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ANZ customer in wheelchair after crash unable to pay mortgage until 'goosebumps' moment. Here's what you should do in a financial crisis

"Most people hate banks but we were treated so fairly."

Yoga instructor Trudy was in a wheelchair and bedridden for almost a year after a car accident and feared she'd spiral into financial crisis, until she and her husband asked a simple question that gave them the chance to recover and rebuild their new lives.

The 48-year-old, from Caboolture, Queensland, had a mortgage, personal loan, car loan and commercial rent to pay on a studio where she was teaching yoga when she was confronted with the reality she may never walk again.

Trudy acknowledged "most people hate banks" and, yes, it might seem counterintuitive to go to your creditors and admit in advance that you won't be able to pay your bills, but she and husband Craig said it was the best decision they made. Their mortgage is with ANZ, and the couple told Yahoo Finance they couldn't believe how "empathetic" the bank was. Here's everything you need to know about getting the help you need.

ANZ customers Craig and Trudy who went to their bank to help with repayments after an accident saw them unable to work
ANZ customers Craig and Trudy were able to overcome the financial blow that came after a devastating accident by reaching out to their bank - and their tips could help you. (Source: Supplied)

“We both shed a few tears driving home from the bank, knowing that we had the help we needed,” she said. “We were not at all a number ... I have goosebumps talking about it.”

When you can get repayment relief

All financial institutions, health funds, and utilities companies must have dedicated financial hardship departments to help customers who have fallen on hard times. And, after 13 rate rises in 20 months, that is many of us.

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Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

After the car accident, Trudy required back surgery, followed by a 12-month recovery and almost constant care during the healing and rehabilitation process. This meant she was unable to work, and her 58-year-old husband, who ran his own electrician business, had to cut back on his work hours to help with Trudy's care.

“Nobody can prepare you for this type of operation and how it turns your life upside down," Trudy said. "We didn’t know if I was ever going to walk again. You are spending the better part of a year in bed – except for the doctor's appointments. Even now, I can’t stand or sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.”

How to get repayment relief

Armed with all their loan and income documentation, and a letter from Trudy’s surgeon, they went in to see their home and personal lender, ANZ.

“I was in a wheelchair. We went in – we had an appointment – and, within a week, everything was paused,” she said. “They just suspended everything.”

ANZ didn’t even put an explicit time limit on it. Trudy was just to concentrate on her recovery.

“We’d just get regular messages saying: ‘Your payments are paused’ and, ‘Keep us up to date’. It was just like: ‘Hey mate, we are helping you – please let us know when you’re better and when things could resume’. We never had to call them to say: ‘We need another month’.”

Next up was their car loan, which the couple held with carloans.com.

“They also put the payments on hold, although not for as long,” Trudy said.

And they ended up negotiating their way out of the studio lease, too, due to extenuating circumstances.

So, what is Trudy’s advice if you are also in financial trouble and need leniency on any debts and obligations?

“Tell absolutely everybody that you have an account with – go and ask them: ‘How can you help me?’," she said. “Dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ with the documentation. It’s worth it to get the help you need.”

What happens after financial hardship

After about six months of their repayments being on pause, Craig turned to Trudy and said: “We are doing OK."

"That’s when we completely and utterly stopped the help we got from the bank,” Trudy said.

Craig started going back to work and was able to increase his hours as Trudy’s recovery progressed.

New legislation means no late repayments are recorded when you are in a contracted ‘late’ repayment arrangement with a creditor. And Trudy used the "down" time to study as a marriage celebrant.

“It’s been the best thing for me, changing my career,” she said. “I am perfectly fine now. Life is a little different, but you tend to just adapt to what you can and can’t do.”

And she says nothing is more important than getting the financial help you need in tough times.

“There’s no point lying, wallowing in debt when you could have asked for help.”

If you're feeling overwhelmed and need help dealing with financial stress, you can contact free advice and counselling from the National Debt Helpline. You can call 1800 007 007 between 9.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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