Simon Read: The only place for debt is out in the open, don't be afraid to ask for advice

John Lush from Hampshire got into debt with payday lenders and had the help of a debt management adviser to clear the £20,000 he owed

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The Independent Online

The cap on the cost of payday lending that the City watchdog this week confirmed will come into force in January is long overdue.

High-cost credit companies have long been a blight and I won’t weep when many of them disappear next year because they can’t make enough profit out of preying on the hard-up.

 This week I spoke to someone who, despite a well-paid job, became a victim of such lenders. John Lush worked for a bank and thought he could handle borrowing money. But as his debts grew, he turned to payday lenders simply because it was much easier to borrow money from them.

The net result was that he eventually found himself with debts of £20,000 and using payday loans just to cover the interest payments on his borrowing each month.

“They allowed me to live from month to month. All the money I borrowed just went towards servicing my existing debts,” he told me. “I know I have to take responsibility for running up those debts, but I think I was a classic case of someone who buried their head in the sand as the problems escalated.”

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John Lush (Credit Russell Sach)

When he eventually woke up to the scale of his problem, he decided that he had to do something about it. “The memory sends shivers down my spine now but at the time I just thought to myself, what can I do to pay off the debt?”

He knew he needed to get help so he turned to the internet to look for debt advice. With his background in the bank he was aware of dodgy debt managers who charge fat fees, so he sought out free help.

“I didn’t want to run away from the debt but to find a way to pay it off,” he told me. “But I was worried that it could be the end of my career in financial services if it came out I had fallen into debt difficulties.

“I liked what I read online about the debt adviser PayPlan so contacted it. Before it got involved, dealing with creditors had always been a negative conversation. It helped me realise that my situation wasn’t helpless and I could get my dignity back when dealing with lenders.”

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(Russell Sach)

With PayPlan’s help, Mr Lush negotiated reduced repayment terms with all his creditors, and by paying off as much as he could afford each month, he was able to become debt free within two years.

“John’s story is testament to the fact that you can turn things around with a bit of help and support,” says Jane Clack, a money advice consultant at PayPlan, who was also forced to turn to the organisation when she got into money difficulties after being made redundant. “Financial distress can be turned into personal success, but the most important thing is to find your voice and ask for advice.”

It’s a crucial lesson for all those who feel their debt problems are overwhelming. Talking about them can help bring them into the open, and getting professional help can be an important step to clearing the problems and carrying on with your life.

Meanwhile, the net is closing on unscrupulous payday lenders.

For more on the new rules and what to do if you get into debt woes, I’ve made a short video guide that you can watch at ind.pn/110u2b7.

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