Debt Warning Signs

Helping Your Friends and Family

Being in debt can be isolating and nerve-racking.

If you sense that a family member or friend is in major debt trouble:

Help Get Them Started

  • Ask them about the problem. They might be relieved to talk about it.
  • Let them know they are not alone. Many New Zealanders at one time or another get in debt over their heads.
  • Encourage them to look at their financial situation and, if they are in debt trouble, to create a plan to get out of debt - and commit to it. Let them know you have confidence in their ability to succeed.
  • Suggest this web site and other helpful sources of information that are listed under Helpful Links to give them the tools and knowledge to tackle their debt.
  • Only lend money to a friend or family member if you are comfortable knowing you might not get it back. Many emotions are wrapped up in lending money to a loved one. If you lend a friend or family member money, put the amount and payback schedule in writing.
  • Focus on the future. Don't blame them for poor spending decisions or bad money management in the past. Look to the past only for clues to understand how to avoid the problems or pitfalls that got them into trouble in the first place.
  • Debt and money problems often are very personal. Most people are uncomfortable talking about money, so don't expect or push for details of your friend or loved one's personal financial problems.
  • Be emotionally supportive. This support and encouragement should extend beyond their finances to helping create a positive environment in which they feel empowered to succeed.
  • Don't ask or encourage your friend or family member to make purchases outside of their debt reduction plans.Suggest inexpensive outings and get-togethers.
    • Invite your friend or loved one for dinner and a video at your house.
    • Enjoy outdoor activities, such as biking, hiking, or picnicking at local parks.
  • Encourage by example. If you have had debt problems in the past, talk about how you overcame them, or how you are better controlling your finances now.

Help Them Stay on Course to Their Personal Finish Line - For Most it's a Marathon, not a Sprint

  • Celebrate your friend or family member's small successes. After all, the first steps -- just like the first few pounds on a diet - can be the hardest. Once they change their attitude toward spending and debt, developing and maintaining good financial habits will get easier.
  • Provide ongoing, positive feedback and support. No one gets out of serious debt problems overnight, so don't expect your friend or family member will either. Encourage achievable goals, and continue to be supportive.