What’s it like to be a recruit taking part in Credit Canada’s new Debt Boot Camp? It’s a good question following our announcement a couple of weeks ago about the program, which promotes our credit counselling services under the whimsical flag of an army boot camp. Shortly, I’ll get to a specific, heartwarming example of what recruits can expect from enlistment. For the moment, though, a little perspective.
Through Debt Boot Camp, civilians sign up as “grunts” who can move up the ranks to become hardened, debt-free soldiers of personal finance. Yes, we’re having a little fun with the whole army boot camp idea, including the unofficial labelling of our credit counsellors as able Debt Boot Camp drill sergeants. Think of them as stern but sympathetic taskmasters dedicated to liberating others from worrisome, often demoralizing debt.
“An action plan for soldiers of finance – men and women alike – determined to overcome debt.”
With Debt Boot Camp we’ve declared war on personal debt in Canada, which is skyrocketing. To promote the program, we even refer to our offices as “garrisons”, though they hardly resemble army compounds with sandbags and tough physical obstacle courses. Our obstacle courses largely have to do with self-defeating financial behaviour and attitudes. In their own way, these obstacles are no less challenging.
All fanciful army references aside, the initiative also is serious business. It amounts to a disciplined financial action plan for Canadians who are determined to overcome sorry financial circumstances through debt consolidation programs and training that can last a lifetime.
“Meet Nav, the recruit who fell into a deep debt hole, then climbed back out with Credit Canada’s help.”
What exactly can new recruits expect from the program? Well, permit me to frame the Debt Boot Camp experience around a 30-something Torontonian named Nav, who fell into a deep debt hole some time ago but who managed to climb back out with Credit Canada’s help.
Nav’s story begins when as a young man he immigrated to Canada from northern India around the turn of the century. Equipped with solid training in the hospitality business, he soon found a good job, got married, and became a dad. For a while he was riding high. His earnings made for a secure and happy home where his wife settled in as a stay-at-home mom with their baby girl. Nav excelled at work, enjoying the perks and active social life that come with being a go-getter in hospitality. But then in 2006, without warning, a financial crisis hit.
“He maxed out on his credit cards, covering medical expenses amounting to $38,000 dollars.”
Back in India, Nav’s 73-year-old father faced a medical emergency – surgery for a knee replacement as well as treatment for heart complications. The family in India had no money to cover the costs, so Nav stepped up from halfway around the world. Unfortunately he did so in panic mode, without seeking financial guidance. With meagre savings in place, he maxed out on his credit cards, eventually covering medical expenses amounting to $38,000 dollars. As you can imagine, interest on the new debt was through the roof.
“All of the sudden, I faced a mountain of debt that was driving me crazy because I saw no end in sight to the worry and the struggle. Here I am, I’ve got to deal with all the expenses of supporting a family and maintaining a lifestyle requiring a lot of work-related social interaction, and I’m facing bills that threaten my family’s well-being and my whole way of life.” Nav said, adding that even after explaining his situation to his credit card companies, they increased his interest rates from 18 to 22 per cent during his time of trouble.
“Nav was pretty sure his debt troubles would sink him. But then grace intervened.”
“I felt terrible. For the first time I was disappointed with life in Canada, which had been so good up to this point. I tried paying minimum monthly payments on the credit card debt. I learned that at this rate I was looking at decades to pay off my debts thanks to compound interest. I struggled to pay growing monthly minimums without making a dent in the principal amounts that I owed,” he explained.
By early 2007, Nav was pretty sure his debt troubles would sink him. But then grace intervened. He caught sight of an ad for Credit Canada. He made the call, visited for a free counselling session, and instantly became a recruit for what we today call our Debt Boot Camp.
He discovered the program holds real promise of becoming debt-free through simple discipline and training. He pulled up his bootstraps and committed himself to navigating obstacle courses under the firm but thoughtful command of one of our Debt Boot Camp drill sergeants. He took part in a Debt Management Program (DMP) that consolidated all his credit card debt for a single monthly payment at an affordable interest rate. Credit Canada negotiated the rate with creditors on his behalf. Along the way, he answered calls to duty in goal setting, monthly budgeting, and short-to-long-term financial planning.
“He celebrated his freedom from debt and earned his stripes with a respectable credit rating.”
As Nav pointed out, getting through the program was no idle walk in the woods. Over four years, strict budgeting guided him and his wife. She helped ease matters by finding a job. Nav himself took on a second job requiring long hours of work every day. At the same time, sacrifices were made in terms of luxuries, entertainment – a list of things. The discipline demanded that Nav focus on real needs over desired wants in relation to his family and his social life. However, for all that he and the family had to forego, he found that his debts after all were manageable, that he could get by reasonably and – very importantly – avoid sleepless nights brought on by anxiety.
Come 2012, he celebrated his freedom from debt (decades earlier than expected). As of today, he’s also happy about earning his stripes in the form of a respectable credit rating. Not that he has any plans to run out and rack up a lot of credit card debt again.
“I’ve gained new respect for money since going through the program with Credit Canada. Also, I now have a lot more knowledge about personal finance that I didn’t have before. For one thing, I know that if I had taken out a line of credit to cover my father’s medical expenses - rather than covering the bills through my credit cards - my financial situation might have been very different,” he said.
You may be interested to know that Nav’s father – now 82 – is alive and well back in India.