In my last Personal Finance post (LINK), I mentioned the stressful effects of being in debt. I included contact details for several organisations that can help if the pressure of your debt problems becomes too much to handle.

A positive mindset, on the other hand, can reduce stress; it means looking for solutions rather than thinking only about the problem ( … and the conscious mind can hold only one thought at a time, or so I have been told). I cover this in Chapter 2 of “Back to the Black”, along these lines:


Debt and stress

Being in debt increases stress: you probably know that, if you have ever been in that situation. How we react to that stress greatly influences our success or otherwise in getting out of debt. Sometimes we seek external aids: we might drink more than we usually do, as I did. If we are smokers then we might smoke more, or if we are ex-smokers we might start again, as I did. Increased drug use of all kinds is often caused by debt.

However, the stress relief we might get from these is only temporary. Also it costs money, which is not what we want. There is a better and more long-lasting way to manage stress, which is to use our knowledge of how our minds and brains work.

Napoleon Hill, an early writer on the habits and characteristics of successful people, wrote, “In my youth, when I worked as a bank clerk, (this was back in the early 20th century, when credit was hard to come by) I could tell, before a man was 10 feet inside the bank door, whether he expected to get his cheque cashed.”

Confidence is key

What he didn’t say was that less-confident customers probably had their accounts scrutinised more closely before being given any cash. Thus being confident, or at least appearing to be confident, might have helped some of his customers to get cash or, in effect, to get credit despite their accounts not being “in the black”.

“That’s all very well,” I hear you say; “getting credit has not been my problem. That’s been easy; now I need to get out of the hole that easy credit got me into.” My contention, however, is that exactly the same principle applies here. On my wall is a slogan: “Act as if …” and it has served me well over the years whenever I was in a difficult situation. It’s a very adaptable, multipurpose slogan, meaning that if you act as if things are going well, or are about to go well, then you increase the chances that they will. It’s sometimes called the power of positive expectations.

You might well say that confidence, or maybe over-confidence, or excessively positive expectations, led you to the debt problem you have now. That may or may not be true but your prospects of getting out of this situation are greatly increased if you can manage to remain positive.

My daughters used to laugh about the fact that I always seemed to find a parking space, because I always believed I would (nowadays I don’t run a car, so I don’t need a parking space). My explanation was that because I believed I’d find one, I was relaxed about it, thus when a space became free I’d see it quickly. It’s said that if you are stressed (even about something relatively trivial, such as a parking space) part of your brain shuts down; it’s part of the so-called “fight or flight” reflex.


To be continued …

The above is an extract from “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”. [LINK]



In my book “Back to the Black”, I talk about the psychological effects of being in debt. In fact Chapter 2 is entitled “Mind Over Matter.”

I was pleased to see that this important issue was covered in a recent article by Simon Read in “The Independent” (17 March 2012). I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing:


Being in debt is a depressing experience.

“A trouble shared is a trouble halved”; but the annual report of Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) shows 25% of those in debt don’t share their troubles with friends or family.

It’s understandable that people don’t want to discuss their debt problems. They’re embarrassed that they might be judged.

Admit the problem; don’t delay

However, admitting you’re in financial trouble is the first step towards solving the problem.

CCCS also revealed that 45 per cent of people delayed seeking advice for more than a year after they started to worry they had a debt problem. Many of them had probably carried the worry alone.


Many tragic suicides are caused by the worry of debt (and for every suicide there are ten attempted suicides). If those people had been able to talk about their problems, who knows what kind of future they may have had?

Talk to someone

Don’t just worry about debt. Instead look for a way to deal with it. There are many people and organisations that can help.

Help is at hand

CCCS (and the other debt advice charities: see below) are on hand to help.

All of them can help those in debt find ways to put their finances back on track.

Friends and family

Just talking to friends and family could be a good first step on the way to coping with the deep anxiety that money worries cause.


I had intended to add some thoughts of my own to this; but I think that the article says what needs to be said. I’ve just added information about organisations that can help; see below.






Citizens Advice (“The CAB”)

 Free advice provider; registered charity. Funders include central and local government, charitable trusts, companies and individuals.

Face-to-face interviews and telephone advice available at local Citizens Advice Bureaux (CABs). Find your nearest bureau in the phone directory, or search at

E-mail advice available at some CABs

Advice line: 0844 499 4718

Online help also available:

CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Service)

Free advice provider; registered charity. Supported almost entirely by the credit industry.

Telephone counselling 0800 138 1111

Online help

National Debtline

 Free advice provider; registered charity. Part of the Money Advice Trust, (see below) funded by a mix of private sector donations and Government grants.

Phone advice and free factsheet orders: 0808 808 4000

Credit Action

Money education charity, in partnership with CCCS (see above). Free online advice provider, plus the Spendometer (see Chapter 8), Money Manuals and other resources:

Their “Money Advice Map” signposts to local debt advice centres:






AdviceUK (to find a local money advice centre)

020 7407 4070


Debtors Anonymous (worldwide community with telephone & online meetings)

… and to find contact details for local meetings inUK:


Mind (charity & helpline that helps with mental health problems)

0845 7660 163


Samaritans (confidential emotional support)

0845 790 9090


Saneline (support for mental illness)

0845 767 8000


Shelter (free housing advice helpline)

0808 800 4444


For the “Independent” article in full: LINK


For info about my book “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way” (paperback and eBook): LINK