Heroic escape from the pit of debt

Cape Town – A top achiever fell into a pit of debt which cast her into a desolate space. Luckily, some sound advice helped her embark on a journey of recovery.

WATCH: The perfect life crumbles

What went wrong

Former South African beach volleyball player Anne Siroky had it all in 2008. She was named Shoprite/Checkers woman of the year in the sport category and the Old Mutual community builder of the year.

Life seemed perfect.

The Future Factory founder had just bought a new car and was comfortable enough to lend a friend in debt R200 000.

Then two critical accidents changed her life and medical bills began to pile up.

In 2011, she found herself in R1m worth of debt, caused by medical bills and “interest, interest and more interest”.

“Life kind of knocks you down,” she said.

Debt is like a death, she said. “Maybe it’s not a death where you’re going to hold a funeral, but you might as well hold a funeral. People just withdraw. You’re in a no-win situation.”

Physical, emotional and financial stress weighed heavily on Siroky. “It takes away your spirit; it destroys your moral fabric as a person. I removed myself from society. I wasn’t able to face it.”

“When debt befalls you [and] bad things falls you on, people just scatter – they disappear from your life.”

“You become a hustler out there,” she said. “You become afraid to answer your phone.”

WATCH: What to do when debt keeps growing

A change of strategy

Siroky met debt expert Moeshfieka Botha, who changed her life.  

Botha gave her the advice to not see her debt as one lump sum, but as small chunks. She told Siroky to get a black book and write down all the names of the people she owed money to, and to go and speak to them.

Siroky did exactly what Botha suggested.

“I knew it wasn’t going to go away,” she said. “I had to change. I had to decide for me.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s still my responsibility,” she said. “The phone calls are going to keep coming. They don’t stop. I was honest and upfront with a lot of people.”

Siroky met with a bank and made an agreement to use her workshop facilitator skills as a trade agreement to bring down her debt.

Now, she’s starting to make money again and her debt has been reduced substantially.  

Siroky’s advice to others in debt is “to be mentally, spiritually and physically healthy”, to engage with the people you owe money to and to be as honest as possible with them about your situation.

WATCH: A lesson for others

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Disclaimer: All letters and comments published in The Debt Issue have been independently written by members of the Fin24 community. The views are therefore their own. Fin24 cannot be held liable for any decisions made based on the advice given by Fin24 users and debt experts. Under the ECT Act and to the fullest extent possible under the applicable law, Fin24 disclaims all responsibility or liability for any damages whatsoever resulting from the use of this site in any manner.

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