Are you looking for free financial counseling? You might see ads for so-called counselors online or on TV, but how do you choose a counseling agency that has your best interests at heart? How do you separate the good information from the bad? There are a few things to look for in a credit counseling agency that can help you change your financial situation.
One of the first things to look for in a credit counseling agency is non-profit status. A non-profit agency won’t be trying to make money off of you. Instead, its first priority will be to uphold its mission by offering free financial counseling and education. To make sure the agency you’re considering hasn’t abused its status as a nonprofit, check to make sure it is licensed and accredited in your state.
Along with being an accredited nonprofit, the agency should be a member of an organization such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) or the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). To become a member of these agencies, an agency needs to maintain high standards of customer service and ethical conduct. The counselors who work for the agency should also be members of or certified by an organization like NFCC or FCAA.
You don’t want to pay a high fee for services before you know if an agency will actually be able to help you. That’s why it’s important to look for an agency that offers free financial counseling as well as education. The free credit counseling offered should include an in-depth discussion about your unique situation. During your consultation, the counselor should dive deeply into your financial situation and get an idea of what you earn, spend, and owe so that at the end of the call or in-person visit, he or she can recommend the best course of action for your unique financial situation.
A credit counseling agency should offer more than just free financial counseling. People’s financial situations aren’t cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all, and a good counselor will treat you like an individual. By the end of your consultation, your counselor might help you put together a budget and give you advice for sticking to it. If your situation warrants it, a counselor might recommend a debt management plan. Since debt management plans aren’t for everyone, be wary if that’s the only solution a counselor gives, or if they push you towards a plan before they have taken a close look at your financial situation.
You don’t want to work with a credit counseling agency that is secretive or that will only give you information once you sign up for a service. If you choose to sign up for a debt management plan, you want to get the information about the plan upfront. Find out how much it will cost you and what your obligations are during the plan. You’ll also want to know how long the payment plan will last, before you agree to it.
Another way to vet an agency that offers free financial counseling before you work with them is to ask for referrals or reviews. It’s important to work with an agency that has a good track record of helping people get out of debt.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit service provider of comprehensive personal financial education and solutions for all life stages and for all of life’s milestones. Our goal is enhanced economic security for everyone we serve.
CESI is NOT A LOAN COMPANY