If you’ve ever thought that debt had a stranglehold on your finances, you’re in good company.

Including mortgages, school loans, and other sorts of debt, the typical American owes Experian more than $100,000. With all the self-help books, websites, and social media pages dedicated to money management, many people find it challenging to put all of the advice into practice daily.

Fortunately, several free services may help you get back on track regarding credit and debt management.

Some of the most well-known and well-respected free financial counseling services are included below, along with information about what to anticipate.

What to look for in a credit counselor’s qualifications

Credit counselors are no exception to the rule that you should use caution while seeking the advice of financial specialists.

Non-profits tend to be the best, but as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) points out, this does not imply that they are more affordable or legitimate. For example, some impose high (sometimes concealed) costs, while others fail to assist unless you pay in advance. The Justice Department’s state-by-state listing of authorized credit counseling organizations is a valuable resource as a supplement to this list.

A Debt Management Plan (DMP), a popular option for actively paying back creditors at a reduced interest rate, often costs money. A DMP may be an appealing alternative if collection agencies are already phoning you incessantly. So, be wary if a credit counselor insists on using it as their only tool.

What You Need to Know About Bankruptcy Credit Counseling and When to Consider It

If you’re thinking of making bankruptcy an option You should be aware about a crucial condition: credit counseling. It might perhaps not be the very first thought that pops into your mind when you think of bankruptcy, but it’s an essential step in the process. In this article we’ll examine the requirements, how to meet it, and other aspects to be aware of.

As per law, you have to be able to complete “pre-bankruptcy credit counseling” before applying in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy for an individual. The government keeps a list of pre-bankruptcy approved credit counseling companies (filers who reside in Alabama as well as North Carolina can find approved providers here). A majority of NFCC-certified organizations offer this service. NFCC will match you with an approved bankruptcy professional by filling out this form. Read more about bankruptcyhq.com.

When you’ve completed the counseling session, you will receive a certificate which proves that you have completed the required requirements. This certificate will be valid for 180 calendar days. This means that you can file for bankruptcy until 180 days to file bankruptcy. In case you delay, you’ll need to repeat the pre-filing consultation.

In addition to the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling, there’s another “counseling” requirement. When you file for bankruptcy, but prior to the time your debt(s) is cleared, you are legally required to attend a pre-discharge education for debtors. Many of the organizations that offer credit counseling service provide debtor education as well. This article is focused on prior to filing credit counseling, however you must remember the two counseling or education prerequisites.

Federal Credit Counseling Agency

According to the NFCC, the nation’s most prominent credit counseling organization, all of its member agencies (including those on this list) must be accredited by the NFCC before they may work with consumers. Counseling for home loans, student debts, and bankruptcy may also be available via some organizations. NFCC counseling may be done online, in person, or over the phone, depending on where you reside.

American Association for Financial Counseling

Another massive agency network, the FCAA, is just that. Certain services are provided by for-profit suppliers, unlike the NFCC (the FCAA itself is a non-profit). The Council on Accreditation (COA) serves as a third-party accreditation agency. The FCAA has extensively vetted its members and provides free debt counseling to clients in all 50 states through its website, helpline, and in-person locations.

Credit Counseling in America

What it does: This Massachusetts-based service provides phone therapy Monday through Saturday to anybody in the United States, regardless of where they live. DMPs start at $7 a month with a one-time $39 registration cost, and credit counseling and budget advice are free. Consumer Credit waives fees for those who are struggling financially.

Well-Being on the GreenPath

What it is: GreenPath provides a wealth of free resources for personal money management on its website, including budget spreadsheets and other how-tos. They provide free budgeting and debt-reduction advice and charge $50 for bankruptcy counseling. If you reside in a state where the monthly charge is $75 and you owe creditors $50, you may enroll in a debt management plan (DMP) for $75 every month. Online, via phone, or in one of GreenPath’s approximately 40 U.S. locations, all these services are at your disposal.

In the field of financial management (MMI)

What it is: MMI provides free, round-the-clock online and telephone therapy to everyone in the United States and in-person counseling in 25 different states throughout the country. Debt Management Plan fees might range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. The firm’s average monthly price is $24, and the average registration fee is $33. 

In addition to cost reductions and exemptions, the organization offers free online classes, webinars, and budgeting tools for those in need. Its Clearpoint division focuses on families with incomes between low and moderate.

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