A few years ago, Isabelle was working a series of small jobs--with small pay. Single and living in an apartment, she was struggling to make ends meet. Despite her best efforts, the bills were piling up, creditors were hounding her and stress was a daily reality.
"When I realized I was caught in a vise, I turned to the CIBES [a budget counselling organization partnered with the Desjardins caisses for the Mutual Assistance Funds program]. I was really afraid of being judged because I had practically no savings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Just the opposite happened! My advisors put themselves in solution mode right away, and they never judged my decisions," she says.
"We never question the priorities of people who come to us, especially given that they've often already cut wherever they could," says Nathalie Champagne, a budgeting advisor at CIBES. "We help them reorganize and better manage their budget based on their priorities. We take the time needed to provide lasting solutions to their problems, giving them the time they need to make the necessary adjustments."
To help Isabelle consolidate and pay off her debts, the CIBES gave her a small mutual assistance loan and contacted her creditors to negotiate repayment terms. "They took a huge load off my shoulders," she says.
Isabelle is now better equipped to manage her finances and more aware of credit trips. She's also adopted better habits and now has more confidence in the future.
More tough times
Isabelle finally bounced back--but then she broke her leg and had to take a one-year leave of absence from work, which threw her back into financial turmoil. This time, despite support from the CIBES and working hard to stay out of the red, she had to declare bankruptcy. "It was the best solution for her," says Champagne. "It was a last resort--she'd tried everything she could to avoid it, so in the end, she was able to make an informed decision with much more peace of mind."
After the bankruptcy, the CIBES continued to provide support to Isabelle for a few months so she could get back on her feet financially. She's now better equipped to manage her finances and more aware of credit trips. She's also adopted better habits and now has more confidence in the future. "My advisors really helped me move forward and get out of the situation I was in, but they also helped keep me from getting into financial trouble again. They gave me a good start."
Champagne is always happy to see people she counselled regain financial balance and peace of mind. But what really touches her is when people come see her again. "For me, that's a sign that they trust us enough to know they won't be judged even though they're having financial difficulties again," she says.
Isabelle's story exemplifies the trust between her and the CIBES, because she's been on their board of directors for the past 10 years!
"I now try to persuade people that they shouldn't be embarrassed to turn to budget counselling organizations like the CIBES if they're experiencing financial difficulty, and most of all, to not wait until they hit bottom ... But no matter what your situation, you can be sure they'll show you the understanding you need," she says.