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Even accountants have debt

WHEN WE ANNOUNCED a few days ago that starting on October 7, we would be holding our first ever CABA Debt Awareness Week, a number of chartered accountants contacted us to ask a very simple question: “Why?”

Clearly, from the point of view of the profession, there is a degree of discomfort that any accountants need help with debt at all. After all, managing money in a competent manner is what we are trained and trusted to do.

But the fact is that accountants do sometimes build up levels of debt that they cannot sustain. In our experience, the leading causes are life events that are unexpected and highly damaging, and for which no amount of professional training could prepare anyone.

Heading the list of these issues in recent years have been long-term redundancy and business failure, usually as a direct result of the recession but we also often handle cases centred on ill health of an accountant or family member.

Around 7% of the calls we receive relate to debt which is by no means an indication of a large scale problem among accountants. However, our latest research showed that almost one in five chartered accountants had increased their personal borrowing during the previous 12 months, indicating that incomes are under some pressure.

However, this is not the whole story about why we have chosen to highlight the subject through Debt Awareness Week. Importantly, this is one of the issues with which we deal that responds especially positively to early intervention. If we can make more accountants aware of the warning signs and encourage them to approach us for help earlier, much better outcomes could be achieved in the future.

The initial response to the event suggests that there is a very real appetite for information. More than 300 accountants have already signed up for a webinar we are holding on October 7 featuring Radio 4 Money Box’s Paul Lewis.

So, to return to the question that was framed in the opening paragraph, the answer is that even people whose entire professional lives are based around skilled handling of money are not immune to debt issues, especially in an economy battered by the recession.

By highlighting this problem during Debt Awareness Week and providing the right kind of support and information to chartered accountants, we hope to help more of them recognise the danger signs before their problems become overwhelming.

• More information on Debt Awareness Week can be found at www.caba.org.uk/debt-awareness-week

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