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Debt counseling programs can help seniors with financial problems

Published 3:43pm Friday, July 12, 2013

Foreclosure help

If you have fallen behind on your mortgage payments, or if you have already received a letter or phone call about missed payments, you should contact your lender immediately to explain your situation and see if you can work out a payment plan. Be prepared to provide your financial information, such as your monthly income and expenses.

You can also get help from a housing foreclosure avoidance counselor. These are HUD-approved, trained counselors that will work with you, examining your financial situation, and offer guidance on how best to avoid default or foreclosure. They can also represent you in negotiations with your lender if you need them to.

To find a government-approved housing counseling agency in your area, use the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website or phone number previously listed. Or for a larger selection of housing counseling options, see the Department of Housing and Urban Development website at hud.gov – click on “Resources” at the top of the page, then on “Foreclosure Avoidance Counseling,” or call 800-569-4287.

Another helpful resource you should know about, and one your counselor can help you explore, is the Making Home Affordable program. Created by the Obama Administration in 2009, this program offers struggling homeowners the opportunity to modify or refinance their mortgage to make their monthly payments more affordable.

It also includes the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program for those who are interested in a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. To learn more about these programs and their eligibility requirements see makinghomeaffordable.gov or call the Homeownership Preservation Foundation’s HOPE Hotline at 888-995-4673.

Financial assistance

You also need to make sure you’re not missing out on any financial assistance programs. The National Council on Aging’s website (benefitscheckup.org) contains a database of more than 2,000 federal, state and local programs that can help seniors with prescription drug costs, health care, food, utilities and other basic needs. The site will help you locate programs that you may be eligible for and will show you how to apply.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, Okla. 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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