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Powered By People - Clare's Story

Community 4 min read

06 Jan 2022

After her fiancé suddenly passed away, Clare’s world was turned upside down. She found herself in a vicious cycle of spending money she didn’t have in an attempt to fill the void of her loss. This continued for 18 months, before she found the place that would turn her life around for good…..
Since the age of 18, Clare always had access to credit. She had been offered loans since the day she officially entered her adult life. She would go in to the bank and they would offer her a loan. ”I was young, and naïve, encouraged to take out loans that I didn’t really need. Looking back, I can see how it facilitated a really bad, carefree attitude to credit”

As the years went on, Clare was always in control of her borrowing and spending. But one day, everything changed.

Clare was in the midst of organising her dream wedding with her fiancé Nathan. Three weeks before they were to say I do, Clare’s world was turned upside down, when Nathan passed away suddenly. The unimaginable heart break that Clare found herself facing, along with the debt carried over from the wedding that still had to be paid for, led to a downward spiral.

The grief overwhelmed Clare, and took over her life. Around the same time, she had a serious back condition, which kept her off work for a number of weeks. “I was just weeks away from getting married, when everything fell apart. The months after Nathan died are a blur, but I remember such a sense of hopelessness. What was the point in worrying about money, or planning a future?”  To fill the void left by the loss of her fiancé, and the boredom that came with being house bound, Clare began online shopping with numerous different forms of credit.  She had overdrafts, credit cards and online shopping accounts.

The thrill of having something arrive to the door was the high Clare needed through this time. ”The post man became my best friend. I couldn’t even tell you what I bought half the time. The online spending, and the resulting knock on the door gave me fleeting moments where I could forget”   

The credit Clare had was continuously extended because she was meeting all her minimum repayments. In theory, she was the most ideal person to lend to. The banks continued to tempt her with further borrowing. Clare would pay all her debts every month. She was in the clear in terms of borrowing. But all the repayments add up. At one point Clare had barely enough money to feed herself. At this stage, she wasn’t even aware of how much she owed.

The point when it all became too much was when Clare was starting a new job. Clare attempted to fix the problem she found herself in by looking for help to consolidate her debt online. Online companies offered to help her out, but she felt as though she was being trapped into repaying a lot more money than she needed to. There was something in the back of her mind that told her that it wasn’t right.

Having met someone new, who made her feel happy, Clare realised at that point that buying all the things and having all the debt was making her miserable. She then confided just how much of a hard time she was having to her family. Her dad had offered to pay the money to consolidate her debts.

“My dad had helped me financially at different times in my life, and it was tempting to let him fix this for me. But I knew at that point that if I accepted his offer, I would never learn how to pay back or manage money in the way I needed to. I needed to break the vicious cycle of continuously borrowing again and again. I was working full-time, with nothing to show for it after paying the bills. There was no wiggle room to pay off the debt, which was growing every month thanks to some hefty interest rates.”

After speaking with her family, one of them suggested talking to the credit union. Clare visited her local credit union where the staff sat down and figured out exactly how much money she owed. Not only that, the lady explained that the credit union could make the repayments directly to all of her creditors, which removed a huge burden from her. Clare’s sister had to counter sign for the loan as Clare had never been a member of the credit union. She was also encouraged to open up a savings account that day.

“I am so thankful I went to the credit union that day. I was so embarrassed to have let my debts get this far, but having the debt consolidated gave me one manageable monthly repayment, and for the first time in months, I felt hopeful that this wasn’t all my life would be. It seemed silly at the time, I was hardly able to afford food, and they were suggesting I save what I could. But as the weeks and months went on, watching that little number grow felt like such an achievement, and spurred me on.”

Clare managed to pay back her loan well in advance. Her old habits changed from “how much can I spend a month?” to “how much can I pay back?”  What made her determined to pay back the loan was that her niece and nephew, along with other family members had their savings accounts in the credit union. 

 “I’ll never forget the realisation that I was borrowing money from my community, family, and my little niece and nephew, who had their accounts there. It made my commitment to honouring my repayments even stronger – I didn’t want to let down the people who had helped me in such a difficult time!”

Clare’s life has completely changed, she’s now married, owns her own house and car and has just become a first time Mum, welcoming her brand new baby boy into the world in January 2020.  

“My life changed the day I walked in to the credit union, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

Clare’s story was told as part of our #PoweredByPeople series – a campaign which celebrates tales of community support – and highlights exactly what the credit union stands for: people helping people. If you’d like to get involved and tell your story, we’d be more than happy to hear it. Simply get in touch by contacting Jane at jdaly@creditunion.ie.