As the new director of the Office for Financial Success I want to take this opportunity to quickly introduce myself to you.
I graduated from Utah State University where I received a Family Finance Degree. After spending several years in the industry (insurance, banking and financial planning) I decided it was time for me to return to school. I enrolled in the Personal Financial Planning program at Texas Tech University and graduated in December of 2009.
I am excited to be here at the University of Missouri – the support of the department and community is outstanding. For me, financial counseling is not just a job or a career, but a calling and my passion. There is no greater feeling than sitting across from someone and seeing hope enter their eyes. That is why I love this work. Thank you for your welcome and support.
One quick note before we jump into today’s topic – this is YOUR Financial Tip of the Week! If you would like to see a specific topic covered or have a question you would like answered, we would love to receive those! Just send an e-mail with your question or suggestion and we will utilize those as we write future tips.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) just released a report of a survey that asked consumers what they would do if they find themselves in financial distress.
The question asked was:
“If I were in debt beyond what I could manage on my own, my first point of action would be to:”
Here are the responses and percentages:
|Seek help from a legitimate credit counseling agency||38%|
|Talk directly to my creditor(s) about debt settlement||33%|
|Consider debt settlement through a debt settlement company||14%|
|File for bankruptcy||5%|
|Ignore the debt since I can’t pay it||10%|
As a financial counselor I was happy to see that over 70% of respondents said they would seek help from a legitimate credit counseling agency or talk directly with their creditors.
I would like to discuss each of these options briefly in today’s tip.
Seek Help from a Legitimate Credit Counseling Agency
There is a great book about debt published by The National Consumer Law Center titled Guide to Surviving Debt (ISBN: 978-1-60248-027-8). In this book a legitimate credit counseling agency is defined as an “agency that offers a range of services from basic budget counseling to education courses about finances to debt repayment plans” (p. 58). A credit counseling agency will not only help you work through your situation, but will also educate you so can avoid the problem in the future.
Talk Directly to my Creditor(s) About Debt Settlement
It is important to communicate with your creditor(s) when you are facing a financial crisis. You should call them and tell them that you are facing financial problems right now and cannot pay but that you will pay the debt as soon as possible. They may also be willing to work out some kind of re-payment plan that fits your budget better. They are usually much more willing to work with you if you are honest and upfront with them before the situation gets bad.
Consider Debt Settlement through a Debt Settlement Company
It didn’t surprise me that more than 10% of respondents selected this. Debt Settlement Companies advertise very heavily on TV and radio. You hear claims that someone who owed $41,000 settled for $8200. What is a Debt Settlement Company? They will collect information about your debts then you will send a payment to them that they maintain in an account. They do not send the money to the company you are in debt with. When they believe there is enough money in the account they will call the company to try to settle the debt with them. In the meantime, you aren’t making payments, so you will likely be facing pressure to pay, be sued for collection, have your debt turned over to a collection agency and have your credit score destroyed. You also often pay very high fees to these companies. While debt settlement can work, it can be a long and expensive process, and finding a legitimate company can be difficult.
File for Bankruptcy
While only 5% of respondents selected this option it is important to address it. Filing bankruptcy is a very serious decision that needs to be made with care. Bankruptcy is a legitimate means of getting a fresh start, but it will drop your credit score and stay on your credit report for 10 years. You may have difficulty getting loans after that. It is important to work with a legitimate credit counseling agency to explore all options before declaring bankruptcy.
Ignore the Debt Since I Can’t Pay It
If you ignore the problem it eventually goes away, right? WRONG. Ignoring the debt is not a good decision. Late fees will pile on, you may get sent to collections or be sued, your assets may be repossessed, and your credit score will start to drop.
If you are facing financial problems set up an appointment with a legitimate counseling agency and be up-front with your creditors. Taking these pro-active steps are the best things you can do.
If you need help with your debt situation be sure to contact The Office for Financial Success at http://firstname.lastname@example.org.