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 all know the health issues caused from 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 because 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 a growing family, by a marriage and another son, I changed my spending habits and my 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 worse ones were dealing with creditors or collections. I was so annoyed and scared by the phone calls I was getting. With STACKS of envelopes 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. If you are like me, you WANT to pay the debt back but you are simply unable to. 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 that if they can make you angry, scared, or upset and uncomfortable, they have a better chance of getting you to make a payment.
They even have a better chance of you making a payment you really can’t afford by sacrificing something more important (Food, Clothing, Shelter, Utilities, and Transportation). Do NOT let them make you more emotional. You are already dealing with it and are most likely all of the above emotions. Do not 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 the debt collector is leading on. Debts need to be behind to the point that they will actually sue you. Not only do they need to sue you, they need to win the judgement.
-Most debt collections do not put forth the resources needed to quickly move through this process.
Even if so, this takes time. If none of this happens, you know that them saying they will garnish your next check is about a true statement as a 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. your time or after 9:00 P.M. your time. They can’t call you at work if you tell them not to. They cannot be abusive or threatening to you. These people will violate these laws often in an attempt 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, a loss of income. Make it a part time job keeping them informed. Call them consistently and let them know the steps you are taking 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.
-Update them on your budget and your plans to send them something that fits into your budget, even if it’s not a full payment.
-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 involved with dealing with a debt collector, write out and rehearse what you are going to say before speaking with them.
-Be in control and calm, not adversarial.
Remember, building confidence on 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 happy because YOU have a plan. Having a plan gives you peace. Peace 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 and 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 their need to do that and 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 are simply to 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 some.
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 was able to get under control gave me just a little bit more emotional peace. Plus, learning to appreciate the tiny steps and achievements can keep you motivated.
Once you do that, you can focus more energy on the budget and finding 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. Focusing on the problem will take you further than you ever thought possible.
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 that is passionate about helping everyone find the peace they are looking for.