Randy Simms’ column on Aug. 24, “Drowning in debt,” has yet again raised the importance of making financial decisions underpinned by sound knowledge and an awareness of the future consequences of decisions we make today. This now not-so-new thrust to improve financial literacy is rooted in observations by policy makers and others, that without a good financial grounding, our decisions as consumers are often limited to the immediate priorities and rarely ever look down the road to “what if.”
When trouble comes, as it does for a percentage of the population, it is not that these consumers have been irresponsible or inept. In our estimation, “they do not know what they do not know.”
Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland and Labrador (CCSNL) has assisted 27,000 individuals and families in its 31-year history. We have observed the “greying” of our caseload. In fact, from a population at risk perspective, we believe students, economically challenged families with young children, and senior citizens to be in the most fragile economic position, particularly as it relates to debt and prospective over-indebtedness.
By way of example, from among the dozens of new clients who choose our debt- retirement program as a debt relief measure, we have two cases bearing note: one is a woman in her early 60s who has $61,000 in consumer debt, and the second a 73-year-old man carrying just over $21,000.
One of the most consistent inquires on the financial information help line is from people, typically in their 60s, who are seeking information about reverse mortgages as a means of funding retirement.
Mr. Simms’ most poignant line is “Anyone up for the challenge?” CCSNL, a charitable family service agency, through our staff and board, certainly face this challenge every day. We do so through the provision of free financial counselling, including an assessment of the merits of bankruptcy as a relief measure for clients on an individual basis.
Most importantly, however, we help people understand the parameters of their income, various relief measures open to them and the importance of looking down the road as they make all their financial decisions. Individuals and families, including senior citizens, are welcome to contact us for assistance at 709-753-5812 or toll free 1-888-738-3328.
Al Antle is executive director of
Credit Counselling Services of Newfoundland
and Labrador Inc. in St. John’s.