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Credit Counseling Plans
Credit Counseling: If you’re not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, can’t work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or can’t keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization.
Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But be aware that, just because an organization says it’s “nonprofit,” there’s no guarantee that its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, which may be hidden, or urge consumers to make “voluntary” contributions that can cause more debt.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the Internet, or on the telephone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Be wary of credit counseling organizations that:
• charge high up-front or monthly fees for enrolling in credit counseling or a DMP.
• pressure you to make “voluntary contributions,” another name for fees.
• won’t send you free information about the services they provide without requiring you to provide personal financial information, such as credit card account numbers, and balances.
• try to enroll you in a DMP without spending time reviewing your financial situation.
• offer to enroll you in a DMP without teaching you budgeting and money management skills.
• demand that you make payments into a DMP before your creditors have accepted you into the program.
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