I am the oldest of nine brothers and sisters…. I always had the drive to have a successful career, but my family’s poverty put roadblocks in my way…. Many times I didn’t even have the money I needed to ride the bus [to school]. But in spite of the poverty, I kept striving toward something better.

I succeeded in graduating from high school. Then I went to work…. Today I pay for my siblings to study, and I help my mother stay current with her expenses…. But I feel like I am bound hand and foot. I owe several payments on my house, I left the university, and I’m behind on my loans. At twenty-four years of age, I feel more like I’m fifty…. What I have wanted most is to legally move to another country, but now the only thing I have in mind is to go illegally…. I will wait for your advice.

Dear Friend,

I congratulate you for the success you have had in finishing high school and helping your siblings to do the same. You should be very proud of what you have accomplished!

You have a compassionate heart and a determination to keep those you love from the same hardships and deprivations that you have suffered. Those are admirable qualities.

However, when our hearts are bigger than our wallets, we can get into great difficulty, as you have found out. You have let your heart make your financial decisions instead of your head. But our hearts are not designed to handle money, and will get us into debt every time.

You must begin to make financial decisions with your head and not your heart. When you can’t afford to pay for something and would have to go into debt to get it, you must say no. Or better yet, you can offer choices to the people you are helping and let them decide which of two options you will pay for.

I know what it’s like to hide from debt collectors. When I was very young, my mother would tell me to answer the phone and tell the debt collector that she wasn’t at home. Other times I would hear her lying about how she was going pay the next day. But I learned that trying to hide from debt leads to a life of always having to look over one shoulder to see who is about to catch up with you.

So I advise you to call each one of your creditors and explain your situation. Be honest and don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Creditors are usually willing to work out a payment plan to help you catch up. After you figure up how much it will take each month to pay back your debts, then you will know how much you will have left to help your family. Make it your first priority to pay off your debts so that you can get relief from your current situation.

Running and hiding is not the answer. It will only add to the list of people who are trying to catch up with you.

I wish you well,