If you are living from paycheck to paycheck, accumulating debts, struggling to follow a budget and failing to save for retirement, then you should consider talking to a credit counselor. Credit counselors offer services over the phone, online or at local offices.
They are trained to help you understand credit, manage your cash flow, debts and come up with a working budget. However, you also need to note that not all credit counselors are the same.
Before you hire one, you need to consider the following tips.
One of the easiest ways of weeding out substandard or unethical credit counselors is by assessing their status of accreditation. If their agency doesn’t belong to the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA) or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), then you might be dealing with quacks.
Members of these associations must abide by certain rules and regulations to ensure their clients receive honest, credible and comprehensive credit counseling services. Therefore, ensure you are working with an accredited credit counselor.
Cost Of Services
If you are consulting a non-profit credit counseling agency, then you should not pay for services such as budgeting or general information. However, if they want you to pay even for these basic services, then you should avoid them.
If they are not ready to help you just because you cannot afford their services, then you don’t have a reason to work with them. On the other hand, if you are consulting about a debt management program, then you have to part with some money.
Apart from the upfront costs, you should also ask whether they charge additional fees.
Additional Services Offered
Before choosing a credit counselor, you also need to consider their service package. According to the FTC you should look for an agency that offers a wide range of services such as savings, debt management and budget counseling, among others.
Don’t be afraid to ask. You should also avoid agencies that only offer a debt management plan or push you to adopt a debt management plan without analyzing your situation comprehensively.
Some credit counselors could steer you in the wrong direction if they offered advice without assessing your situation first. Also, avoid those who are making promises that look too good to be true.
When it comes to debt or financial management, there are no guarantees. A credible credit counselor needs to analyze your situation thoroughly. Then he or she should work with you to come up with an effective plan.
How You Will Meet
When hiring a credit counselor, it’s also important to consider how you will conduct the sessions. Will they conduct the sessions online or you will have to meet them face-to-face? If you prefer a face-to-face session, then you should hire a local credit counselor.
On the other hand, if you have a tight schedule and you cannot manage face-to-face sessions, then you should opt for online sessions. You can even do these via Skype or Google Hangouts. However, if you opt for online sessions, you need to note that they are not as personal as physical sessions.
Final Thoughts On Hiring A Credit Counselor
A credit counselor should help you create some order in your financial life. Therefore, you need to be careful when hiring one to avoid further problems.
However, you also need to remember that the advice they offer will only work if you show commitment on your part.