Money problems can result in emotional turmoil, stress, embarrassment and relationship troubles. So actually filing for bankruptcy can be a real blow to your self-esteem.
But if you’ve recently been declared bankrupt, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada, just over 92,000 Canadian consumers and about 4,000 Canadian businesses declared bankruptcy in 2010.
When times are tough, financial management can be even tougher. However, regardless of your situation, here are a few simple things you can do to start rebuilding your credit:
1. Get support from family and friends
Getting back on track is a lot easier if you have the support of those closest to you. There are also some great online communities that discuss financial planning tips and encourage conversation. For example, for info on how to create or join a money group — a group of friends or colleagues that meet each week to help one another stay on track with financial goals — visit Smart Cookies.
If you’re struggling with the emotional side of bankruptcy, check if your employer offers counselling services. Many benefits plans offer free, confidential third-party counselling on a range of topics including depression, stress and anxiety, relationship and financial troubles.
2. Keep your spending in check
I t’s important to create a budget and stick to it. Only buy what you truly need and can afford. Free or low-priced smartphone apps can help you track your spending habits, set a personal budget and alert you when you’re getting too close to your limit.
3. Use new credit wisely
Many financial institutions offer products to help you rebuild your credit, such as a secured credit card, where you deposit the money to cover the credit. For example, if you deposit $200 at the start of the month, you’ll have a credit limit of $200.
Commit to paying off your credit card in full each month, so you can start on the path to building a good credit score again.
4. Make a financial plan
If you’re concerned about saving money, consider meeting with your financial advisor to help determine if you’re on track and to help you create a plan to meet your goals. According to the 2011 Canadian Unretirement Index, almost eight in 10 Canadians don’t have a written financial plan. Those who do have a written financial plan are more confident that they will be able to take care of basic living and medical expenses, have money to enjoy hobbies, interests and the lifestyle they want in retirement.
5. Stick to the plan
You need to strike the right balance between paying for your needs and saving for the future. Some financial experts recommend the 50/30/20 model, where you make sure 50% of your take-home pay goes to essentials, 30% goes to savings such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan or a Tax-Free Savings Account, and the remaining 20% can be used as your spending money.
While the journey to regaining your financial health may seem long and challenging, remember that this is a rare opportunity to start over. Take this time to create a plan you can stick with, and you’ll come out of bankruptcy with healthier and more disciplined financial practices.