Debt Strategies: Credit Counseling

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credit counseling

You may want to know more about one of the best debt strategies: credit counseling. The United States has amassed a whopping $14 trillion in consumer debt in 2019. 

In response, the country now offers various solutions to Americans. One of them is known as credit counseling, a short-term and long-term solution to people’s financial situations. 

What is Credit Counseling?

You may request a credit counseling agency’s assistance in repaying your debts. It’s aimed at helping you complete payments within a certain timeframe. The company may form a revised payment plan for you, so it may replace your current one. 

In the long run, you should become debt-free after using the service.

How Does Credit Counseling Work?

How Does Credit Counseling Work

You may begin by asking a credit counseling agency to help you with money management. The agency will then provide a list of requirements you must bring in a scheduled session. On that date, you will submit your documents to their credit counselor. 

The representative will analyze your records, so he may fully understand your financial situation. 

The credit counselor will also discuss your financial troubles with you, so he can determine how he can help you. He may teach you how to better handle your money and he may give you complimentary learning materials. 

They may conduct lessons in saving money and other healthy financial habits, so you can manage your situation better.

He could recommend a debt management plan, one of the hallmark debt strategies that credit counseling provides. It’s an amended repayment plan that aims to facilitate your debt payoff. It may have revisions such as reduced monthly payments, so you can complete them with your current income. 

You will have to appeal the plan to your lenders, and they must approve it before you get started. If they agree, you will have to divert your payments to the credit counseling agency. They will relay the money to your creditors as they receive your monthly payments. 

The plan will have a set payment period albeit longer than your former one.

You will have to comply with some financial restrictions stipulated in your debt management plan. In particular, you could be obligated to only use one emergency credit card as part of the agreement. 

Some credit counseling companies include these in order to ensure that clients will successfully accomplish their debt management plans. Understand a proposed debt management program before enrolling in one.

Credit Counseling Services

There are numerous agencies throughout America that provide this service, but you should pick the best ones. When choosing a company to help you, you must ask certain questions before using their services. 

The first one should be regarding their institution and its services. Avoid working with those that require your personal information before sharing this information.

Ask if they are licensed to provide credit counseling in your state. Ask your state attorney general and your local consumer protection agency for more details. Inquire regarding their services and debt strategies and determine if those will truly help your financial situation. 

Furthermore, work with a company that will continue to help you even if you fail to pay their fees. If a company wouldn’t, you should look for another agency to help you. If you’re in truly dire financial straits, availing paid services is probably beyond you. 

Thankfully, there are nonprofit credit counseling companies if you aren’t able to afford them.

Is Credit Counseling Right for You?

Is Credit Counseling Right For You

You have some things to consider when going into credit counseling. First, you should check if you can afford the service. While there are nonprofit agencies that provide it, they may not be available to you. 

Depending on your financial problems, it might not be enough to solve them. Other methods may be more useful.

Worse, you might need a debt management program that requires your lenders’ approval. If they refuse this modified repayment plan, the DMP won’t be able to help you. 

If you proceed, it will be noted on your credit report that you’re following a credit counseling service. It will cause damage to that report that lasts up to two to six years.

Alternatives to Credit Counseling

You should check the other debt strategies available, such as debt settlement, debt consolidation, and do-it-yourself methods. You can ask a debt relief company to help you reduce the amount you owe. 

Also, you could combine all your balances into one, so you can repay them easier. You can pay them back solo by following certain techniques.

Debt Settlement

Ask certain agencies to convince your lenders to reduce your debts. This is called debt settlement and it’s mainly used when consolidation or DIY methods won’t work. 

It’s used for specific kinds of deferred payments like student loans. It can damage your credit temporarily, but it can help you improve your finances eventually.

Debt Consolidation

Debt Consolidation

If you have less serious problems with money, debt consolidation is a viable debt solution. It involves borrowing a lump sum that pays and replaces multiple debts. It’s mostly used for credit card debts and other deferred payments that have no collateral. 

You can take out a consolidation loan or a balance transfer credit card to consolidate your balances. 

Keep in mind that it’s best for those with good credit. Those with bad credit can be given the worst consolidation options with the highest interest rates. Nevertheless, it can help you pay off credit card debts and other balances faster.

Do-It-Yourself

Some famous financial advisors recommend using DIY methods instead of debt strategies like credit counseling. It involves paying off the smallest debts first while making minimum payments on the others. 

Despite the slow debt repayment, the smaller balances you complete may motivate you to continue this debt strategy.

In contrast, you can use the opposite method called the debt avalanche. It starts with debt with the highest balance while still paying the minimum for others. It could have faster debt repayment, but it will take time to pay just one balance. 

This can discourage other impatient people to continue the program, so they eventually quit.