If you are a consumer in one of the world's more affluent nations, there's a good chance that you have accumulated a sizable credit debt. Buying on credit can be a convenience if handled wisely. But it can also be a financial headache, particularly if you get behind on your payments.
Take a few minutes to examine the short article titled "10 Warning Signals." If you find that you are headed for financial trouble, don't panic. There are steps you can take to ease your financial burden.
Can You Do It Yourself?
You may be able to solve your debt problem by managing your finances more carefully. If you are heavily in debt and are still not able to make the monthly payments on all your obligations, then you should seek additional help.
Talk to Your Creditors
Many creditors will be more than willing to help you rearrange your debt payments, because it is in their best interest for you to get back on your feet financially. Be sure to talk with your local banker. Bankers realize that even people with good credit histories can sometimes run into credit problems. Your banker may be able to offer you a number of alternatives to help you over a difficult period.
Seek Professional Counseling
You may also want to contact a financial counseling service for assistance. Some universities, local county extension agents, military bases, credit unions and housing authorities have such programs and charge little, if anything, for their help.
If you live in the United States, a visit with a counselor at the nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service can be beneficial. Trained counselors will try to arrange a repayment plan that is acceptable to you and your creditors, and will help you to formulate a realistic budget.
For information on how to contact an office nearest you, see below. Counseling services in several other countries are listed there as well.
What About Bankruptcy?
If you are deeply in debt, you may think that declaring bankruptcy is an easy way out. But it really is not. According to the American Bankers Association (ABA), bankruptcy can stay on your credit record for up to 10 years. If you declare bankruptcy, you'll find it difficult afterward to get any type of credit or loan - whether for a house, car or any other purchase.
Also, bankruptcy does not automatically erase all debt. There are some obligations you may still be responsible for paying. So, according to the ABA, it's in your best interest to solve your debt problems in ways other than declaring bankruptcy.
Where to Find Help
Many nonprofit organizations provide financial counseling services at little or no cost.
Australia: Australia: Various local welfare and church agencies such as Lifeline offer budgetary advice and counseling services. Check your telephone directory for an agency near you.
Canada: Canada: Write or call the Credit Counselling Service, 27 Carlton St., Suite 301, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1L2, (416) 593-7434.
Philippines and South Africa: Philippines and South Africa: Contact your local government or bank to learn if there are any financial counseling services available to the public.
United Kingdom and New Zealand: United Kingdom and New Zealand: The Citizens Advice Bureau provides financial and budgetary advice. Contact Directory Inquiries or check your local telephone directory for the number of the bureau near you.
United States: United States: The Consumer Credit Counseling Service provides financial and credit advice. Check your telephone directory or contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, Inc., 8611 2nd Ave., Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910, 1-800-388-2227 or (301) 589-5600.