Being in debt can put you in an incredibly lonely place. You’re faced with a growing pile of unopened letters and unrelenting phone calls chasing you for money.
You need professional advice that you can rely on – the kind that leaves you feeling supported and certain of the path forward.
But not all debt advisors are created equal. Some provide questionable advice, others leave you more confused than when you started.
When seeking out expert debt guidance, here are the six qualities that you should look for…
- Expert knowledge
Before lifting so much as a phone or writing out an email, research the company/adviser in question and their credentials. How long have they provided advice for? Are there online reviews/testimonials available? Do they have a presence on social media?
It’s also important for a debt adviser to have a wide knowledge basis of potential debt solutions – from credit products available with mainstream lenders (such as credit card balance transfers and personal loans); to debt solutions suited to those in the most severe of financial situations (such as IVAs, Bankruptcy and Debt Management Plans). This may mean that they have a financial background; they may have worked for a bank or lender in the past, though this isn’t strictly necessary for providing trustworthy advice. Personality, professionalism and an up-to-date, in-depth knowledge of the field are often of far more value than any degree or formal training.
Finally, they should share their knowledge clearly and coherently – both verbally and in writing.
- Helpfulness, attentiveness, courtesy
Debt can happen to anyone. Although many feel embarrassed by the thought of seeking out help, it’s really nothing to be ashamed of, and a good debt adviser will make you feel at ease from the get-go – they will be caring, compassionate, patient and reassuring. After all, without these qualities many don’t feel comfortable sharing the complete truth of their current financial circumstances?
- Willingness to teach, support and guide
A good debt adviser won’t simply advise you on what they believe to be the strategy, they’ll tell you about all your options, and help you understand the pros and cons of each. This is essential if you’re to make an informed decision, and in any event – only you are best placed to know what will be right for you, your family and your circumstances.
- Complete impartiality
Even where you’ve sought advice from a company that provides a product or service, the adviser who guides you should be upfront as to whether there are more suitable solutions available from another provider.
Ask the question outright after researching the debt solutions that may be accessible and suitable for you.
Where another solution may be right for you, a good adviser will point you in the right direction with contact details or online information.
- Reasonable fees (or advice for free)
There are a good number of tried, tested and trusted debt help charities and bodies that provide free debt help and advice. Here are some of the biggest:
- Citizens Advice (previously the Citizens Advice Bureau – Adviceline: 03444 111 444
- Step Change – 0800 138 1111
- The Debt Advice Foundation – 0800 043 40 50
- Christians Against Poverty – 01274 760720
- The Debt Support Trust – 0800 085 0226
- Shelter Debt Management – 0808 800 4444
However, you may need to seek help from a specialist company, such as an IVA provider. In this instance you should expect there to be fees, but they should be reasonable given the services that they deliver. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t expect to pay for debt advice alone, and any charges should be provided in writing with an explanation where required.
- No pressure (ever)
If you’re receiving debt advice from a company that also provides a fee-based service or product, all information about any product or service should be delivered without pressure. You should also expect some kind of cooling off period before deciding whether to use the suggested service/product.
On the same note, you should research any suggested solution for yourself – seeking impartial information from the charities listed above as to what circumstances the service/product is right for.