Debt can have a huge impact on your personal life – from the stress of being contacted by creditors, to the strain which repayments can exert on your income. Studies have shown that struggling with debt can also have a profound effect on mental health, with anxiety and depression being the most commonly reported symptoms.
The stress which debt can cause has the potential to affect most aspects of a person’s personal life. What is less often taken into account, however, is the fact that our personal and public lives cannot be separated. Personal problems with debt can easily spill over into the workplace, and have an effect on general working life as well as future career prospects.
Debt and Career Path Limitations
Problem debt, in extreme cases, can lead to bankruptcy – going bankrupt can have a massive impact in your choice of career, and put it on hold altogether if you work in certain sectors.
Going through bankruptcy means that you cannot operate a business. If you already do, control of the company is transferred to a trustee and usually dissolved. Being bankrupt also means that you can no longer work as an Insolvency Practitioner, or in some jobs related to law, accountancy, or financial services. With these careers, bankruptcy causes you to be disqualified from the professional body you are a member of.
However, once discharged from the bankruptcy proceedings, it is possible to return to these positions after a certain amount of time.
Debt and Day to Day Work
Bankruptcy is usually a last resort for dealing with problem debt, but there are more subtle ways that dealing with less extreme debt can also have an effect on your career.
Firstly, the stress which struggling with debt causes can have a real impact on productivity in the workplace. Employees who have problem debt are more likely to experience anxiety – it is virtually impossible to stop worrying just by going from a home to work environment. Money worries can distract employees from the task at hand, which is likely to reduce their productivity.
On top of this, struggling with debt can have a negative impact on your career for more practical reasons. For example, if someone is being harassed by creditors, this is unlikely to stop simply because they have come to work. Taking time out of their day to respond to creditor phone calls or emails reduces the amount of time that an employee has available to work. Even a few minutes here and there can quickly add up to lost hours. The stress which such correspondence is likely to cause will also further knock a worker’s focus. Losing focus is problematic for most jobs, but for roles which involve a lot of physical work, or operating machinery, this can be dangerous as well as a nuisance.
Long-term exposure to stress can also have a real impact on a person’s mental health. Interestingly, people who experience mental health issues are far more likely than the population at large to experience problems with debt. This is likely because mental ill-health makes managing your finances more challenging, which in itself can lead to debt piling up, hence further stress, and worse mental health.
As well as this, many of the most common mental health issues – depression and anxiety included – generally lead sufferers to become more reclusive. As well as impacting personal relationships negatively, this also has the potential to affect professional relationships.
Opportunities for Career Progression
As well as the smaller ways that problem debt can affect your daily working life it can also, sometimes, impede progress.
For one thing, people struggling with personal debt, surveys suggest, are far less likely to consider a change of career – or even job – than their financially better off counterparts. Leaving a job with guaranteed, steady pay is a far more intimidating prospect when a large chunk of it is necessary just to pay the bare minimum on debts.
As well as this, the reduced performance which the stress of debt can cause could prevent you from being selected for – or even motivated to apply for – promotions. As addressed earlier, serious problems with debt can undoubtedly prevent you from taking your career in certain directions too.
Getting your finances under control could have a far-reaching impact on your professional life. The first step in overcoming debt is seeking help – it could be worth discussing any concerns with your employer’s human resources department if this is possible, or Citizens Advice if you are self-employed.
You might consider getting IVA advice, as this debt solution allows you to write off some of your debt without many of the career restrictions imposed by bankruptcy. With an IVA, you can even continue to run a business.
Debt can have surprising and extensive effects on career prospects, and levels of personal debt in the UK are on the rise. This means it is important for employers to be as supportive as possible towards employees who might be struggling with debt. Simple steps such as providing your employees with a quick debt awareness course can be a great way to encourage openness about problems, as well as decreasing the likelihood they will struggle with debt in the future.
Hopefully, in a supportive environment and with the best advice, those struggling with debt will be able to focus on their work fully once again.