The last person you would expect to get into $50,000 worth of debt is an accountant. But debt can sneak up on anyone.
Five years ago accountant Najlaa Neetoo was in the process of going through a divorce and had little more than $1,000 to her name.
"We did the asset settlement and I got the investment property, which now in hindsight was not a good financial move," she told Claire Hooper, host of The Pineapple Project podcast.
"I wanted no interaction with that man. The only thing attaching us was our finances."
Ms Neetoo rented out the property but it was not enough to cover costs, including council rates, body corporate fees and insurance.
She was also paying rent, bills and trying to rebuild her own life. As things started to snowball, she signed up for four credit cards.
"I was shuffling money around. I would pay a little bit on this card, a little bit on this card. I would take up a card on a balance transfer and pay off one card," she said.
The wake-up call came when she received a letter from the bank telling her they had repossessed her home.
"I just screamed my lungs out and I cried. How did I let that happen?" she recalled.
It sold for less than what she owed on her mortgage, adding to her debt.
"I opened every single letter which was unopened on my desk. I took a notepad and started writing down every single thing I owe," Ms Neetoo said.
"Then I took my four credit cards ... I took my scissors. And cut them up one by one into tiny little pieces."
Australia's love affair with debt
Australians are in record levels of debt — totalling $2.5 trillion, one of the highest rates of debt in the world.
Last year the International Monetary Fund warned that could leave Australian households exposed to a global economic shock.
While mortgages make up most of our debt, credit cards account for $33 billion, with the average cardholder paying $700 in interest every year.
Natalie Livingstone took 10 years to pay off her $30,000 credit card debt.
"It was extremely grim at times. I'd gone crazy at the credit cards at 18," Ms Livingstone said.
"I needed to buy a car to get to my job. I took out a small loan, but I took out a little bit extra to do extra things, probably a holiday.
"I got to a point where I couldn't make those repayments. I hit rock bottom financially and defaulted and I was on the blacklist of who not to give credit to."
Ms Livingstone says for anyone currently in debt, the first step is admitting you've got a problem.
"It's like blooming Alcoholics Anonymous. Go and get help."
'For anyone in debt there are always options'
Financial counsellor Claire Tacon says she advises about 20 callers each day.
"It takes a lot of courage to call us," she said.
"You can hear the nerves in their voices and often it just floods out and you can hear the relief to talk about what is often very shameful to them."
Are we all just one big life upset away from being in financial trouble?
"I think most people are actually. Not many people have enough of a safety net — if things go wrong, it just takes someone to get sick or lose their job," Ms Tacon said.
"I speak to a lot of people in their 50s who can't find work, they've got a mortgage to pay and they'd been expecting to work another 10 years or more.
"For anyone in debt there are always options, but they vary depending on the situation. You could ask for a long-term payment plan or ask for the interest to be frozen."
She says if you have a home loan you may be able to refinance to reduce the interest rate or receive a debt waiver.
Ms Neetoo has since set up a payment plan, and will be debt-free in four years.
"Oh, I can't wait for that day," she said.
"Now I have set myself budgets and I don't let my money define me."
If you need help get in touch with National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007 — it's an independent, government-funded financial counselling service that can advise you on how to move forward.
This article was published and provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.