Aaargh me hearties! MyCRA be helpin’ to raise money and awareness of issues around childhood cancer support through ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day’. Talk Like A Pirate Day is dedicated to raising awareness of the impacts that childhood cancer has on families whilst raising vital funds for a great cause.
We be raising some serious pieces of eight to help out with those families and we be doin’ it through speakin’ pirate all day today. We be havin’ a great time, an’ we hope you be likin’ our pirates Jamie and Zac in the picture.
On a more serious note, we thought Talk Like A Pirate Day was a good opportunity to discuss the serious issue of how you can protect your credit file in times of illness in the family. We look at how your credit file can be affected by illness, and what you can do to protect it – because a financial crisis is the last thing you need.
By Graham Doessel, Founder and CEO of MyCRA Credit Rating Repair and www.fixmybadcredit.com.au.
Childhood Cancer Support provides a range of support services to families of children undergoing oncology treatment. These families are from various parts of Australia, Pacific Islands, Middle East and New Caledonia. When you or someone you love is fighting cancer or another serious illness, it can put a massive strain on your finances.
According to Cancer Council research, families can expect to lose more than $47,200 when a family member is diagnosed with cancer, so the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis can leave many patients in desperate need of immediate funds.
If you are unable to work – it is not always as simple as claiming sickness benefit – even if you have it – it’s not always straightforward. Many times in our line of work we have met people who have been unable to claim a sickness benefit or similar, until they have lost all of their assets. This is not a great situation to be in.
The other thing that happens when someone you love is sick – is that all the day-to-day things go out the window. You are consumed by daily hospital visits, late nights and a blur of confusion and worry. Your head’s just not in the right place to focus on finances, and often repayments can get forgotten.
Here are our top tips for protecting your credit file during a health crisis:
1. Tell your Credit Providers.
Now is not the time to be too proud to put your hand up for help. If you or a loved one is sick and it means you may be off work for some time, it is important to have a discussion with your Creditors if you know you will be unable to make repayments on time. Do this BEFORE you go into arrears, particularly for your licenced credit (mortgage, credit cards etc). If you make these repayments more than 5 days late, you will have it noted on your credit file, which stays there for two years. The other reason you should tell your Credit Provider, is you may even be eligible to claim a rebate or concession, or even receive a voucher or grant to assist with the cost of utility bills. Cancer Council Victoria has a factsheet on these – and you can check which you may be eligible for: http://www.cancervic.org.au/downloads/CISS_factsheets/prac-utilities.pdf. Check the Cancer Council in your State for more specific help.
2. If the situation is dire, ask for a Financial Hardship Variation.
New laws have been passed to help if you are experiencing mortgage stress, particularly in times of temporary hardship like illness. You may be able to reduce the size of your mortgage repayments, or even put a hold on repayments for a period of time without resorting to missed payments.
Many people think they should not tell the bank they’re in financial trouble, and keep quiet for as long as they can about it. But it’s in the bank’s best interests to help you when you’re in trouble rather than see you default on your mortgage or have your home repossessed. One of the main differences between asking for and obtaining an official variation in your credit obligations compared with simply not paying your bills is that you avoid the bank placing a default listing on your credit file (provided you meet the new obligations that is).
But there are some things you do need to be aware of. Any time you fail to make a repayment with your bank on time, the late payment will be recorded on your credit file – so for example if you are unable to make this month’s mortgage repayment by the due date – that late payment will be recorded on your credit file – including the date you repaid the overdue amount. It need only be five days late and you could be penalised.
3. Set up systems to ensure your bills are paid on time.
Although you probably don’t have much time, it’s a really good idea to try and set up direct debits with all of your bills as soon as you can – so you won’t be caught out missing a payment if you have even less time in the days and weeks ahead.
4. Seek financial help and advice.
The best place to start getting help with your finances is the Cancer Council in your state. Through the Cancer Councils, AMP offers free financial advice to cancer patients which could be invaluable in times of crisis.
5. Check your credit file.
Hopefully your family will one day soon recover from this unexpected crisis, and when that day arrives, make the time to check your credit file has stayed intact through it all. If there are any defaults, or other negative notations incurred during this time and you believe they are unfair, incorrect or just shouldn’t be there – you may have a case to dispute them and request their removal. Start by grabbing a copy of your credit file www.freecreditrating.com.au.
It is a good idea to keep for anyone to keep their credit file as healthy as possible, but when you have a family health crisis, it is even more important that its clear in case you need to borrow funds.
For more information and help with your credit file, contact MyCRA on 1300 667 218 or visit our website www.mycra.com.au.