Plastic Effect: debt counseling can’t help with large credit card balances

the plastic effectUrban Legend: I made a number of purchases for items I did not really need. I have a large credit card balance. I am having trouble making my minimum payment on my credit card balance. I am embarrassed to ask for help. Credit counseling or debt management counseling would not help me in my situation.

The Reality: False.
Anyone with a large amount of credit card debt can benefit from credit counseling or debt management counseling.

Do NOT be afraid to ask for help! Not asking for help can quickly make a bad, but salvageable, financial situation into an un-salvageable situation.

Common warning signs that you are likely to need credit counseling or debt management counseling include:

• You do not have enough money to cover all the monthly payments for all your living expenses;
• You’re taking out cash advances from your credit cards to cover your bills;
• You constantly try to borrow money from friends or family members to pay your bills; or
• You do not have enough money to pay your minimum payments on your credit cards.

There are a number of credit counseling and debt management services. Some will assist you for free and others will charge a fee.

Credit counselors typically assist in you with analyzing your current financial situation. They provide you with personalized long-term and short-term options based on your financial goals, and recommend the optimal debt management plans that allow you to achieve financial stability over time.

Debt management counselors typically assist you with simplifying and streamlining your debt obligations. They help you create long-term and short-term debt management plans. Many debt management counseling services also provide debt consolidation programs in which you pay a fixed monthly fee to the debt consolidation program and the program disburses funds to all your creditors on your behalf.

Polly’s Pearls of Wisdom: Never, ever, be afraid to ask for help. No matter what excuses you may be making or want to make, there are a large number of credit and debt counseling services that can assist you and get you back on track to a stable and prosperous financial future.

As was first discussed for Urban Legend 8, if you are having trouble paying off your credit card debt, a good place to start would be to call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).

The NFCC is a non-profit agency with credit counseling experts who are specifically trained to help you reduce your debt. For more information on NFCC credit counseling, visit (www.nfcc.org) or call (800)388-2227.

Also, beware of credit repair offers (see Urban Legend 22) which may be made by some credit counseling agencies. The Federal Reserve (www.federalreserve.gov/creditcard/manage.html), the FTC (www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre26.shtm) and the US Department of Justice (www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/cc_approved) all provide information and lists of approved credit counseling and debt counseling management providers.

The FTC offers a very informative article on their website called “Knee Deep in Debt” (www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre19) to help people who are facing financial crisis. The article offers tips for budgeting, guides for selecting a credit counseling service, and information about debt management and settlement.

There are also a number of other for-profit and non-profit counseling agencies. Before paying any fees to a counseling agency, check the websites of the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), the FTC, the Federal Reserve, and the US Department of Justice to make sure it is a legitimate credit counseling or debt management counseling agency.

Plastic Reactions:

• How much stress and negative emotions do you feel if you are/were considering credit counseling or debt management counseling?
• What additional negative emotions are/were you feeling if you thought that credit or debt management counseling couldn’t help you? Now that you have read this chapter, have those feelings changed?
• If you have already contacted a credit or debt management counselor, how much stress do you feel now compared to your stress level before contacting them?
• Did you experience any positive emotions related to speaking with a credit or debt management counselor? If so, which ones?
• Did you develop a plan to take back control of your finances and to work towards a better financial future? If so, did you experience a sense of relief?

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The Arizona Daily Independent has received permission to reprint portions of a timely new book “The Plastic Effect” focused on the urban myths of credit cards and their usage written by Polly A. Bauer, CPCS and Stephen Lesavich PhD JD. Future issues of the ADI will feature “Polly’s Pearls” included in each Urban Legend Myth. “The Plastic Effect” is Copyright by Coconut Avenue, Inc. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or duplication is permitted without written permission of Coconut Avenue, Inc.