Rose Miller, lead for Financial Empowerment programmes at the JN Foundation is stressing the need for business owners and individuals to carefully prepare for the loan application process to improve their chances of accessing credit. She noted that access to credit is key to wealth creation.

“The question you must ask yourself is ‘What is the level of my indebtedness?’ Am I [already] up to my neck in debt?’” she encouraged persons to ask themselves when assessing whether to borrow.

Mrs Miller was addressing the JN Foundation workshop ‘Get Smart About Credit’, recently at the JN Group Corporate Office on Oxford Road in New Kingston. The session was also streamed to registered participants.

She advised that it is important to assess either the business or one’s ability to service the loan being sought. If after preparing a budget it is clear that this loan repayment cannot be accommodated, immediate corrective measures must be implemented and in this instance part of the preparation to access credit entails reducing the level of one’s debt.

“You can start by paying off the debt with the lowest balance first, then move on to the next lowest while paying the minimum balance on all other debts, this is the debt snowball method. This method compares with debt avalanche where the debt with the highest interest rate is tackled first while paying the minimum balance on all other debts,” she informed.

She said the other option would be to go for debt consolidation. “When you have five or six loans, you can consolidate them at one institution: what that does is give you a little fiscal space each month. But I’m going to caution you, that fiscal space that you receive, it is not to be used to get into more debt. It is a time to hunker down and try and get some stability,” she stated.

To reduce and manage debt, she also encouraged persons to cut back on expenses and seek ways to increase streams of income, for instance, by monetizing one’s skills or hobbies.

Have all the necessary documents ready

Commenting further on preparing to access credit, Mrs. Miller emphasised that persons also need to pay attention to obtaining documents which will be necessary for the loan application process.

“Ensure you have basic documents – your Tax Registration Number (TRN), your ID, proof of where you live, these things [documents] will hold up your application process,” she noted.

Turning to some factors that will determine one’s eligibility for a loan, she cited the Five C’s of Credit – character, capacity, collateral, conditions and capital – that applicants should always bear in mind when seeking to borrow.

She said one’s character can be assessed based on one’s credit history- one’s pattern of loan repayment; while capacity is adjudged based on one’s ability to repay. Capital takes into consideration funds an applicant already has, the risk the borrower is willing to take on the transaction for which they are borrowing. It could also be an amount in reserve to support continued servicing of the debt in the event of an interruption in income. Conditions of the loan take into consideration the interest rate, tenure and method of repayment of the loan, among other things.

“Collateral is anything of value, an asset that is used to secure the repayment of debt in the event of a default on the loan,” she concluded her explanation of the Five C’s of credit and once again reminded the participants that there was no way to bypassing these in the process of applying for credit.

The JN Foundation, Get Smart About Credit workshop series is an initiative of the newly established JN Financial Academy, which is aimed at empowering Jamaicans to achieve financial freedom by providing information, training and mentorship.

The next workshops will be held virtually on November 17 and December 1. Persons who may have missed the first session are invited to visit the JN Foundation website, www.jnfoundation.com  to register for the upcoming workshops.