Financial counseling

I've tried to give good financial advice in this section, but there's plenty more out there, available from real live professionals who do this stuff for a living. If you still feel you need more information and help about your personal financial situation, I recommend you see a Certified Financial Planner or credit counselor.

Warning!

You need to be very careful when looking into ways to improve your finances and credit. Wherever there's desperation, there's scumbags willing to make a buck off that desperation. There are a lot of bogus companies and individuals out there who claim they'll help you repair credit, or even eliminate debt. Often they are just scams which sucker people into paying up-front fees, filing bankruptcy, or illegal activities like "file segregation," where they set up a second identity for you. These sorts of things will obviously only make your problems worse.

There are also people who claim to be financial counselors who are really just insurance salespeople or other losers looking to sell you something.

Your cheapest and safest bet is to go to a nationally-recognized non-profit organization.

What they can do

Credit counselors can give you more detailed information on how to reduce your spending and debt. They can also help you with more technical tricks, like changing exemptions on your W-2 to reduce your withheld taxes.

If the damage is done and your debt is unmanageable, they can enroll you in a debt management program. For a nominal processing fee, they consolidate your debt and notify your creditors that you are in their program. If you go to a national non-profit, their negotiating power and reputation allows them to cut interest rates dramatically, in some cases even eliminating interest charges. If you enroll, you must adhere to the agreement, or else they turn you back over to your creditors, and you're free game for them again.

The drawback to a debt management program is that they require your bills be past due to enroll. This will show up on your credit report, and will impact your ability to get credit in the future. Obviously, it's not nearly as damaging to your credit as a bankruptcy, and it can be a good option with less stigma attached.

Start here

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) is a national non-profit organization with local offices around the nation. Their website is http://www.credit.org/ and the toll-free number is 1-800-388-2227. I use them and find them to be excellent.

Debt Counselors of America (DCA) is a national organization with an interactive web site and a toll-free number. The DCA website http://www.dca.org/ offers info and some publications and programs for sale. Their phone number is 1-800-680-3328.


Order the interactive spreadsheet of this financing information.

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