Getting Out of Debt Review: Tina’s Story

Many people are searching for ways to get out of debt review. You might already be under debt review and be questioning whether this was the right choice for you. Debt review is not always easy. We understand why you might want to get out of debt review now. In this 5th and final part of our “Is Debt Review right for You?” Series, we share Tina’s story: How she entered, and got out of, debt review.

Tina’s situation is an example of being unable to pay her debt because of life circumstances.

After being married to her husband for 23 years, their children were grown up and had left the home. Tina and her husband were still young enough to enjoy life and were planning for their retirement. Although they did have debt, they were able to manage it. Then, the unimaginable happened: Tina’s husband was involved in an accident. He fought for his life over the course of a week but eventually succumbed to his injuries.

I was devastated.  We had so many plans – a happy future together.  He was too young to die.

~ Tina

Not long after the funeral, Tina began receiving calls from the doctors and hospitals for medical accounts which had not been paid by the medical aid. The amounts were enormous. Tina tried her best, but along with other debts she needed to pay – clothing accounts, credit cards and overdraft facilities – it was clear to Tina that she could not afford it.

Tina spoke to the executor of her husband’s estate. She was told clearly that because they were married in community of property, her husband’s debt was her debt as well (joint estate) and that the creditors would claim out of the estate before anything was paid over to Tina.

Collectors and creditors continued to phone Tina daily, until she could not face it anymore.

I found it so difficult to think about the creditor’s monthly instalments, I just could not face another day of phone calls from collectors and creditors.  None of them had any empathy with me, having lost my husband and his income.

~ Tina

Tina decided to apply for debt review with Cape Debt Clinic.

Tina asked a lot of questions. She read through all the conditions. Her own responsibilities as well as the duties of Karin, her debt counsellor, were explained to her in detail. Before Tina signed the Form 16, she knew what she was in for: all her debt had to be settled before her name could be cleared. She decided that she had to do it. She couldn’t pay her debts alone and needed help.

Tina felt relieved. She paid her monthly amount every month on time. The doctors and hospital also agreed to participate in the debt review, so Tina only had to pay one amount, like a consolidation of sorts.

It was an entire year before one of Tina’s smaller accounts was settled.

She had so little money available for creditors that some received less than R100 per month. Debt review seemed to take forever and from time to time, Tina became very impatient. When she spoke to Karin, her debt counsellor, about this, she realized that most people had the same experience. The only way to speed up the process was for Tina to increase her payments. If she could increase her payments, she could reduce the length of time under debt review.

It was then that Tina started examining her lifestyle.

She started to reduce some living expenses and was able to add R300 to her original debt review amount. The change was amazing. On the statements she received from the Payment Distribution Agent, she started to see her balances reducing dramatically. Then, one of Tina’s credit cards was paid off and more money was free to go to another account. That account got paid off and after that it was like a waterfall: almost monthly another account was settled. In the end, only two accounts were left, and Tina was able to settle those quickly.

Every time an account was paid off, Karin, Tina’s debt counsellor, obtained a paid-up letter from the creditor concerned. When the last account was settled, on the very same day, she issued Tina’s Clearance Certificate.

It was such a relief!  My nightmare of debt was over!  Karin removed my name from the NCR records, and sent out the clearance certificate to all the credit bureaus to remove my Debt Review status.

It was such a relief!  My nightmare of debt was over!  Karin removed my name from the NCR records, and sent out the clearance certificate to all the credit bureaus to remove my Debt Review status.

~ Tina

The Credit Bureaus took at least two months to update their records, which frustrated Tina but when she eventually got her updated credit report, she felt a sense of achievement that it is hard to express.

I just want to tell anybody out there, stick with your debt review. It really does work. If you can pay more, do so, if you are feeling frustrated or want to run away from it – don’t!  Talk to your debt counselor about your feelings and get perspective – after all, this process is to become debt free, not to exit while you still have debt.

~ Tina