Is Debt Counseling Right For You?

by : Kathy Burns-millyard

If we are sick, we take care of our bodies by resting, eating right, drinking lots of fluids and going to the doctor, but many of us ignore our finances when they are unhealthy. This will only allow the sickness to spread until you are completely broke, mired in debt and unhappy. One way to prevent the spread of the debt-disease is to visit a credit counselor.

A credit counselor can help you in a variety of ways including helping you find a way out of your debt, or even preparing you to claim bankruptcy. You should see a credit counselor if you're feeling overwhelmed by debt, are considering steps to get out of debt, or if you're unsure of how to proceed financially.

Here's an overview of the process:

First, find a credit counselor in your area. It can be someone at a financial institution you have an established relationship with or someone new to you. It is a good idea to schedule an appointment so that you and the counselor are prepared for the first meeting with all the things you will need.

At your appointment, the counselor will review your income and expenses to determine your budget. This is something many people don't do directly and it can be very helpful for managing your finances. Determining your budget with a credit counselor means that you will complete a budget worksheet that includes all household expenses and secured and unsecured debts, as well as any medical collections. Once you have an acceptable you can move toward paying off your debt.

A credit counselor can help you pay off your debt in two ways:

1. He or she can advise you on payment amounts and times and you can proceed on your own with the instructions. Normally the counselor will check in with you later to ensure you are maintaining the plan.

2. The counselor can manage your debt load for you, arranging and negotiating payments with your creditors on your behalf. For this, you pay an extra fee, which should not be more than $50 per month, and the counselor will charge you one monthly fee to pay all of your debts over the course of the month.

If debt management isn't right for you, your counselor can also take you through a similar process to prepare for bankruptcy. He or she will explain the different types, the benefits and consequences, and how proceeding will affect your assets. Then, they will walk you through the entire process and even help connect you with an appropriate attorney.

So, if you're confused about budgeting or decreasing your debt load, or if you're considering bankruptcy, a credit counselor could help you navigate a confusing and stressful road.