Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 July 2019

The Debt Panel: Suicidal Sharjah resident overloaded by debts and his diabetic daughter’s medical bills

The Indian earns Dh6,500 and has loans with three banks and monthly medical expenses of Dh1,000 for his seven-year-old daughter.
Clockwise from top left: Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive of Souqalmal.com, The National columnist Keren Bobker, Rasheda Khatun from Financial Life Planner, and Jamel Alvi, chief credit officer of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, during a round-table panel discussion on why people are getting into excessive debt, how this situation can be resolved and where they can turn for help. Ravindranath K / The National and Marwan Alhammadi / The National
Clockwise from top left: Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive of Souqalmal.com, The National columnist Keren Bobker, Rasheda Khatun from Financial Life Planner, and Jamel Alvi, chief credit officer of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, during a round-table panel discussion on why people are getting into excessive debt, how this situation can be resolved and where they can turn for help. Ravindranath K / The National and Marwan Alhammadi / The National

This is to address the grievance and pain I am carrying on my shoulders in offsetting my debts. At times I feel tired and wish to die, but that’s not the solution. So please help me in negotiating with my bankers. I have three loans with three different banks that have accumulated to Dh165,000. I borrowed the money to pay for my seven-year-old daughter’s medical treatment. She has type 1 diabetes and every month I have expenses for her medical needs that are to the tune of Dh1,000. I took out one loan and then my debts accumulated due to family maintenance and to cover a failed business.

​My salary is Dh6,500 and my earnings go on repayments with nothing left in hand to live on or take care of family. I have not disclosed my situation to my family in India, plus there is nobody to help me. I have tried all possible ways. Can you help me in negotiating with bankers to consolidate my debt and to increase the tenure of my repayments. I can pay up to Dh4,000 per month. I don’t want to end my life and to be declared a fraudster. SM, Sharjah

Debt panellist 1: Rasheda Khatun Khan, a wealth and wellness planner and founder of Design Your Life

The emotional burden of financial distress is not to be taken lightly. It is not uncommon for debtors to feel so distressed that the thought of taking their own life is something that crosses their mind. The pain of everyday life can get so much so that some feel it’s a way out. Some even think it will end the suffering. This is not the solution my friend.

An external factor like money should never take you away from the real essence of life, and that’s measuring the quality of your relationships with your loved ones. This can remain as rich as you wish. And in times like this you really need them. Don’t go at this on your own. Find your support circle; this is so important. Not only can they be there to hear your troubles, but they can even help you with new ideas and solutions. Perhaps you can call upon your family members too – you never know they may just be able to help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness as many seem to think, but a sign of true courage. It actually allows your friends and family to be there for you as I’m sure you would do the same. It allows your loved ones to do their job.

Another important factor to note, in the event of death, debt is also inherited by the next of kin, it’s not just assets that are passed on. So again my friend, taking your own life does not end the pain, it is simply passed on and usually to the ones you are trying most to protect.

Keeping your mind focused on what needs to be done is where to start.

Regarding your daughter, try to get government aid. Take her to a government hospital and seek help for her treatment. They may be able to offer subsidised treatment. Also look up charities in Dubai that offer medical support – start with the Red Crescent – they will be able to let you know what is available to you regarding medical help.

For consolidating your debt, unfortunately there are not many companies other than banks that offer such loans. Approach the banks again with a detailed repayment plan. Show them how you can maintain your offered repayment of Dh4,000. Make sure that you can maintain this. Take in a list of your other outgoings so the bank can see that you know your numbers. And then plead your case. Remember banks want to be repaid too, and helping a customer structure a repayment plan is a better solution for them that running the risk of not being paid at all.

Debt panellist 2: Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive of comparison website Souqalmal.com

You’re already considering putting over 60 per cent of your salary towards repaying your loans – this is a great start.

You can explore the debt consolidation option, but first you’ll have to check with the banks offering such loans whether you meet their eligibility criteria or not. Start with your primary bank first.

You can explore other options too. Assuming that all three loans are from different banks, you can get in touch with these individual banks to check if they can restructure the terms of their own loans. This could involve extending the tenure to help lower your instalments. Speak to them about a penalty-free payment holiday for two to three months, which can give you some temporary relief.

On the personal front, is there a family member back home who can help you out with some extra cash? If there is help available, you can use the money to support your family financially. In the meanwhile, you must use your salary to close at least one loan here. Keep your focus on repaying the most expensive loan first, ie the one with the highest interest rate.

Do you have any savings, assets or investment back home that can be liquidated? The extra funds from this can help you get rid of your debt sooner. You can also check with your employer if they can give you an interest-free loan to help pay off some of the debt.

The Debt Panel brings together four financial experts: Jamal Alvi, the chief credit officer at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank; Ambareen Musa, the founder and chief executive of the comparison website Souqalmal.com; Rasheda Khatun Khan, a wealth and wellness planner and founder of Design Your Life; and Keren Bobker, The National’s On Your Side columnist and an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Together they answer queries in a weekly online column to help readers better tackle their debts. If you have a question for the panel, write to pf@thenational.ae.

pf@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @TheNationalPF

Updated: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM

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