12 Oct 2018

Solo mother carrying $30k debt not a unique case: budget advisor

5:48 pm on 12 October 2018

A solo mother burdened with $30,000 of debt for household items she doesn't need isn't a unique case, an Auckland budget advisor says.

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Photo: 123RF

Adrienne Gallie, from the Pakuranga and Howick Budgeting Service, introduced RNZ News to one of her clients this week after the government announced a crackdown on loan sharks.

Ms Gallie said while the measures target the very worst lenders with the highest interest rates, they don't do anything to rein in other non-bank lenders.

One of her clients, Rachel*, was a solo mother-of-two originally from the Philippines.

She racked up $30,000 of debt through loans her husband took out to buy a new television and bed, and now works two jobs to keep on top of the debt.

Rachel said she'd never been in debt before she came to New Zealand.

"I don't have my family here so it's very difficult and I don't have anyone to rely on."

She works 13 out of 14 days to keep to a tight budget schedule and provide for her children; earning more than $1100 a week if she manages the hours.

But $500 of that goes to rent and $200 to debt repayments.

"That's why I wanted to work more because I don't want them to be deprived of their needs so as much as possible I wanted to provide everything that my two children need," she said.

Rachel came to New Zealand as a student in 2010 and soon met her future husband.

He used her credit cards because he had bad credit and he told Rachel he would pay them off.

But he didn't and left her - and the debt.

She cancelled the card and paid off the debt but that wasn't the end of the story.

"He came back to me and promised me we'd be together again. He wanted to buy something for me because I'm so tired everyday. He wanted to buy a good bed but my bed has no problems."

She said she didn't have any problems opening the cards again because she had paid the previous debt.

"They granted them to me again but then I had the same problem; he paid the payments twice and then stopped repaying them. That's the reason I got this debt and why I'm still paying it off."

Rachel said she came to Adrienne with $30,000 of debt and has now managed to wrangle it down to $20,000 through a Kiwisaver withdrawal and a strict payment schedule.

"Before I was so stressed with it and frustrated but what can I do? I need to pay it back because it's my debt. Now it's a relief because Adrienne is assisting me," she said.

Rachel said she knew she didn't need the things her husband bought but she loved him and trusted him with her cards.

Ms Gallie said it's not uncommon for people to amass debt through a relationship.

"That's also something that we see a lot of; people taking on debt because other people had bad credit records."

Ms Gallie said predatory lenders have long been overlooked and the Government's planned crack down doesn't go far enough.

"I'm appalled by it and that's why I was really hoping that the Government would use this opportunity to do massive robust, bold reform and actually close down the pay lending industry," she said.

Rachel said she's tired and often takes her own sick days to look after her youngest child who has asthma.

When she does this her budget doesn't work and she has to reach out to Ms Gallie for food parcels, she said.

*Rachel isn't her real name