Many of us, from all walks of life, are worried about money. There is an abundance of research that indicates that financial worry and stress can have a detrimental affect on both our mental and physical health.

Whether the problems stem from a job loss, divorce, unexpected expenses or a combination of factors, stressing about money can take a toll on your overall quality of life. 

But no matter how hopeless your situation might seem, help is available. By tackling your money problems head on, you can regain control of your finances – and your life. 

Todays’ podcast explores the link between our financial health and our physical health. David Macdonald, Licensed Insolvency Trustee, talks about: 

  • Keeping problem finances a secret – overcoming the stigma
  • Episodic stress (traumatic event) versus chronic stress (long term)
  • Finding the right professionals and resources to help
  • When to seek help and why go see a Licensed Insolvency Trustee
  • Three most common causes of Bankruptcy: job loss, divorce and medical issues

Federally regulated, Licensed Insolvency Trustees are knowledgeable in all aspects of debt management. They are considered to be one of the best advisors and will provide you with unbiased advice. Your initial consultation is always free of charge.

Wayne Kay 00:04
Well, welcome to the Debt Matters podcast, where we help Canadians find solutions to their debt with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada. 

I’m Wayne Kay. Today’s show, we’re going to talk about how worrying about debt can affect your health. What’s the link between financial pressures and your physical and mental health? Are we seeing financial stress rising in our country? How big an impact does this stress have on your health? And what’s the best way for you to deal with financial stress? 

Well, to help us out with this today, my guest is Dave Macdonald with Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee. And he’s got two offices right across the country, one in Victoria, BC, the other in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Dave, thanks for being on the show.

David Macdonald 00:50
I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Wayne Kay 00:52
So this is your first time with us. Give us a little background about what you do.

David Macdonald 00:57
Well, I’ve got a couple of different practices. Primarily, I work in consumer insolvency these days, but I am also a forensic accountant and a certified fraud examiner. Just due to the nature of insolvency, sometimes there’s issues where we have to find out what’s happened with money or how people have been defrauded. 

And as part of the insolvency work, I’m also a Licensed Insolvency Counselor. So I deal with folks in all sorts of tough situations, and we do our best to help them out.

Wayne Kay 01:25
And when we talk about tough situations, Canadians are having a bit of a tough time right now with all that’s been happening economically, and we’re seeing interest rates going up. Are you seeing that we’re seeing more stress in our country for people?

David Macdonald 01:44
Absolutely, we are. It is kind of a tough question, though, because we do know that Canadians have record levels of debt compared to the past. But we are finding something that’s really different these days.

We’re finding that a lot of folks, especially younger generations, are much more comfortable talking about things like anxiety and stress or mental health issues than any other generation before them. So there’s always been financial problems. We’ve seen that over the years. Everyone’s familiar with the image of, say, the head of a household sitting at the table looking at a bunch of bills pulling their hair out and stressed and frustrated. That’s been with us for a long, long time.

But what we’re finding out now is that people are much more willing to talk about the situations that they’re in and how much stress it’s causing them. So I don’t know if overall there’s more stress that’s happening or people are just finally being able to honestly talk to other folks about it instead of keeping it to themselves.

Wayne Kay 02:42
And that obviously helps because have you seen the amount of people that are maybe feeling health problems, physical health, mental health, being affected by the financial stress they’re under?

David Macdonald 02:57
Oh, absolutely. That is a huge part of our insolvency practice is people coming to us experiencing all sorts of health issues. And part of that is that there’s two general types of stress that are out there. There’s what we call episodic type stress. That’s where someone has a traumatic life event. They go through a stressful period, but the event resolves itself and the stress goes away over time.

The other type of stress that people run into is what we call chronic stress. That’s the type of stress that never really goes away. It just stays there with you and it builds up more and more pressure and gets heavier and heavier over time. That’s the type of stress that people undergoing long term financial pressure are feeling. And that’s the type of stress you don’t get to unwind from for very long.

And it’s very, very clear that that causes all sorts of problems with people both on a physical and on a mental health side. So I see people coming to my practice, they have health issues that are affecting them, such as they’re feeling anxiety, they’ve got depression. If they’ve been dealing with the weight of financial pressure for a long time, they can have mood changes. You hear about people that are stressed, they’re not the same person that they were. They might be irritable or angry or frustrated easily.

And those types of mental health issues that are caused by financial stress. They contribute to other issues with our relationships with friends or family or even at the workplace that can cause more problems. And it’s very well documented that people going through significant levels of stress have physical changes to them as well. 

All sorts of symptoms can come up, like fatigue, inability to focus. Some people gain a lot of weight, some people lose a lot of weight. We all know somebody that’s been diagnosed with high blood pressure and they’re told you need to reduce the stress in your life because it’s causing this and it’s making it worse. And eventually it can lead to things as serious as heart disease and heart attacks.

Wayne Kay 04:54
Yes, it’s scary what happens, but it slowly builds. Because you see this when people are getting into a bad situation, they don’t come to you immediately for help. Unfortunately, they’d carry this on their shoulders for quite a while.

David Macdonald 05:11
They absolutely do. And it’s really important when you’re looking for people and resources to help you deal with your stress, is to make sure that you’re dealing with somebody that understands you’re going through a tough time. That they’re compassionate, that they have empathy, and they’re there to help you find solutions that will reduce your stress levels, not make it worse.

Wayne Kay 05:32
And I know you find that when people finally walk in, because we talk about this all the time on the show, that people are trying to deal with it themselves and it’s just not going anywhere. And as you said, all of a sudden they’re feeling some chest pains, they can’t sleep at night and then it just spirals down from there. And it really does. It’s a major effect on your health.

It’s your relationships, your kids. It affects everything. So they come in to see you for the very first time. They have a free consultation. And do you see them physically change when you show them what their options are and they’re not doomed?

David Macdonald 06:13
Absolutely. A lot of the places that we work at there might be, say, a reception area where people are waiting to come in for their appointments. And I remember quite a few years ago, our receptionist came to me after a consult with a couple that were going through some financial trouble. And she said to me after they had left – she says, I don’t really know exactly what you said to those people, but they were the most despondent looking people. I thought they were going to cry in the lobby.

And when they came out after talking with you, they had a smile on their face, they were patting each other on the shoulder. They had a plan. They knew that things were going to be able to get better, that there was a solution. She says, I don’t know how you do it, but you’re just absolutely making a change in people’s lives.

Wayne Kay 06:56
That’s so important for people to understand because you’re not alone. What do you do when you are lying awake at night? Stressing. Do you have some advice?

David Macdonald 07:06
Yes, absolutely. It’s one of those things that you need to do whenever you’re dealing with stress like that. You need to acknowledge that you’re experiencing stress.

I mean, it’s a natural inclination to stuff that down, that things will get better. I’ll just deal with it. And people fight, especially when it’s a financial issue, because as you say, they’re shouldering that burden themselves. But if you can acknowledge that you’re feeling some pressure, then you can start to look at the root cause of it and then you can go and try and find some support. You have to find people to talk to that you can trust, like friends or family members that you know aren’t going to judge you.

Maybe a counselor or a therapist or even coming in to talk to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. I mean, most of us offer free consultations. They’re confidential. We can walk you through your options. We’re very discreet in how we deal with folks.

And just coming in to get the information is not going to cost you anything. It’s just a bit of time to get some options on what’s there. And finally, this is an odd sounding bit of advice to deal with your stress, but don’t do anything right away. 

People have an instinct that they react to stressful situations in their life. They panic, they make decisions out of fear or uncertainty. Taking a little bit of time to review your situation, to do some research, to talk to different people. That lets you put a plan together. It lets you not make rush decisions or bad decisions. 

Then when you decide to do something, you actually have confidence and knowledge that what you’re going to do is make things better. And a classic example of that is somebody that’s having financial trouble. They see advertising, say, for a payday loan company that says, we can help you with your financial problems. Come and see us.

We’ll get you a loan up to $50,000, no problem, kind of thing. And then they sign up for a high interest loan, usually somewhere in the 35% to 50% range. And they paid off their other bills, but now they have a loan that they realize months or years later that they can’t ever possibly repay because they’re not even able to make payments that cover the interest on those debts. And then they’re back to having the same problem to solve again when they could have come and talked to us in the first place.

Wayne Kay 09:19
How common are health related Bankruptcies in our country?

David Macdonald 09:25
A lot more common than you would think. We’d think that in Canada we have universal health care, and that shouldn’t be an issue. But what’s happening is, if you look at the three biggest reasons for filing for creditor protection in Canada, the number one is job loss. And that makes sense. You don’t have money coming in, you’re going to have trouble paying your bills.

The second biggest cause is divorce. And again, that’s a very obvious one. If all of a sudden you’re dealing with two households and you only have one income to deal with things, that’s going to cause a lot of financial problems. 

But the third reason for filing for Bankruptcy or Consumer Proposals in Canada is because of medical issues. And I know we have our basic health care costs covered in Canada, but there’s a bunch of stuff that is not covered – drug costs, dental care, medical supplies. That can be significant for people that have dietary conditions or chronic conditions like diabetes that are always needing treatment, things like insulin and medical supplies.

Vision care, glasses aren’t covered. And even if somebody has some type of medical insurance plan through work, there’s usually always limits on what’s covered. And one of the most heartbreaking things that I run across in my practice are people that have to make decisions between putting food on the table to feed their family or getting medical treatment or supplies that they need for their health or the health of their children.

Wayne Kay 10:50

David Macdonald 10:52
Yes, and people will do anything. I mean, if you have a child and you know that their life could be changed for the better, say, even by getting braces, those things are not cheap. And people will do what they can to help their families first. If they have to rely on credit, if they have to dig a little deeper. And that can get people into very tight financial situations.

Wayne Kay 11:12
I bring it up because as you were talking and I was thinking about we’re under this stress and we know that stress does lead to health problems, which we’ve been talking about. And then all of a sudden it’s like, okay, then the health issues then can almost take over and lead to Bankruptcies, et cetera.

When do we know we’re in trouble? That should be the question. When do you know that, okay, I’m not getting out of this?

David Macdonald 11:46
Well, I mean, everyone at some point thinks that life is going to get better, it’s going to turn around. But when you’re in a situation where you have to start making hard decisions about, do I borrow the money to pay for, say, a day to day living expense? Or do I have any wonder about how I’m going to pay this bill back? 

That’s when it’s usually time to come talk to someone instead of getting the credit incurred, instead of getting into obligations and then having to worry about things happening. 

But you can have life events that happen too. Like a good example is somebody that goes on, say, long term disability or workers compensation because they’ve been hurt at work. Well, those types of things, you may be handling your debt perfectly well with your normal salary or compensation that you have, but when you go on one of those plans, you don’t always get 100% of your salary and you’re going to have trouble making ends meet.

And it’s even worse for people that depended on things like tips or performance bonuses or commissions or even working lots of overtime to make ends meet. Those things don’t get covered when you get hurt or injured at work. So then you’re back to another health related reason for filing. So sometimes it can come upon you very quickly. It’s not something you expected. Sometimes it’s something that’s been building for a long time.

Wayne Kay 13:10
And I think when you start thinking, well, I’ve got some RRSPs, I guess I could sell those off to try to pay off the debt, that would be one of the big no’s. Don’t do that, please.

David Macdonald 13:23
Well, and that’s the point of coming and talking to someone sooner rather than later. Every province has different rules and regulations, but there are lots of interesting protections the governments put in place for everyday Canadians.

So a perfect example is if you have a pension, well, your creditors can’t touch your pension no matter how desperate of a situation you’re in. And in many provinces, it’s the same with certain investments like RRSPs, depending on the province. 

Other things like RESPs or TFSAs may not be protected. But before you make a major decision, like trying to dip into a pension early, or liquidating savings or investments, taking the time to go talk to a financial professional about what your options might be, again, it usually won’t cost you anything, it’s confidential. And then you can get the information.

Wayne Kay 14:10
To make better decisions, right? I’ll tell you, as a guy who lives a pretty stress free life at this time, I have a hard time. Now if I do feel stressed, my watch will beep because I’ve got one of the smartwatches that tells me –  okay, watch yourself. You’re getting stressed out for some reason, but it’s typically maybe a driving situation. 

So it’s not so bad. I’ve got it really good. But I look at it years ago when we had little kids and kind of starting out in the career. That was a very tough and challenging time.

But I was living in stress, so it’s amazing what you get used to living with. Whereas if I went back now to try to live that way, I think it would be very difficult.

David Macdonald 14:54
It would be. And financial stress is a lot more impactful than you would think if you haven’t been through it. The Canadian Psychiatric Association did a study a few years back that was shared with our professional body at one point, and they went through a list and they did the research and they did interviews and surveys and things. They tabulated the most stressful life events that people could go through.

The number one most stressful life event you could experience was the death of a close family member, like a child or a spouse or a parent. The second most stressful life event was being incarcerated, which kind of speaks for itself. That’s something nobody wants to experience. Number three was discovering your spouse had an extramarital affair. 

And number four was experiencing major financial difficulties. Now, let’s put that in perspective. Having to go talk to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee about financial difficulty is more stressful to people than getting a divorce. It’s more stressful than selling your home. These were items that were further down the list. It’s even more stressful for most people than getting a terminal cancer diagnosis.

So when people come to see us, that’s the level of pain and worry and anxiety and stress that they’re feeling when they come talk to us. It’s an absolutely devastating experience to come and talk to a Trustee for many people. 

And because of that, we try to make this as calm and helpful and empathetic an experience as we can here at AllAn Marshall because we realize what people are going through and we are not the person that people want to have to come and talk to. And it’s a hidden pain. Like we talked about earlier, people rarely speak to their friends or families or neighbors and say, you know, I’m having a hard time making ends meet.

You want to keep up with the Joneses. You want to have a nice lifestyle. You want to take care of your family or your friends. You want to be able to do things. So people hold on to that. They keep financial problems very much as a secret, and that creates even more stress and pain for people by the time they finally come and speak to us.

Wayne Kay 16:56
I did see a stat saying 57% of people will never ask for help when it comes to financial advice. Just asking for the advice, which I thought was pretty high.

David Macdonald 17:09
I can believe that. One of the most heartbreaking things I hear from people is after we’ve worked with them, after they’ve gone through one of these processes, they come back to me and they say, I should have come talk to you years before. I wouldn’t have struggled, I wouldn’t have had this pain.

Wayne Kay 17:24

David Macdonald 17:25
And getting rid of some of the stigma about financial issues and getting people to know they can come and talk about stuff again, it’s happening. More and more people are sitting around the coffee room and saying, I don’t know how I’m going to make ends meet this month because we had our hours cut. One person might chirp in and say, hey, you know, I actually went through a Consumer Proposal or a Bankruptcy years ago and it wasn’t that bad. You should go talk to someone that we’re finding is happening more and more with referrals from individuals that have worked with us in the past.

Wayne Kay 17:52
Yes, it’s a common thing and that’s one thing I’ve learned by doing this show is how common that is that people will say after they leave, just like the story you mentioned of the couple that was there in the waiting room. Just there’s a relief. They’re like, okay, there is a way out of this. I’m going to be okay. And we just need more and more people to understand that.

Don’t sit there and suffer in silence. Any final words you want to share with us regarding worrying and debt and your health?

David Macdonald 18:20
Well, one of the things when you go to talk to a Trustee, I know our bread and butter are things like Bankruptcies and Consumer Proposals. But a really good Trustee will take the time to go through all of your options with you. There might be other ways that you can deal with things.

The situation might not be as bad as you thought. There might be other ways to deal with the debts that we can advise you on or refer you to another service provider or to help you negotiate a deal with your creditors or something like that. 

Just because you’re talking to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee doesn’t mean that your only options are going to be things like Bankruptcies and Consumer Proposals. Come talk to us. We can help you figure out what’s out there for you. 

And even if I have someone that has another option available to them and I gave them good honest advice, that person is going to tell someone else that we refer to them and that. Don’t be scared to come and talk to us.

Wayne Kay 19:08
Absolutely. I think that’s a perfect way to end our time for this chat, Dave. I really appreciate you being on the show, and thank you for sharing all this great information.

David Macdonald 19:17
You’re very welcome. Pleasure to be here.

Wayne Kay 19:20
Well, again, my guest is Dave Macdonald, and you can learn more or schedule a free consultation for questions with Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee through their website 

And that’s it for today’s Debt Matters podcast. Now, if you know somebody who might be having questions about their financial debts, you can share this podcast with them.

Also, make sure you subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast from. And, of course, for more information, you can always check out Thanks for listening.

About David Macdonald

David Macdonald has been helping people and small business owners resolve their financial problems since 2003 in British Columbia, Alberta and the Maritime provinces. He has been retained as a trusted advisor and service provider by many of Canada’s banks, private lenders, First Nations and the CRA. 

David brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to his work, without judgement. In his spare time he volunteers his time to a number of charitable and non profit organizations. 

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