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Big Benefits of Working with Credit Counseling Agencies

Aug 17, 2007
What exactly do credit counseling agencies do? To put it simply, a credit counseling agency analyzes your sources of income and your expenses. The agency will:

A) Detail what you owe.
B) Give you an organized picture of your financial situation.
C) Provide options that match your resources, lifestyle, and goals.
D) Tell you the steps you need to take to reach those goals.

Whether you first contact a credit-counseling agency by phone, e-mail, or in person, the counselor will ask you why you're there, what you'd like to accomplish at the meeting, and what your short-term and long-term goals are.

Then some fairly detailed data-gathering will take place. You'll be asked about your income sources and tax deductions, as well as your monthly expenses. Having a good idea about what your monthly expenses are is very helpful, but it isn't a requirement - if you don't know, the credit counselor can help you estimate them. A quick subtraction of expenses from income will tell you how much you have available for monthly debt service, if any. The counselor will suggest ways to adjust your expenses or income, to get you to a positive cash-flow position (in which more money is coming into your household than is going out).

Next, you and the counselor will go over all the debts you have to pay. The positive cash flow from the earlier calculation will be applied to the amount you have to pay out. If anything is left over, you're basically done - you'll leave with an action plan and a budget you can follow to keep your expenses in line with your income. If the result is negative (if you have more expenses than you have income), you and your counselor will rework the expenses to free up cash flow and he'll tell you what your debt service would be under a debt-management plan.

This process of reducing your expenses and increasing your income will continue until you and the counselor get to a positive cash flow or it becomes apparent that, no matter what you do, the numbers just don't work in your favor. If you can't get to a positive cash flow, the counselor will refer you to an attorney or other community resources for additional help.

Everything described above can be done through the mail, over the phone, or via e mail. Often, the process involves more than one of these methods over a series of contacts and days. For example, you might start out on the Internet filling out a contact form and asking questions; then you might follow up with a phone call to clarify and discuss matters further; and you might go into an office or use the mail to finalize your solutions. The method of contact you use is just a matter of what you're most comfortable with - one method isn't better than another.

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to make all your financial problems disappear, but a good certified credit counselor will always offer solutions. Expect more than one solution, and expect some solutions you don't like. Your counselor will give you a balanced perspective of what you need to do, how long it will take, and what resources are available to help you along the way. Your counselor will probably discuss bankruptcy, as well as other solutions. The counselor will propose solutions not just in the light of your current situation, but in light of your future needs.

A good credit counselor offers solutions with your future goals in focus. A solution that works best for you is one that not only deals with current issues but takes into account how you see your future. For example, if you're planning to buy a house, get a security clearance at work, or send your triplets to college in five years, that future goal will affect the course of action that will best fit your needs.

For about 75 percent of the over 1 million people who bare their souls to credit counselors each year, advice and direction are all they need. An unexpected by-product is improved financial communication. For many couples and families, credit counseling is the first time that goals, spending priorities, and even some secrets such as hidden debts are openly discussed.

Expect to have a customized action plan when you're finished with your credit counselor. To be useful, an action plan has to fit you and the way you live. If it doesn't, you won't follow it. You don't wear clothes that are too tight - and you won't follow a poorly fitted financial plan. A comfortable budget designed with your spending and saving style in mind is more likely to be something you'll follow. If you're struggling toward the abyss of debt, a good credit-counseling agency can help you understand how you landed in your predicament, what you need to do to correct the problem, and how to maintain your good financial reputation.

Expect some fine-tuning as you go. Although your counselor will anticipate as much as possible when developing your plan, he can't foresee the future. Murphy's Law applies to credit counseling in spades. Not only can things go wrong, but with limited financial resources, every bump in the road will feel much worse. Ongoing involvement with your credit-counseling agency as you navigate this credit-repair journey will help you stay the course. Expect the agency to make this easier for you, by giving you names, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of people to contact beyond the agency for more help. You should be able to go back to your counselor for additional suggestions and referrals as you go along although most people, when they have a workable plan in hand, are off on their own.
About the Author
John Hilaire offers information on secured debt credit counseling but consilidation debt settlement or chiropractic consolidation debt loan student is preventing you from finding the best data.
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