If you know someone who's struggling with debt, this person is probably sensitive to their situation. And as a friend or family member, you should also be sensitive and show compassion. For that matter, there are things you should never say to someone struggling with debt.
1. How Much do You Owe?
If a friend, coworker or relative is struggling with debt, do not ask how much they owe. For starters, it's really none of your business. And secondly, the person might be embarrassed or ashamed, and asking this question can create an uncomfortable situation.
2. You Should File Bankruptcy
Unless you're an attorney and know all the nitty-gritty details about this person’s situation, do not advise bankruptcy. Bankruptcy can wipe the slate clean and give this person a fresh start. However, a bankruptcy stays on credit reports for up to 10 years and lowers credit scores by 200 points. It’s this person’s responsibility to research debt options and determine whether a bankruptcy is the right move.
3. What Happened?
This is another one of those questions that’s none of your business. There are many reasons why someone gets into debt. Sometimes, situations happen beyond their control and they’re forced to rely on credit cards, or unexpected costs might force them to apply for loans. It's okay to offer support and solicited advice, but this isn’t license to get into their business and ask personal questions.
4. Where Did Your Money Go?
If a person struggles with debt and earns a nice salary, you might be inclined to ask where his or her money goes. However, what this person does with his or her money is their business. By asking this question, you’re basically implying that the person isn’t responsible and needs to make better financial decisions. Even if this is true, this is not what the person needs to hear right now, and this statement might put them on the defense.
5. Why Don't You Have Better Self-control?
Yet another question that implies that the person is being irresponsible. By now, this person probably realizes that he needs to exercise self-control — or at least he should. Too much debt is a bad situation to be in, and the more you attack this person and ask questions, the worse he or she will feel about the situation. And if the person feels powerless or ashamed, he might not have the strength to reverse the situation.
6. I’m Glad I'm Not in Your Shoes
Although you might feel this way, keep this thought to yourself. It doesn't help the situation, and it's one of those statements that’s better left unsaid. If you’re financially savvy, rather than make statements like this, offer to help your friend come up with a doable solution. Maybe suggest advice that helped you pay off debt.
7. You’ll Never Be Able to Buy a House
While it's true that massive debt can prevent buying a house or qualifying for other types of financing, this is not always the case. Depending on how much the debtor owes, he might be able to get financing despite a lot of credit card debt. At the end of the day, you might not have all the details about the situation. Therefore, you need to avoid generalizations.
Often times, people who struggle with debt recognize the mistakes they’ve made and they’re embarrassed about the situation. Therefore, they need friends and family who will encourage and offer support, not condemn them. What are other things you should never tell a person dealing with debt?