When you hear the word “counseling,” you may think of discussing your emotional or mental issues with a trained professional, or of confiding in a therapist. You can think of free credit counseling in a similar way. If you are struggling with debt or trying to better manage your income and expenses, a non-profit credit counselor can provide guidance and help. Free credit counseling is like having a therapist for your money. The goal is to help you get control of your finances so that you can live a better life.
What free credit counseling does for you depends on your financial situation. A credit counselor might help you develop a budget so that you are able to live within your means and see where you money is going each month. Counseling with a non-profit agency can also help you set and reach financial goals, such as saving for an emergency or starting a retirement fund. If you are struggling with debt, a counselor will work with you to come up with a plan for paying off your loans. Counseling most often takes place by phone, but many agencies can assist you in person or via online chat through their website.
Credit counseling can take many forms. If your main concern is unsecured debt, a counselor might help you enroll in a debt management plan to help you pay down your credit cards. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you need to complete a credit counseling course before you can file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Credit counseling can also be useful if you are having difficulty paying for your mortgage or if you have a considerable amount in student loans and are struggling to pay them.
There are several things to look for and a few red flags to avoid when looking for a credit counselor.
When choosing a provider, look for the following:
If an agency won’t give you any information or assistance until you pay, it’s in your best interest to look for another company. While talking to a counselor should always be free, some services might have a low monthly fee to cover the agency’s expenses. Make sure the agency you work with provides their fees upfront and steer clear of any that want to charge you a hefty sum upfront.
Check out the agency’s credentials before deciding to work with them. A reputable company will have a good rating from the Better Business Bureau or similar agencies and will only employ certified counselors. You might also want to review the services offered by the counseling agency to determine if they are in line with your needs.
Most importantly, free credit counseling from a non-profit agency should benefit you. An agency that has your best interests in mind and isn’t out to profit from your financial situation is an agency you want to work with.
The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt. For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY