Credit Counselling: Is It Right for You?

Credit Counselling: Is It Right for You?

By Gordon R Thomson

Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts and help you develop a personalized plan to deal with your money problems. An initial session typically lasts an hour, and maybe some follow-up sessions and workshops.

Debt Management Plans: If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP)... Don't sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money.

How a DMP works: The counselor will develop a payment schedule with you and your creditors. Your creditors may agree to lower interest rates or waive certain fees to accommodate the plan. You will agree to deposit timely payments to the counselors trust account from there they will pay your unsecured debts, like credit cards, student loans and medical bills etc. Most likely you will be required not to apply for/or use any additional credit will participating in the plan.

Is a DMP Right For You? Here are some other important questions to ask if you're considering enrolling in a DMP.

How does your DMP work? How will you make sure that all my creditors are paid by the applicable due dates and in the correct billing cycle?

How is the amount of my payment determined? What if the amount is more than I can afford? Don't sign up for a DMP if you can't afford the monthly payment.

How often can I get status reports on my accounts? Make sure that the organization you sign up with is willing to provide regular, detailed statements about your account.

What debts aren't included in the DMP? This is important because you'll have to pay those bills on your own.

Do I have to make any payments to my creditors before they will accept the proposed payment plan? Some creditors require a payment to the credit counselor before accepting you into a DMP. If a credit counselor tells you this is so, call your creditors to verify this information before you send money to the credit counseling agency.

Most reputable counselling agencies are non-profit organizations, to find a local service you may visit: or

Be aware that "non-profit" status doesn't guarantee that services are free In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees so before signing up ask for a copy of their fee schedule.

Use Caution When Shopping for Debt Relief Services:

Avoid any debt relief organization whether it's credit counseling, debt settlement, or any other service that:

charges any fees before it settles your debts or enters you into a DMP plan pressures you to make "voluntary contributions," which is really another name for fees

guarantees it can remove your unsecured debt from your credit report tells you to stop communicating with your creditors, but doesn't explain the serious consequences

tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits guarantees that your unsecured debts can be paid off for pennies on the dollar won't send you free information about the services it provides until you provide personal financial information, like your credit card account numbers, and balances tries to enroll you in a debt relief program without reviewing your financial situation with you or teaching you budgeting and money management skills

Home Equity Loan: If you own your home you may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a home equity loan or second mortgage. But these loans require you to put up your home as collateral. If you can't make the payments or if your payments are late you could lose your home.

What's more, consolidation loans have costs. In addition to interest, you may have to pay "points," with one point equal to one percent of the amount you borrow. Still, these loans may provide certain tax advantages that are not available with other kinds of credit.

Nothing can hurt you financially like having bad credit, it can hurt your chances of getting a job that requires you to handle money, even affect your choices of decent apartments, and utility companies may require you to pay huge deposits before turning on service. Maybe Credit Counseling is the right choice for you if you are drowning in debt, but before you go that route perhaps you should consider other avenues you can do yourself by visiting my blog at:

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