Did you know that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck? If this describes your financial situation, you can rest assured you’re not alone. Sometimes this can happen because of a low income, or because of emergency expenses. But, more often than not, you’re living paycheck to paycheck because of existing debt.
If you’re tired of feeling like you’re playing catchup with your bills, you may consider debt counseling services. These services and organizations can help you get back on track and lean how to more effectively manage your income.
Where Can You Find a Debt Counseling Service?
Just a simple online search will return hundreds of results for debt counseling services. Unfortunately, not all are legitimate. There are quite a few scams out there, and few guarantees that your money will be well spent.
To find the best debt counseling services, there are a few places you can check locally. The first of these is your bank or your credit union. Banks and credit unions often offer affordable debt counseling and credit repair services to their account holders or members of the local community.
Community colleges are also excellent resources for finding debt counseling services. These services may actually be free, or they may cost a nominal fee of, usually, less than $100. And don’t worry. You don’t have to have a community college in your particular county to register. Community colleges are open for enrollment to anyone, regardless of where you live.
Finally, check with the US Cooperative Extension Service. Many people think the organization focuses on farming and agriculture, but the US Cooperative Extension offers many programs to the community, including debt counseling services.
Ready to get started? Here’s what’s going to happen during your counseling service.
What to Expect from Debt Counseling Services
If you’re trying a debt counseling service for the first time, you might be a little nervous. Disclosing your financial information (and mistakes) to a stranger can be intimidating.
There are a few ways a debt counseling service might be run. The first is a class. When you enroll in a class, you and a small group of other people will learn together, and usually no personal information is exchanged. In your class, you’ll learn about:
- Causes of debt
- Income management
- Beginning and managing your savings
- Retirement programs
- How to pay down debt
- Personal budgeting
The second possibility for your debt counseling service is a one on one consultation, or series of consultations. In this structure, you’ll sit down with a counselor ad look over your specific finances. Your counselor will help you figure out where your money is currently going, and where it can best be used.
In this structure, you and your debt counselor will create a plan of action for living within your means while paying down debt and making the most of your income.
Debt counseling services aren’t scary! They cost very little in most cases, and will help you acquire valuable tools for managing your personal wealth and eliminating debt from your life.
Choosing a Debt Counseling Program
As mentioned, there are a lot of scams out there. To make sure you’re not wasting your money, always check with he Attorney General’s office in your state, and make sure the service is legitimate. It’s also a good idea to check with consumer ratings. You can find these online, and you’ll get a good idea about the organization before you enroll by reading what others have said.
Always check to see what a debt counseling service charges before you sign up. Some will charge a flat rate, and others will charge you monthly to enroll you in a debt management program. It’s important to know that, while debt management programs are effective in paying down debt, not all will teach you long term strategies. In other words, debt counseling services and debt management programs are not the same thing.
Finally, be sure you get everything in writing. Your monthly or one time costs should be written out for you, and you should be given a written agreement as to what you can expect to take away from the service.
Getting everything in writing will protect you from companies that don’t deliver on their promises.
Best Debt Counseling Services
Before you enroll in a debt counseling service, double check to make sure the business is registered to operate in your state. You can do this by checking with the Attorney General’s office. Here are the best debt counseling services, based on user reviews.
GreenPath Financial Wellness
GreenPath offers free debt counseling services, and has local offices across the United States. Alternatively, you can call GreenPath and engage in a phone consultation.
People who have used GreenPath note that the company will often recommend that you enroll in a debt management program. However, the representatives are not “pushy” about it. People who have used GreenPath have said the free information is usually more than enough to get you back on track with debt management on your own.
Clearpoint Credit Counseling Services
Clearpoint, like GreenPath, has offices all over the United States. Unlike GreenPath, Clearpoint is a nonprofit organization. The group offers debt counseling services, home buying counseling and bankruptcy counseling.
People who have used Clearpoint Credit counseling Services say they never felt pressured, and that the representatives at the organization were nothing short of compassionate. They loved the online tools available to them, and many also used the self-paced online courses.
As with many credit counseling services, Clearpoint many also help you to improve your credit score. Appointments can be set by calling your local office.
National Foundation for Credit Counseling
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling offers debt counseling services to just about every situation you may find yourself in. Student loan counseling, small business financial counseling, housing counseling and reverse mortgage counseling are just a few of the options offered by this nonprofit.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling has over 600 offices in the United States and Puerto Rico, so there’s a good chance you’ve got an office close to you. People who have used this service say they loved that the counseling was specifically tailored to their individual financial circumstances.