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Money guru’s top tips for dealing with debt

9News.com.au logo9News.com.au 12/10/2017

Australians are a collective $1.68 trillion in debt and for many people, the burden is life-altering.

Money guru and financial advisor Paul Clitheroe appeared on A Current Affair to offer his top tips for avoiding debt - and what to do when you find yourself in a hole.

"We Australians really are on a credit binge, it's not just our home loan," he said.

"It's the investment property loan, it could be a car loan, some sort of personal finance, the good old credit card or of course the friendly store card.

"We're drowning in debt and when these guys start to raise interest rates, which at some point in the economic cycle they will, then you really will find that credit can be an absolute cancer."

1. Don't spend if you can't afford

"If you can't afford it, you can't afford it," Mr Clitheroe said.

"Because if you don't have the savings and you use store credit or you go in to pay no interest for five years - you miss a repayment, you could be paying up to 26-28 percent interest on store finance and the typical credit card is around 17-18 percent."

2. Be careful of better deals

"You're wondering, how could a better deal be a trap?" he said.

"Well it can, when it's a zero-interest credit card."

He said often if people had $5000 on their old credit card with 18 percent interest, they would choose to roll it over to a zero-interest card.

"But the reality is all too often people don't cut up the first card," he said.

"So I find in a few years’ time, the first card is loaded with a new $5000, and the zero balance card hasn't been paid off - it reverts to 21 percent interest."

3. Avoid cash advances

"The problem is a cash advance on your credit card means you start paying interest probably at 21 percent the second you take money out," Mr Clitheroe said.

4.The interest only home loan trap

Mr Clitheroe said there was a particular issue for people borrowing interest only loans.

"What I worry about, if you're not paying back principal and interest rates rise, which they will sooner or later, will you be forced out of your property?" he said.

5. Being a guarantor is dangerous

"I'll give you some very simple advice: before you even think about going guarantor on a loan, you go and see your solicitor," he said.

Mr Clitheroe said there were a number of ways this could backfire, even if you were only trying to support a loved one or family member.

Relationship breakdowns, deaths, turns in the property market and business failures can all affect the situation.

6. Finding help

"For anyone in debt communication is key," Mr Clitheroe said.

"There's no point burying your head in the sand, talk to your lender."

He said lenders had to help - as long as clients said they were specifically suffering "hardship".

He also recommended people contact the free financial counselling service at the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.


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