Your Guide to Finding Competent Credit Counseling
It’s not just your imagination. Debt’s really got a hold on you and there’s no mountain high enough or valley low enough to keep the bill collectors from getting to you. You’re begging, “Please Mr. Postman, stay away from me,” because you’ve got nowhere to run and it feels like you’re living for the city.
You need to shop around for help.
Thing is, smiling faces sometimes tell lies. If you’re going to make it to higher ground, you’ll have to navigate a ball of confusion. So, here’s your guide to finding competent credit counseling.
What Is Credit Counseling?
Free or low-cost credit counseling services can be found at banks, credit unions and in religious organizations. There are also non-profit agencies specializing in helping people assess their financial situations and develop plans to get their budgets back on track.
A good credit counselor will discuss your entire financial situation and help you develop a personalized plan based upon it. They can also assist you with starting a budget and help you find educational programs about money management.
How to Find an Honest One
As these Freedom Debt Relief reviews reveal, finding competent professional help can make all the difference — but you do have to know what to look for. Reputable agencies are open to sending you free information upon your request. Further, they’re willing to do so without any obligation or details about your circumstances. If someone starts probing you for that kind of personal information on first contact, they should be viewed with suspicion.
Questions to Ask
Inquire about their industry affiliations. Either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) — or, ideally, both — should have accredited the organization.
Check the NFCC and FCAA sites to confirm their accreditations.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommends the following inquires:
- What services do you offer? Look for an organization that offers a range of services, including budget counseling, and savings and debt management classes. Avoid organizations that push a debt management plan (DMP) as your only option before they spend a significant amount of time analyzing your financial situation.
- Do you offer information? Are educational materials available for free? Avoid organizations that charge for information.
- In addition to helping me solve my immediate problem, will you help me develop a plan for avoiding problems in the future?
- What are your fees? Are there set-up and/or monthly fees? Get a specific price quote in writing.
- What if I can’t afford to pay your fees or make contributions? If an organization won’t help you because you can’t afford to pay, look elsewhere for help.
- Will I have a formal written agreement or contract with you? Don’t sign anything without reading it first. Make sure all verbal promises are in writing.
- Are you licensed to offer your services in my state?
- What are the qualifications of your counselors? Are they accredited or certified by an outside organization? If so, by whom? If not, how are they trained? Try to use an organization whose counselors are trained by a non-affiliated party.
- What assurance do I have that information about me (including my address, phone number, and financial information) will be kept confidential and secure?
- How are your employees paid? Are they paid more if I sign up for certain services, if I pay a fee, or if I make a contribution to your organization? If the answer is yes, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere for help.
If you ain’t too proud to beg, you’ll be dancing in the street singing Heaven Must Have Sent You, and your debt will be signed, sealed and delivered.
Because there ain’t nothing like the real thing.