Some of my worst anxiety ever was dealing with creditors when I was behind on bills. Compounded by the thought of IRS liens and losing my home, the stress and sleepless nights were overwhelming. We’re all aware of the health issues caused by lack of sleep. If I got any sleep, it was because I turned to a sleeping aid.
Part of the reason I felt so strongly about getting out of debt was that it really was killing me. My blood pressure was sky high. I was tired and stressed all the time. It was such an incredibly toxic way to live. Had I stayed on that path, I wouldn’t have lived long.
Inspired by my marriage and growing family, I changed my spending habits and life. But not before debt collectors started calling because I was drastically behind on bills.
Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes in dealing with money. Some of the worst involved dealing with creditors or collections. I was so annoyed and scared by the phone calls I was getting. With STACKS of envelopes that I never opened, I was quick to kick phone calls to voicemail. I let my fear paralyze me.
If you are like me, you know you owe the money. You WANT to pay the debt back but are simply incapable at the moment. Not dealing with something doesn’t make it go away.
Here are some things I wish I knew back when creditors kept calling:
Debt collectors know they have a better chance of getting you to make a payment if they can make you angry, scared, upset, or uncomfortable.
Maybe they can even convince you to make a payment you can’t afford by sacrificing something more important, like food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and transportation. Do NOT let them make you more emotional. You are already dealing with all of the above emotions. Don’t give them the power to compound that. You ARE stronger than that.
Debt collectors often threaten things they can’t do.
Most will threaten to garnish your wages. Short of a student loan or tax lien, it doesn’t happen as quickly as debt collectors lead you to believe. Debts need to be behind to the point that they will sue you. Not only do they need to sue you, but they also need to win the judgment.
Most debt collections do not have the resources to move through this process quickly
Even if they do, this takes time. If none of this happens, you know that the debt collector’s threat of garnishing your next check is about as true of a statement as me saying I’ve never made a mistake.
Read the federal law that protects you: The Fair Debt Collections Act.
Debt collectors can’t call you before 8:00 A.M. or after 9:00 P.M. in your timezone. They can’t call you at work if you tell them not to. They cannot be abusive or threatening to you. These people will often violate these laws to throw you off balance and get a payment. Knowing your rights helps keep you on a firm emotional base when dealing with them.
Keep them informed by over-communicating with them.
Explain that you have had a loss of job, a medical emergency, or a loss of income. Make it a part-time job to keep the collector informed. Call them consistently and alert them to your steps to make things right. Call them on schedule, even if nothing has changed. This is your chance to annoy them as much as they annoy you. Enjoy it.
Note that unsecured debts will process partial payments; secured debts, like mortgages and car loans, will not.
Listen, listen, listen.
I’m as guilty as anyone of thinking about my response while someone is talking. Listen to exactly what they are saying, and do not be afraid of silence. Prepare emotionally in that silence and respond from a state of calm.
Resist emotions by remembering to stick to the facts
To combat the emotions of dealing with a debt collector, write and rehearse what you will say before speaking with them.
Be in control and calm, not adversarial.
Remember, building confidence in what can and can’t be done is not about winning a confrontation. You owe the debt. You failed to pay the debt. Being confident is simply about removing emotional anxiety about it.
When a debt collector calls, be enthusiastic.
Being enthusiastic doesn’t mean you are happy about them calling you. It means you are pleased because YOU have a plan. Having a plan gives you peace, which is worth being happy about. This also really throws off the debt collectors.
Do not make promises you can’t keep.
Overcommitting does no good other than to pacify the debt collector while on the phone. Knowing your budget will let you know what you can and can’t afford. Do NOT forget what your budget says; adhere to it.
Always remember, you signed up for this debt.
You are responsible for it. Also, remember that it doesn’t have to define you forever. You can (and WILL) overcome it by changing your life.
If a creditor is calling you and threatening to turn you over to a debt collection agency, don’t panic.
Stay the course. Explain that you respect the actions they need to take. Then, ask for the debt collection agency’s name and phone number so you can continue to work through the process.
If you want to feel even more confident about what can and can’t be done, do some very dry reading
These tips are not designed to get you out of debt. They simply help you buy some time and keep things from spiraling out of control. They’ll give you a sense of control over the situation and help calm your emotions.
Coping with Anxiety of Debt Collectors Calling
As much as I have mentioned anxiety caused by collections, I never found a way to deal with it. The only thing I felt ever helped me was getting a small win. Every little thing I could get under control gave me just a little more emotional peace. Plus, learning to appreciate the tiny steps and achievements can motivate you.
Once you do that, you can focus more energy on the budget and find ways to earn more money. I promise you that you can overcome the struggle. You just need to focus on taking deliberate steps to change your situation. Concentrating on the problem will take you further than you ever thought possible. If you need help or want to vent, reach out.
When it comes to personal finance, Nic Ranze epitomizes Thomas Edison’s quote, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.” Overcoming numerous financial mistakes and personal setbacks, Nic learned how to live a less stressful financial life and put his family on a stable financial foundation for the future. Believing that everyone can control the stress induced by money problems, Nic became a financial coach passionate about helping everyone find the peace they are looking for.