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International Day of Happiness is celebrated tomorrow (20 March), a global initiative that aims to promote and spread awareness about the importance of people’s happiness. 

The United Nations’ World Happiness Report is also released tomorrow, and South Africa is expected to rank 100 out of 180 countries on the Happiness Index,  showing a decline in last year’s ranking of 105th out of 156 countries. 

Being on the lower end of the Happiness Index does make sense if taken into account that South Africa is also one of the most over-indebted countries in the world, with over 12 million consumers struggling to make ends meet and keep up with their debt repayments. 

“As a leading debt management company who is assisting thousands of consumers with their debt enquiries, we know that debt is more than just a money issue – being over-indebted can lead to a number of emotional and physiological issues,” says Benay Sager, DebtBusters’ Chief Operating Officer.

“People who are struggling to pay off their debt are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Furthermore, those who are in denial about their financial situation often lead themselves deeper into debt by rationalising purchases that do not fit into their budget, and falling into the trap of using one loan to cover another loan, which can lead to their debt situation spiralling out of control.”   

Being in debt can also lead to fear and worry – the fear of not knowing what to do next, the fear of never getting out of debt, and how being over-indebted will affect relationships.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sager sees the positive effect it has on clients’ lives who decide to utilise a debt management solution such as debt counselling – not just on the financial side, but a great improvement on the client’s overall wellness is also clearly seen. 

When consumers take control of their financial situation and pay their debt off they feel a sense of relief, freedom and accomplishment.

“Receiving a clearance certificate at the end of the debt counselling journey not only provides the consumer with the opportunity to build a bright financial future for themselves but also alleviates a lot of negative emotions that the burden of debt can cause.”, says Sager.

The overwhelmingly positive feedback Sager sees from the thousands of clients who receive their clearance certificates illustrate how lifting the burden of debt creates true happiness and gratification.

“We are looking forward to see how our increased efforts to reach out and help the increasing number of consumers who are struggling with their debt will help to increase South Africa’s overall Happiness Index, and we are hoping to see a much better ranking on the Happiness Index next year this time,” says Sager.

PERSONAL FINANCE