If you're struggling to get by on a limited income, or simply want financial guidance, a credit counselor can help you create a personalized plan. Here's what you should know before you get started.
What Is A Credit Counselor?
Credit counselors are trained to do a complete analysis of your finances to help you reduce your debt and use your credit responsibly. Counselors review your finances, including your income, expenses and debt. Depending on your needscan help you create a personalized budget, a debt repayment plan, or a general plan of action for your finances.
What Can I Get From Credit Counseling?
A counselor may be able to help you develop a plan to break the cycle of living month to month on your money, get out of debt, or prepare to buy a home. In addition, he or she can help you if you are looking for general financial education or a plan to make sure you are protected in case of an unforeseen event.
What Makes A Credit Counselor Reliable?
Most reputable credit counseling agencies operate as non-profit organizations. Counselors are certified and trained in credit, debt management and financial education.
Careful: to avoid unethical credit counseling agencies, avoid anyone who can't prove their certification, who won't answer basic questions unless you reveal personal details, who requires money up front, or who promises to make your debts disappear without you having to do anything.
What questions should I ask before choosing?
An agency should be able to verify that they are certified and licensed to provide services in your state. Also ask what services they offer, what fees you will have to pay and what measures they take to protect your information. If a credit counselor can't answer those questions, or makes you feel uncomfortable, keep looking.
What can I expect from a session?
Expect to share not only information about your income, debts, expenses and credit usage, but also your short- and long-term goals. It's also important if you expect changes in your finances, such as a pay cut. The more honest you are, the easier it will be for counselors to understand your financial situation so they can offer strategies for paying down debt and managing your credit.
How Many Times Should I Consult With The Advisor?
A trusted advisor does not have a limit. You may need only one session to establish a workable budget. If you think you might benefit from an unsecured debt repayment plan, you could attend several sessions and make small payments until the debt is paid off. You can talk to a counselor or company before signing on to make sure what type of program will meet your objectives.