Victory after 15 yrs of struggle to survive

2014-05-19 21:13
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More than a decade of struggling to survive finally paid off for this determined Fin24 user. Theuns shares his experience and offers invaluable advice:
Greetings all the way from Arusha in Tanzania. Thank you for all the great articles. Never in my life did I, a normal South African, thought about using my money wisely except than to survive.

Being a father of two and grandfather of four made me realise it is tough in South Africa, not just for me but seeing a lot of people suffer. I believe in one way to make money is hard honest work and perseverance and a positive attitude.

My story began a couple of years back in 2000 when I retired from the SANDF and looking for other career opportunities. At the time my daughters were in high school and we suffered to survive.

I got a nice job working on a state subsidised farming project in NKZN and together my wife and I did pretty well. Stayed for free in a big house, had each a nice SUV and earned enough to live comfortably. As luck will have it, after a year and a half, due to bad repayment of farmers on the project the company closed down and I, being the last one in was first to go.

I tried to start an agricultural depot, thinking it would be great to have my own business. The biggest mistake was that we never adapted our standard of living and after two years lost everything - our cars, household goods all been sold to pay off debt.

It took a survival instinct, patience, endurance and a lot of prayers to keep our heads above water.

Well we stuck to it and both my daughters matriculated and we started off on a new adventure. From doing security, building temporary houses, teaching for two years and doing marketing, we got a break when I was offered a job on a big poultry farm.

No winning situation

Eventually about nine years ago I was getting a steady income, yet barely survived as I was still paying off debt. I nearly lost my new car and decided to go for debt review thinking I would pay off my debt and be protected.

One year passed, two years... and I paid tirelessly every month but came to realise that the initial debt stays high. After a thorough research I found, paying my instalment over to Consumer Assist on time was great, but they distributed the money only after the 7th of each month, thus me ending up with more interest on my accounts and no winning situation. Especially on my car, WesBank kept on adding interest to a point where I would have paid nearly twice the initial contractile agreement if I stayed under debt review.

We then sat down, took a roll call and came up with a short-term 2-year plan: We lowered our standard of easy living; my wife started to work again and took up studying; I started negotiations on my own with the people I owed money, places like Capitec, attorneys and WesBank.

Starting with the small debt first and besides what's being paid via debt review, I started to put more money straight into the creditor's account and slowly paid off one debt at a time.

Some creditors were willing to re-negotiate my end amount and every little bit helped. I came to a point where I only had the car left at WesBank and as stated owed a lot of money on it. WesBank did not want to negotiate at all which forced me to stay under debt review.

Tax break

I received my big break in 2012 when I got an opportunity to work outside the borders of RSA. It was at a point where I barely survived, had a bad credit record and it seemed that I would never ever be able to buy a new car or rent a better house again.

Committing myself to the new challenge, working hard and being away from home long periods of time was hard, but qualifying for total tax rebate paid off dividends.

In 2013 I got my first tax rebate back for 2012 and I took the opportunity to go face to face at the WesBank office and re-negotiate a settlement. Finally my car was paid off and the next challenge was to clear my name which can only be done when you hire a professional.

At a fair cost I got an attorney that took me off debt review (Note! It took almost 6 months) and restored my name at credit agencies, so much so that my bank re-evaluated my situation and was willing to negotiate a current- and credit card account.

We were tempted, believe me, but I stuck to my plan and now, 2014 and nearly a half a year later, I have a positive bank balance, I have a positive credit card balance and I have a retirement savings plan and even life cover.

We live comfortably, renting a place, we downsized to a small economical car and now we can even support both our children - both happily married - should the need arise.

I see it totally as a second chance and a blessing. I am 51 now, it would be silly to try and buy a house as my instalments will be too high so we opt to keep on renting.

Survival tips

I want to end off with this advice to other people based on my own experience:

1. Take a deep breath, sit down and take a good look at yourself and your current situation. Write everything down and get your family in the house to sit down and discuss the situation openly.

You will be surprised by their reactions and what they are willing to do to help out. (I always tried to hide it from my children as not to put stress on them.) This will maybe just open their eyes for the future.

2. Make face-to-face appointments with your creditors, but try a senior manager as this is the best. Present your plan and negotiate or get a lawyer if you can afford one. I believe that debt review or going for broke (sequestration) is not an option and if the first negotiation didn’t work follow a new route. Make sure your new commitment is possible cause empty promises is a no go.

3. Pay of the small debt first and once it is paid use the same instalment and add on the second in line. Carry on but keep to your commitments. Two things you should never neglect is car instalments and your house payments. Without transport you can’t work, and without a home you can’t live.

4. You will come to a point where you see you have more money in your monthly budget but don’t think for a moment you can start new debt, stick to your plan and pay off all the debt. After its done, the satisfaction of having a positive bank balance, even saving money for special projects makes one feeling life is great.

I am proud to say going through all these things the last 15 years made me strong and I am now in a position to work towards my retirement. Just a piece of opinion, don’t invest too much money in annuity or retirement as I believe, you can die tomorrow then only your beneficiaries will benefit.

Make a bucket list and plan to live life now. I bought myself a really nice motorbike and I can't wait to go on a tour when I am back in SA.

5. Last point: there is no easy way to get out of debt or find a better job or plan if you’re in a bad situation. Hard work, dedication and willingness to change are but a few things needed to make it a success.

I am relieved and proud to say: no more micro loans, no more debt review, no more overspending, especially at Christmas time and holidays.

And the most important: having a positive bank balance and positive credit card.

Live what you can afford, don’t try to afford what you cannot live up to.

 - Fin24

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