Billions lost as Aussies gamble with their financial future
If you there’s one thing you don’t want left up to chance, it’s your family’s financial future. But if you or your partner are suffering from a gambling problem, then all your assets and your plans for the future could be at risk. Only by taking control of the situation can you get your life back on track and protect yourself from big losses.With the Melbourne Cup just behind us, most of us have lost (and a few of us won) a couple of dollars on the race that stops the nation – and we’ll never notice the difference. But what happens when that ‘occasional bet’ turns into a dangerous habit? For the estimated 395,000 Australians who either have a gambling problem or are at 'moderate risk' of developing one, losing can be a terrifying, life-changing possibility – and if they have families, they’re not the only ones bearing the risk. Aussies lost a staggering $19 billion on gambling in 2008-09 – averaging out at $1,500 for every adult who gambled - and there's no denying that for many families, this cash could have been put to far better use.
With so much economic uncertainty in the air, just getting by from week to week can feel like a bit of a gamble: according to the latest Commonwealth Bank Economic Vitality Report, 44 per cent of Australians now feel their financial circumstances are worse than they were six months ago. And what that means is that you really don’t need to have a gambling problem for a bit of gambling to cause you big problems. The Productivity Commission Inquiry into Problem Gambling revealed that it’s possible to lose as much as $1,500 an hour if gaming machines are played at high intensity – and for most of us, that’s a lot of money.
Let’s face it: no matter what the exact numbers are, anytime you lose money you can’t afford to, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. Gambling problems can be difficult to detect – and by the time you realise that your partner has one, the damage is often already done. If you suspect someone in your family has a gambling problem, it’s essential that you take action to protect yourself as quickly as possible. Preventing your assets from disappearing is a vital part of keeping your family secure – and it will give you the resources to assist the problem gambler in getting the help they need to deal with how their gambling is affecting them, and you.
Protect your assets
Put your assets in joint names, or in your name only, to prevent them from being gambled away, and consider transferring all joint bank accounts, credit cards and finance cards into your name rather than giving your partner free access to your combined finances.
Create a personal account, and start saving. Aim to have at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses in it to ensure that you won’t ever be completely cleaned out – and even if you’re still sharing other bank accounts with your partner, make sure that they don’t have access to this one.
One thing you definitely don’t need when dealing with your partner’s gambling problem is more debt. In order to ensure that bills and debts get paid and the money intended for your household expenses isn’t gambled away, take control of your family’s finances: pay the bills, mortgage and credit card payments and if necessary seek debt management advice to prevent your situation from getting out of control.
Gambling can be a serious problem, and with Australian families under so much stress already many of us can’t afford to face even small financial losses. If you think you may be a problem gambler, seek out gambling help immediately to address the issue. And if it’s someone in your family suffering, take action to secure your finances – so your family’s future won’t be left up to chance.
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Tags: gambling problem, debt management advice, gambling help
Wilson Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.
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