cash or conservative investment option), you could be missing out on a small fortune in potential growth between now and your retirement.

Check your current investment option, as shown on your super statement, in relation to your retirement time frame. Make sure you’re comfortable with the growth potential and risk attached to your option, remembering that higher growth potential comes with higher risk. If you’re not happy with your current investment option, contact your super fund to find out what other options are available to you and what you can do to make any changes.

3. Salary sacrifice into super

My accountant put me onto salary sacrificing a while back as a great way to get some tax advantage on your super saving.

The idea is that you ask your employer to direct some of your salary to your super fund before you pay income tax on it. The end result is that you take home less pay now, but you pay less tax, and you have more super going into your account.

The government’s MoneySmart super contributions optimiser enables you to play around with different contributions to see how it impacts your tax and super contributions. If you have your own company or your freelance seek some financial advice on how to best start your self-managed super account as a priority.

4. Learn to speak up

Increase your earnings and retirement contributions by asking for more - be honest about how you want to live in retirement and if you want to be earning more and take steps to make that happen – I made a decision late in life that I needed and wanted to be earning more money. I doubled my income in two months and tripled it in a year to start improving my finances for a comfortable retirement – if want to learn how I did this click link on The Art of Asking: Asking for what you want and getting it. 

YES. Image: Instagram.

5. Have the right mindset

It’s easy to get down on ourselves about the past, but one of the most important things is to forgive yourself for whatever you have or haven’t done when it comes to saving. Many women, myself included, have been far from perfect when it comes to money. So, take a deep breath, acknowledge where you’re at and commit to starting your super savings NOW!

Alice is a money and mindset transformation coach to help women transform their personal relationships with money to live wealthier, more wonderful lives. Unlike budgeting services and websites, Alice Crawley helps women redefine their relationship with money, which is the most common roadblock to long-term financial freedom.

You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or at her website, Alice Crawley.com.

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