The first thing that comes to mind when we learn that someone is late paying their bills is that they are irresponsible. However, when people pay their bills late in today’s economy, it is often due to circumstances beyond their control. They could be suffering the impacts of any number of macro- or microeconomic factors such as a weak economic recovery, shifts in the global economy, or an unforeseen medical emergency.

Even though the economy is in recovery, there is a great deal of underemployment and many people have been forced into low-paying jobs that don’t meet their pre-recession debt obligations. Worse yet, many are still unemployed. The number of part-time workers is up 84% post-recession and the number of low-wage jobs has increased by 2.4 million. Many people who were unemployed were forced to take jobs that were paying much less than what they used to earn. This can have a very negative impact on one’s ability to pay bills on time.

Additionally, shifts in the global economy can have an outsized impact on local geographic markets and, thus, impact entire communities’ ability to pay their bills on time. For instance, there has been a recent substantial increase in the number of Texans who are late paying their credit cards and car loans. This is due to the fact that oil is now less than $30 a barrel; which is crushing oil-dependent local economies. Louisiana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia are experiencing a similar impact. This is definitely beyond the control of the people affected by this.

Finally, an unforeseen medical emergency is naturally beyond anyone’s control. It can quickly sap a person’s income requiring them to make choices between paying for much-needed medical care or paying their other bills. In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, high medical bills are still sending people into bankruptcy.

So don’t be quick too judge if you learn that someone is slow to pay their bills or unable to pay, altogether. There is actually a very good chance that they could be dealing with circumstances that are completely beyond their control.