Janie’s story: “I literally had nothing left.”

Janie’s* life changed dramatically when her husband, Dave*, left her and took more than his share of their home, business and car. Unbeknownst to Janie, Dave had not included her as a shareholder in the business, had refinanced the mortgage on the house and had changed ownership of her car into his name.

“When I look back, I think he must have started planning the separation well beforehand,” says Janie. “It wasn’t until we split up and I started looking into our finances that I was aware of how manipulative he had been and how much debt we had.”

As well as being devasted by the end of her marriage, Janie found herself completely broke. “I literally had nothing left,” she says. Janie had worked as a successful sales agent in the provincial South Island town she lived in. “I have always been very good at managing money throughout my life, so to find myself in this situation was unbelievable and humiliating,” she told us.

To make matters worse, her change of circumstances happened during COVID and her sales business ground to a halt. “I wasn’t in a good place anyway, so it would have been very difficult to have continued with that job,” says Janie.

When Janie discovered the extent of their debt, her bank offered her a financial hardship loan at interest of 19%. To her dismay, not long afterwards, she noticed the same bank offering financial hardship loans at 14% during COVID. While the bank initially would not alter her terms, when she reapplied, they reduced the interest rate to 14%. “It was still almost impossible to pay down the interest. I managed to find rental accommodation that was of a very low standard, but the rent was still expensive, and I had no job.”

Janie eventually found employment with a company she’d worked with in the past. “I was very lucky that I was able to start with them straight away as they knew me,” she says.

She slowly started getting herself back on her feet, but faced legal battles with her ex-husband and couldn’t afford a lawyer. “I used legal aid at times, but I needed much more. It didn’t help my case that sometimes I would have to appear in court with no representation.”

Thankfully, things began to look up when Janie talked to Christine, an acquaintance who was also a local Financial Mentor. Christine suggested that Janie apply for a loan from Ngā Tāngata Microfinance to refinance her bank loan. “I hadn’t realised there were organisations like NTM to help people like me. Charging no interest and no fees has been a game changer, as every payment reduces the loan, rather than just paying off fees or interest.”

“Christine has been so fabulous and the support she has given me has been remarkable,” enthuses Janie. “She introduced me to NTM and has helped me get myself sorted again in so many ways. I turn 65 in November, so she has helped me get set up with superannuation and explore other benefits I may be eligible for.”

“My life at 65 years will not be what I had envisaged, but I am starting to get my head above water and come to terms with my new reality,” she says. “I’ve been lucky to have had great support from my family, including my son, and also people like Christine and the team at Ngā Tāngata.”

Janie says not having debt hanging over her feels wonderful. “Debt makes you feel like a bad person and having to beg to your bank is horrible. Now that I’m on top of my situation, I feel like a new person. I feel human again.”

Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy. Any re-publishing of these case studies needs the permission of Ngā Tāngata Microfinance Trust.