Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed by the pile of credit card bills sitting in front of you? For those of us that have experienced an overwhelming amount of credit card debt know that this type of stress can be the most traumatic experience that an individual can go through. Getting in credit card debt is a slippery slope, it usually starts with one card and one purchase but it can quickly turn into a sandtrap where the minimum payments are similar to putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhaging wound.
When we find ourselves at the helm of a ship drowning in a sea of credit card debt there are organizations that we can turn to, and with a little due diligence and articles such as the one your reading right now can help yo navigate you to safe waters, and get you on the path to financial freedom. Credit counseling is one of those organizations that fall under the “debt solutions” category and out of all the different solutions and organizations that could assist you in time of financial crisis credit counseling will probably give you the most bang for your buck.
It was first established in the 1950′s when creditors created the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC for the purpose of, according to the W. Patrick Boisclair, Chairman of the NFCC, “the NFCC initially monitored legislative and regulatory activity for its retail credit members” and “also conducted public awareness campaigns on credit.” Their mission statement reflected an objective to help the American consumer avoid bankruptcy and keep them educated on fiscal responsibility. In 1993 another organization was established called the “Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies,” or AICCCA, stating that there was a need for, “industry…standards of excellence and ethical conduct.” In 2005 the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 made counseling a requirement 180 days prior to filing bankruptcy.
So now credit counseling has been such an integral part of financial health when facing the prospect of bankruptcy that now there are approximately 300 organizations that offer credit counseling in the US. Previous to choosing one of these organizations to assist you, let’s get a better grasp on what credit counseling is and how we can benefit from this breakthrough methodologies.
The main goal of credit counseling, if you walk away with anything, would be to educate you on credit card debt, and how you can avoid being swamped underneath a mountain of credit card debt. Another big part of the process is the credit counselor is involved with the negotiation of better terms across your unsecured credit card debt, which translates to lower rates and lower overall debt. Most likely, you will find yourself enrolled in a debt management plan (or DMP).
The debt management plan is another huge benefit of enrolling into counseling. A DMP is fairly simple, after your enroll in the DMP, and the credit counselor negotiates lower interest rates you close your accounts, and stop making your monthly payments directly to your creditors and begin paying the agency one payment who will disburse the funds according to the terms of the DMP.
Many counseling agencies tout some significant savings and advertise that they cut your debt by 50%-60% and you will be “debt free’ in little as two years. Realistically the industry average is you will be able to cut your debt by 20% and the DMP usually has a turnaround of about 4 years to be completely free of your debt.
Another benefit of enrolling in a DMP is the lowering of interest rates. The interst rate on a credit card that has been defaulted on is usually in the range of 30% to 50%, after enrolling in a DMP, a seasoned credit counselor can negotiate a lower interest rate where your payments will be a more manageable dollar amount reflecting your income.
Credit Counseling Scams
Unfortunately there are some fly by night credit counseling agencies that are seriously lacking in the ethics department. There are some red flags, or signals, that you should be cognizant of on your search for an agency.
Some of the more obvious red flags are:
They refuse to give any references or contact information to testimonials.
They promise that they can lower your debt in by a ridiculous amount in a ridiculous amount of time.
Poor rating on the BBB or several poor reviews on the internet.
You received an unsolicited email or phone call from them.
Ultimately, your financial future and freedom sits in the palm of your hand, you have to make the right decisions at the right time and if credit counseling is an alternative to bankruptcy or financial ruin it wouldn’t hurt to give a non-profit credit counseling agency a buzz.