How Financial Counseling Can Help You
According to the Federal Reserve, Americans now have the most outstanding debt in U.S. history — over $1 trillion.
While personal debt is an overwhelming burden, it’s a particularly common and complicated issue for older adults. Between insufficient retirement benefits, minimal savings, increasing health care costs, and longer life expectancies, living on a fixed income can be challenging. Throw in debt, and the situation can quickly become unmanageable.
Luckily, there are options.
Financial counseling and debt management
Financial counseling takes a holistic approach to a person’s financial situation, reviewing all of their assets and liabilities and considering credit, income, and debt when helping them decide on next steps. A certified financial counselor will help you understand all of your options and choose the best path to achieving your financial goals.
Counseling is typically offered by a nonprofit organization free of charge. You usually receive a budget and action plan, and the counselor may recommend a debt management plan. A debt management plan is a 3-5 year repayment program that pays debts in full, often with significantly lower interest and creditor fees. Not everyone qualifies, and there is a monthly cost for the program that can range up to $75. Success rates vary by counseling organization. Credit typically improves as debts are paid on time each month.
Beware of scams and bad credit counseling agencies
If you decide to contact a financial counselor, be careful in choosing who you work with, as the industry has had its share of unscrupulous players. Older adults are often the target of identity theft and scam artists because they can be more trusting, have more savings, and are less likely to monitor their credit. (Learn more about current scams targeting seniors.)
NCOA has partnered with GreenPath Financial Wellness to advise older adults who are looking to be more economically secure. GreenPath meets NCOA’s Standards of Excellence for financial counseling of older adults and has a long history of providing unbiased financial assistance. GreenPath certified counselors have been empowering people to lead financially healthy lives since 1961, and assist more than 200,000 people annually to achieve their financial goals.
If you’re ready to talk with a GreenPath counselor, call toll-free 1-866-217-0543. All calls are free and confidential.
In addition, you may wish to use these online tools to help identify budgeting and financial help:
- EconomicCheckUp® has debt calculators and resources to help you find work, cut spending, and learn how to use home equity.
- BenefitsCheckUp® can assist with determining if you qualify for programs that pay for health care, prescriptions, food, and more.