Richard Haggins is a manager of operations and development at InCharge Debt Solutions in Mississauga, Ontario. Every day, he works with clients who need credit counselling because they are in financial or debt hardship — some as a result of bad decisions, others because of unforeseen events like illness or divorce. Richard always begins by assessing their situation, asking what happened, what they own, what they owe, what they earn and what they spend. From there, he and his clients create a plan and start working toward getting the client's finances back in order.
Because a surprisingly large number of Canadians are unaware that credit counselling exists, InCharge Debt Solutions participates in many outreach activities with the general public. Richard also takes advantage of Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's resources. “The FCAC has been very, very useful to us as a provider of information that we can provide for free, pro bono, to our clients,” he says. “The one thing that I think our clients have been most enamoured with overall was the publication Understanding your Credit Report and your Credit Score. People come to us at a point where they are recognizing that their actions up to this point may have already had an effect on their credit report and credit score, and they want to know more about this.”
Can you imagine a world where we said when somebody is 16 years old we will simply hand them the keys to a car and say, “Off you go, start driving, learn to drive while you are out there on the road”? You wouldn't do that. It would be carnage. However, when it comes to an 18-year-old suddenly being able to qualify for debts it is like "hey you are 18, have a handful of credit cards, away you go."
The people who come to credit counselling are in situations of hardship: financial hardship, debt hardship. You have people who were doing just fine until they lost their job. Suddenly they have less income but they still have the same level of expenses.
The FCAC has been very, very useful to us as a provider of information that we can provide for free, pro bono, to our clients. The one thing that I think our clients have been most enamoured with overall was the publication Understanding your Credit Report and your Credit Score. People come to us at a point where they are recognizing that their actions up to this point may have already had an effect on their credit report and credit score, and they want to know more about this. And the fact of the matter is that most Canadians that I have dealt with simply have no understanding of anything to do with their credit report or credit score. They have no idea. They don't know how to get it, they don't know how to read it, and the publications of the FCAC are very, very helpful in a number of areas. But that one is one of the best as far as credit counselling is concerned.
There are a few things that I can suggest for people. First thing, most importantly is: watch what is going on with your everyday finances. Where is your money coming from? Where is your money going to? What is the balance between the two? Are you spending more than you make? Second, you must go and read things, in particular to know how much your debts are actually costing you. Third, I'd say, if you do have any kind of debts, any kind of high interest rate debts, you need to have some sort of a plan to figure how are you going to back out of that.
I find my own personal job here, my time here at InCharge to have been a very, very rewarding time. I can't tell you how many times I have dealt with people who, after the fact, after we have gotten something resolved for them, come back to us and say they are extremely grateful for what we have done for them.