You’re looking for help with credit card debt and aren’t sure where to turn. Debt resolution companies may promise results that sound too good to be true–and they probably are. Non-profit credit counseling and debt consolidation programs can help you get back on track–and you won’t have to pay a fortune with few results.
Desperate Times, Not-so-Desperate Measures: Finding Real Debt Help
You can find non-profit credit counselors through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These agencies typically work on a sliding scale, which means that they review your income and obligations, and charge according to what you can afford to pay. Here are a few things to avoid when shopping for credit counseling services:
Payment up front: Legitimate credit counseling and debt consolidation services typically arrange an initial free consultation. After they evaluate your situation and review your options, you can select a program that works for you and pay accordingly.
High fees or solicitations for “contributions”: Avoid services that charge high fees or urge you to make “voluntary contributions.”
Promises to “erase” or “fix” bad credit: Bad credit doesn’t happen overnight and it can’t be fixed instantly. Non-profit debt resolution programs may take a few years to complete, but you won’t risk being ripped off or asked to participate in unethical or illegal schemes to “fix” your credit.
Programs that advise you to let your accounts go delinquent: This damages your credit and the end result–usually some kind of debt settlement arrangement–may not be approved by your creditors. Many debtors have fallen for schemes where they paid for services up front and didn’t pay their bills while waiting to have their debt resolved. They ended up with worse credit, more debt, and less money to repay it.
When seeking credit counseling, it’s a good idea to contact a few credit counseling services. Ask questions and make note of cost, length of program, and expected results. Professional credit counselors offer a full review of your budget, along with negotiating a repayment plan with you creditors. A credit counseling service that rushes you into a repayment plan without discussing your finances is not providing full service. Establishing a cash based budget is also essential to getting and staying out of debt.
About 56% of workers say they plan to use their tax refund to pay off credit card debt and other bills, according to a CareerBuilder survey.
The job search site polled more than 5,200 workers in November 2009 and found that 78% are currently living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 71% the previous May. To cope with leaner finances, 17% said they had reduced contributions to 401(k) accounts over the past year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Chris Rocks is the Regional Director of the National Credit Federation (NCF). NCF is a nationwide membership-based organization that assists consumers recovering from a financial difficulty and those who need a significant increase in their credit score.
Chris began his financial services career as a Financial Advisor helping young families with risk management and asset accumulation strategies. It was during that time that Chris realized that many of these young families also needed someone to guide their choices with regards to debt management.
He made the transition into the mortgage industry where he first worked as a loan originator and later the Vice President of a small mortgage company. As Chris came across clients who had suffered through financial challenges and saw the difficulty they had in re-entering our credit driven economy, he discovered there was a real opportunity to leverage his unique background and help others.
He can be contacted by visiting his personal site, GoodCreditLiving.com.
Francine L. Huff is the Publisher and Editorial Director of Super Savvy Publishing, LLC, which provides editorial and publishing services. She is a gifted author, freelance journalist, and motivational speaker who has entertained and motivated a variety of audiences through workshops, panels and keynote addresses. Francine is the author of The 25-Day Money Makeover for Women, which has inspired and motivated many readers to rein in poor financial habits, become good stewards over their money and work toward a debt-free life. She has appeared on a variety of TV and radio shows. Francine previously worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she was the spot news bureau chief, a news editor and a copy editor. She has interviewed a variety of financial professionals about financial issues and strives to present information about managing money in an easy-to-understand format that is accessible to people of all backgrounds and income levels.
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience working in mortgage banking and loan servicing. She holds BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno. She enjoys writing informative articles about debt management and personal finance.