Handling your personal finances can be a private affair — solitary, even. But it doesn’t have to be. Although it can be understandably nerve-wracking to open up the details of your financial situation to another person, sometimes the fresh perspective is much needed.
Credit counselors are personal finance professionals trained to help customers take a look at their overall financial situations and come up with strategies for meeting money goals.
Here’s more on why it’s often worthwhile to meet with a credit counselor, and how to choose a good one.
4 Reasons to Seek Credit Counseling
- Create or Review Your Budget
A lot of conflicting advice is floating around out there about budgeting — and it’s not always easy to know where to start. According to a 2019 poll from Debt.com, only two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans have their households on a budget. And yet only one-fourth of respondents believe everyone should budget.
A credit counselor can help you create a budget or make improvements to your current spending plan based on factors like your income, debts, fixed and variable expenses, as well as your savings. Sometimes it’s simply helpful to have another set of eyes — a well-trained set — go over the details of your situation and put together a realistic budget.
- Create a Plan for Your Financial Goals
Creating a budget that works for you is a wonderful first step. But budgeting is not the end goal; it’s just laying the track to help get you where you want to go. It’s important to have overarching financial and life goals driving your budget.
Credit counseling can help you create a budget that serves as a snapshot of your current financial situation. But it can also help you look into the future and connect that budget to your financial goals — like building an emergency fund, taking a vacation, buying a home, renovating your home, buying a vehicle, saving for retirement, saving for your child’s college education and more.
- Enroll in a Debt Management Plan (DMP)
Many people seek credit counseling because they need help with their debt. A creditor counselor can determine if you’re a candidate for a DMP through their agency.
As U.S. News & World Report writes, a counselor may suggest a DMP “if you have a lot of unsecured debt with two or more creditors but enough income to make a payment each month.”
If you do decide to enroll, you’ll start making one monthly payment to the agency rather than multiple payments directly to your creditors. The agency will try to work out a plan with creditors on your behalf in which you pay reduced interest and fees in exchange for committing to your monthly payment. Unlike financial counseling, which should be free, participating in a DMP will cost a monthly fee of around or less than $50.
- Get Free Advice on Debt, Savings & More
Few things in life are free — but credit counseling with a non-profit agency often is, so why not take advantage of this resource to strengthen your financial plan?
What to Look for in a Credit Counselor
The key to getting the most value from your meeting is choosing a legitimate and qualified non-profit organization in the first place. Hint: It’s a very good sign if the agency is accredited through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Do your research online before choosing the agency with which you’ll meet, too.
Making an appointment with a credit counselor is a great way to get perspective on your personal finances, create an airtight budget, come up with a plan to work toward your financial goals, and get into a DMP if necessary.