Debt counseling programs can help seniors with financial problems

Published 3:43pm Friday, July 12, 2013

Dear Savvy Senior,

What resources can you recommend to help seniors with financial problems? I hate to admit it, but I’ve fallen behind on my house payments and have accumulated quite a bit of credit card debt over the past few years. Where can we get help?

- Indebt at 70

Dear Indebt,

There are actually a number of free and low-cost resources available today that can help seniors who are struggling with credit card and/or mortgage debt. Here’s where you can turn to for help.

Credit counseling

To help you get a handle on your credit card debt, a good place to start is at a credit-counseling agency. These are non-profit agencies that offer free financial education and advice on how to handle financial problems.

And if your debt is significant, they can set you up in a debt-management plan (DMP) that allows a counselor to negotiate with your creditors to lower your interest rates and eliminate any late fees and other penalties. The agency will then act as a consolidator, grouping your debts together into one payment that you would make, and distributes those funds to your creditors. Most agencies charge a one-time $30 set-up fee and a monthly maintenance fee of around $20 for a DMP.

To locate a credible agency in your area, use the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website at debtadvice.org or call 800-388-2227.

Do not use a for-profit debt settlement company that claims to settle all your debt, or cut it in half for a fee without counseling. Most of these companies use deceptive practices and will only leave you more in debt then you already are.

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