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Protect Yourself Financially from the Impact of COVID-19

By: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

Steps to take if you have trouble paying your bills or meeting other financial obligations

If you have trouble paying your bills/loans or paying on time, there may be a number of options to help, especially if you reach out early to your lenders or creditors.

Contact your lenders, loan servicers, and other creditors

If you’re not able to pay your bills on time check their websites, to see if they have information that can help you.

The CFPB and other financial regulators have encouraged financial institutions to work with their customers to meet their community needs.

If you can’t make a payment now, need more time, or want to discuss payment options, contact your lenders and servicers to let them know about your situation. Being behind on your payments can have a lasting impact on your credit.

Credit card companies and lenders may be able to offer you a number of options to help you. This could include waiving certain fees like ATM, overdrafts, and late fees, as well as allowing you to delay, adjust, or skip some payments.

When contacting your lenders, be prepared to explain:

  • Your financial and employment situation
  • How much you can afford to pay
  • When you’re likely to be able to restart regular payments
  • Be prepared to discuss your income, expenses, and assets

Work with housing and credit counselors to understand your options

These trained professionals provide advice for little or no cost, and they will work with you to discuss your situation, evaluate options, and even help you negotiate with your lenders and servicers.

Warning: If you’re considering working with a debt settlement company to address your debts, be skeptical of any company that promises to do it for an upfront fee.

Trouble paying your mortgage?

If you can’t pay your mortgage, or can only pay a portion, contact your mortgage servicer.

It may take a while to get a loan servicer on the phone. Loan servicers are experiencing a high call volume and may also be impacted by the pandemic.

Visit our blog on mortgage relief options for in-depth content to help you understand your forbearance options and avoid foreclosure in light of the coronavirus and the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

If you are renting from an owner who has a federally backed mortgage, the CARES Act provides for a suspension or moratorium on evictions. Read more in our renter section of the mortgage relief blog.

Trouble paying your student loans?

If you have student loans, you have options.

If your loan is held by the federal government, your loan payments are postponed with no interest until September 30, 2020.

For other kinds of student loans (such as a federal student loan held by a commercial lender or the institution you attend, or a private student loan held by a bank, credit union, school, or other private entity) contact your student loan servicer to find out more about your options.

Read our FAQs to learn more about what you can do.

Trouble paying your credit cards?

If you’re unable to pay your credit cards, talk with your credit card company and let them know that you cannot make a payment. You may get relief.

You may also want to work with a credit counselor. Reputable credit counseling organizations are generally non-profit organizations that can advise you on your money and debts, and help you with a budget. Some may also help you negotiate with creditors. There are specific questions to ask to help you find a credit counseling organization to work with.

Trouble paying your auto loan?

Your lender may have options that will help. Our tips include changing the date of your payment, requesting a payment plan, and asking for a payment extension

How to work with your bank or credit union

With many of us staying home to help flatten the coronavirus curve, online banking allows you to handle your finances from the comfort of home. Here are some tips for people who are new to online or mobile banking.

Generally, all bank deposits up to $250,000 are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Deposits at all federal credit unions, and the vast majority of state-chartered credit unions, are also insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).

How to work with debt collectors

If you currently have a debt in collections, you can work with collectors to identify a realistic repayment plan.

The Bureau offers a number of resources for contacting and negotiating with debt collection companies, especially as we deal with the impact of the coronavirus.

What to do if you lose your income

State and local governments vary in the programs and offerings to help those financially impacted by the coronavirus.

You can look to your state’s unemployment policies to identify current options for benefits. The recently passed CARES Act allows states to extend benefits to self-employed and gig workers, and to provide an extra $600 per week as well as an additional 13 weeks of benefits. Your state’s public health office may also have information.

Older adults may be impacted by the coronavirus and quarantine procedures in different ways than the general public. There may be government benefits available to older adults who need financial help. Visit benefitscheckup.org for more information and to see if you qualify for any state or local assistance.

Be aware of potential scam attempts

Scammers look for opportunities to take advantage of the vulnerable, especially during times of emergencies or natural disasters. Be cautious of emails, texts, or social media posts that may be selling fake products or information about emerging coronavirus cases.

Click here for more information on scams specific to the coronavirus.

The Federal Trade Commission has tips to protect yourself from possible coronavirus-related scams. The FTC and the Food and Drug Administration have also cautioned consumers to be on the look-out for sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent coronavirus.

Learn more about how to prevent, recognize, and report fraud and scams.

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Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, College Debt, Consumer, Coupons, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Goals, House, Kids & Money, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving, Student Loans, Uncategorized

Use the Start of the School Year to Set the Stage for Your Child’s Financial Success

By: Brittany Frost

Where did the summer go? As the school year rapidly approaches, children are preparing for the academic and social journey of the next grade level while parents are bracing their financial situation for the costs of continuing education. Parents can take this golden opportunity to go above and beyond just shopping for school supplies at Wal-Mart and, instead, show their children how to budget, save, and spend their money in order to teach them how to financially prepare for school (which will undoubtedly come in handy for college).

Alarmingly, a study released in July by the FINRA Foundation estimated that almost two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test, including calculating interest payments correctly (See Ref. 1). When you pair that with the fact that public, in-state college tuition, room, and board has risen 1300% since 1971 (See Ref. 2) and a recent survey showing that 75% of U.S. workers have student loan debt so high that they contribute less to their retirement (See Ref. 3), it is easy to see why parents must take every opportunity to educate themselves and their children so they do not end up in pools of unmanageable student loan debt. It is never too early to avoid the debt cycle and teach your children to financially prepare for school. Think about it: Did you or do you still struggle with enormous student loan debt? Did you avoid college altogether because you couldn’t afford it? Or did you have the financial means or knowledge to keep your student loan debt to a minimum? Either way, think of your financial mistakes, trials, and triumphs and use the start of this school year to teach your children everything you’ve learned about financially preparing for school. Use your experiences along with the following resources and ideas as motivation to set the stage for your child’s financial success or, perhaps, to change your own path.

So how can you do this? Include your child in the financial process of preparing for school. Sit down and discuss with them. Educate them on the difference between a “want” and “need” so they can decide what they need for school. Ask for their opinion and listen. Use free online budgeting tools available on www.christiancreditcounselors.com to set a budget together. Discuss and research ways to stick to that budget by using free resources such as Passionate Penny Pincher’s Free Back-to-School Cheat Sheet for a complete list of back-to-school deals. Record and track your spending. Make back-to-school shopping a learning experience through mathematical games. In “7 Smart Ways to Save on Back-to-School Clothing,” Deacon Hayes also suggests tips like assessing your child’s current school inventory, visiting thrift stores first, and adding in a fun but frugal activity such as stopping for an inexpensive lunch or treat to make back-to-school shopping a happy experience (See Ref. 4). Above all, just enjoy spending time and working toward your financial goals together as a family. By doing this, you will not just be buying more pencils and notebooks, but you will be setting the stage for the financial success of your children AND yourself. Here’s to a successful school year!

References

1.       Farber, Madeline. Fortune. Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Pass a Basic Test of Financial Literacy. 12 Jul. 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/07/12/financial-literacy/

2.       Jacoby, Jeff. The Boston Globe. Making college ‘free’ will only make it worse. 13 Jul. 2016. 18-20. http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ncher.us/resource/collection/6E4F0103-05C8-4F48-844E-BEEAC285C10B/db0714_2016.pdf

3.       O’Connell, Brian. The Street. 75% of U.S. Workers Say High Student Loan Debt is Crippling Their Retirement. 12 Jul. 2016. https://www.thestreet.com/story/13627148/2/75-of-u-s-workers-say-high-student-loan-debt-is-crippling-their-retirement-savings.html

4.       Hayes, Deacon. U.S. News Money. 7 Smart Ways to Save on Back-to-School Clothing. 15 Jul. 2016. http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2016-07-15/7-smart-ways-to-save-on-back-to-school-clothing

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Managing Your Student Loans Wisely: A Great and Unique Gift for Mother’s Day

By: Brittany Frost

What greater gift is there than the joy of seeing your child become financially responsible and independent throughout and after their college years? If you are looking for a unique and great gift to give your mother on May 8th for Mother’s Day this year, consider the gift of managing your student loans wisely. Instead of spending money on the gift, you’ll be saving it. Managing your student loans during and after college can help you avoid extra costs and interest as well as reduce your overall debt. Saving money and achieving your financial goals is not only a great gift to the mothers who are able to contribute to their child’s education, but also for the mothers who so desperately want to help but don’t have the means to do so. Here are a few tips to manage your student loans wisely this Mother’s Day:

 

• Before you even take out a student loan, apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. This alone can save you (and your mom) a lot of money. Visit your school’s website or www.studentaid.ed.gov to view federal grants and scholarships.

• If you still need a loan, research loan types and repayment plans to make an informed decision. In general, federal student loans can have more repayment options and lower interest rates than private student loans. For more information on federal student loans and repayment plans as well as budgeting resources and calculators, visit www.studentaid.ed.gov.

• Budget and plan ahead. For more help budgeting for your student loans, contact Christian Credit Counselors at www.christiancreditcounselors.org.

• Use other free resources. According to the recent article Baylor University Partners with iGrad to Implement Online Financial Literacy Education Initiative by Jo-Carolyn Goode, Baylor will team up with iGrad, a financial literacy leader, to offer interactive workshops about budgets, scholarships, student loans, applying for jobs to help students pay for school, and a seminar for seniors to discuss loan payment options after graduation through iGrad’s financial literacy platform. For more information, visit www.igrad.com.

• When repaying your loan, consider an automatic payment deduction to save money on your payment. Also, put as much money as you can toward your payments. Each extra dollar paid toward your student loan payment each month can help overall.

• Since it is tax season, remember that student loan interest is tax-deductible and there are credits and deductions for parents and students. According to the College Board in Danielle Douglas-Gabriel’s article in the Washington Post entitled Paying for college? Have student loans? Here’s what you need to know before filing your taxes, the average family saved about $1,460 in education credits and deductions in 2013. To research various options of increasing your savings through tax credits and deductions such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Student Loan Interest Deduction, refer to www.irs.gov. See how much you can save!

By using these tips and managing your student loans responsibly, you will not only save money but you will provide valuable peace of mind for you and your mother. That’s something that you won’t be able to buy at the Hallmark store!

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Credit Card – Avoiding the Debt Trap this Holiday Season

Gift Giving on Credit

Staying out of debt can be almost as difficult as paying it off especially when our emotions take over. After all, buying gifts for our loved ones during the holiday season is a very emotional purchase.

Preparing for gifting should begin way before the holiday season. In a survey conducted by The American Research Group, Inc., 2014 Christmas gift spending was up 8% over 2013 with an average of $861 spent per adult consumer. So what is the most efficient and painless way to save money for the holidays each year?

Budgeting for Gift Giving

Creating a management budget at the beginning of each year will ensure you achieve your financial goals, establish a savings, and have funds set aside for gifts and holidays throughout the year. First, calculate how much money you spend on the holidays annually and divide that by 12 months. This is how much money you will need to set aside in your monthly budget for holiday spending. There are many spending trackers and saving tools out there but sometimes its easiest to just create an envelope labeled holidays and put cash in it each month. This might seem like a tedious task, however when the time comes to buy gifts and holiday items throughout the year it will be nice to already have the cash available and not have to worry about denting your budget.

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    Your Spending Habits and Your Holiday Spirit

    The Average American’s Holiday Spending Habits

    Already thinking about everything you have to do for the holiday season? Does the thought of holiday preparation stress you out? According to the National Retail Federation, it was estimated that the average American spent $77.52 on candy, costumes and decorations for Halloween in 2014. According to a CNBC report, the average American planned to spend $765 on Christmas for the holiday season as well. Is this how much you will spend this year? To avoid answering yes to this question, start planning ways to save money now.

    Holiday Money Saving Tips

    Shop with a Gratitude Attitude

    The first, and possibly greatest, thing that you can do to save money this season is to adjust the way you THINK about the holidays. Rather than getting caught up in the commercials, products, and social pressures, concentrate on the things you already have in your life that you can use or recycle and the people you already have in your life to whom you can show love and appreciation. Concentrate more on the FEELING that you can give someone else rather than the MATERIALS you can give them. For Halloween, get creative and make your own costumes during a Family Craft Night. Change your spending habits by making it about the experience rather than shopping. Can’t afford to make or host a big dinner? Plan a family movie night, rent scary movies, and gorge on popcorn and pizza.

    Make Random Acts of Kindness a Holiday Norm

    Instead of buying gifts, clean the car or house for your spouse, make a collage of old photos for a friend or family member, call a distant friend or relative and leave a Christmas Carol voicemail to spread cheer over the phone, make a list of reasons why you love someone or appreciate someone, write a song or poem for them, and make decorations using household items such as a string of popcorn. Use this new mentality to set the tone for your entire family. For any other holiday necessities, you can financially prepare to save money by creating a budget and setting aside a small amount every week or paycheck. Just remember though, gratitude, love, and the right mentality can save you and your family A ton of money this holiday season, especially if you are all on the same page.

    Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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      Credit Conscious Living Webinar

      Credit Conscious: The Ins and Outs of Credit

      Looking to build, maintain, or improve your credit? Christian Credit Counselors, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) with a mission to provide free financial education to individuals and families both locally and nationwide, is now offering a free online webinar titled Credit Conscious: The Ins and Outs of Credit. Christian Credit Counselors is committed not just to helping people get out of debt, but providing them with free resources and education to STAY out of debt and live a life of financial freedom.

      The Credit Conscious webinar will teach you the ins and outs of credit and give you the tools you need to obtain and build, improve, and wisely use credit. You will also learn to research credit reports and scores, as well as your rights and responsibilities as a consumer. Whether you are trying to climb out of mounting debt or you simply want to learn how to view your credit report online, this webinar is a great tool in understanding credit so you can make the best decisions to achieve your financial goals.

      Click on the video below to view the webinar.

      Click here to download the free handout.

      When you are done with the video, take a quick survey to help us improve our webinar.

      If you have questions or would like more information, email info@christiancreditcounselors.org.

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      Debt Settlement Scams – Asking the Right Questions

      Avoiding Debt Settlement Scams

      Unfortunately, there are plenty of companies out there that prey on those trying to get their debt under control. In most cases, these companies refer to themselves as debt management organizations. They often promise to act as the go between with you and your creditors; promising a low monthly payment plan to help you pay off debt.

      Though the idea sounds legitimate, what most people don’t know is that these companies tack on serious interest to your payment plan for profit. This can either inflate your monthly payment are extend you payback time considerably. Before committing to an agreement with one of these companies, be sure to seek credit counseling first to learn more about real, legitimate debt consolidation.

      How to Determine if a DMP Company is Legitimate

      • Ask the representative if their company is an accredited non-profit credit counseling agency. The accreditation will usually be listed with the COA (Counsel on Accreditation) or the ISO (Organization for Standardization). Also do research on the company to find out if any consumer complaints or lawsuits have been filed against the organization.
      • Be sure to ask if counselors are certified for debt management. These certifications should encompass credit counseling, budgeting, and/or credit consumer laws.
      • Be prepared to ask representatives what information they will provide you with other than a debt management plan enrollment. For instance, will the agency teach you money management or budgeting skills? And if they do provide education materials, are they free?
      • If a DMP or Debt Management Plan is all the company offers, be sure to ask if part of the DMP is reserved for the credit counseling payment. In some cases, these companies will tack on additional fees to your DMP plan without your knowledge.

      Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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        Credit Counseling vs. Debt Settlement

        Resolving Your Debt

        If you have decided to resolve your debt, you may be looking at different options available to help you through the process.  Although debt settlement may seem promising beware.  The reasons below explain why you should consider credit counseling instead of debt settlement.

        Debt Settlement Is Often A Scam

        You have probably seen the ads on the internet indicating you can become debt free with debt settlement.  The reality is there are many companies out there that are looking to make money and don’t have your best interest in mind.  Debt settlement companies have been accused of failing to work on the behalf of consumers and not contacting creditors as they had promised. They collect the fees but don’t actually do anything for the consumer.  Debt settlement companies are for profit and consumers will owe taxes on the any forgiven debt.

        Debt Settlement Is Too Good to Be True

        Debt settlement companies often promise that the consumer will be debt free in an unbelievably short time period.  They indicate that they can negotiate to settle the debt at a fraction of the amount the consumer actually owes.  The fact is that this is too good to be true.  The consumer ends up paying a significant set up fee and monthly service charges to the debt settlement company so in the end they are out more money and their debt has not been improved.  Some consumers end up in worse debt than when they started.

        Credit Counseling is a Realistic Way to Resolve Your Debt

        Don’t despair.  Although debt settlement is not the way to resolve your debt you do have another option that will help.  Credit Counseling will provide you a solution to your financial issues.  You can enroll in the Debt Management Program (DMP) in which all of your unsecured debt will be consolidated and you will pay one monthly payment.  Christian Credit Counselors will work with creditors to reduce your interest rates which helps you pay off the debt within about 3-5 years.  Your monthly payment will go to Christian Credit Counselors who will send the funds directly to your creditors.  In the end you will have paid off all of your outstanding debt and your credit score will not be negatively impacted.

        Tell Me About Christian Credit Counselors

        Christian Credit Counselors is licensed in 31 states, been in business over 24 years, and has helped over 300,000 individuals. Christian Credit Counselors has certified counselors to help answer questions and provide solutions.  Several accreditations and certifications include the Better Business Bureau A+ rating and the Council on Accreditation.  Christian Credit Counselors is a non-profit organization that provides educational tools and credit counseling to help consumers regain financial control.

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          Debt Counseling After a Medical Event

          Unexpected Financial Catastrophes

          We never want to imagine what could happen if our spouse had a stroke or severe heart attack. We believe we’ve planned well for any medical needs. We’ve got enough savings to tide us over. Our health insurance will cover every possible cost. We’ll be fine.

          Unfortunately, medical catastrophes are among the most common reasons for a couple or family to experience severe debt. It’s difficult to cope physically and emotionally with a medical catastrophe; add financial trouble to the mix and your mind struggles to sort it all out.

          Health Insurance and Medical Bills

          The pressure often becomes unbearable. Even if you have good health insurance, medical bills for a sudden injury or illness can pile up. Those unexpected co-pays, deductibles, and any supplies or medications that aren’t covered can be a very unpleasant surprise. A home-use hospital bed doesn’t come cheap. Neither does skilled nursing care.

          Your loved one’s medical needs continue after being released from the hospital, but you may not be able to take time from your job to perform the multiple tasks. A family member may not be available to help either.

          You will need to keep complete and accurate records and submit claims to the insurance company. Follow-up doctor appointments will need to be kept. What about physical therapy or rehabilitation? What if your spouse needs counseling to help him cope with the loss of independence? What if you need counseling in order to cope with the disability?

          Weighing the Financial Alternatives

          You want the best available care for your loved one. Everybody does. But the bills can still mount up. It’s easy to find yourself with a mountain of debt through no fault of your own. Filing bankruptcy is an option, but not a good one. It costs a significant amount of money, not to mention the detrimental effect on your credit rating.

          Christian Credit Counseling has been helping people just like you resolve debt issues for over twenty-three years. We understand the financial problems that can overwhelm you. We also understand the emotional costs.

          We will arrange a repayment plan that fits your needs perfectly. There will be no damage to your credit history. And we will not only pray for you, but rejoice with you as you gradually pay off your creditors until everything is listed as “Paid in Full”.

          <p class=”p1″>Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.</p>

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            Credit Counselors – Easing Debt Worries

            Seeking Credit Counseling

            As the recent financial crisis slowly abates, many families are left in desperate need of the assistance of credit counseling. Many families today have discovered themselves upside down in their mortgages, owing huge amounts to creditors, and with barely enough budget left over to finish out the month let alone enough to save for the cliched rainy day.

            Fortunately, credit counselors can offer many solutions to those currently drowning in debt. Choosing the right credit counselor is imperative, but the task becomes quite easy with the help of a few simple guidelines.

            Researching Credit Counseling Services

            First, research credit counseling services with organizations that you already trust. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, and housing authorities offer low-cost debt counseling. Your family and friends might also be able to offer up names of credit counselors that have been helpful to them. Regardless of the source you use, finding a trustworthy, honest credit counselor can be the most important step that you take.

            Also, it is important to understand that fixing your credit is neither easy or quick. Credit agencies and businesses want assurance that your financial behavior is a lifestyle. This means that the pattern is built up over extended periods of time, not simply months.

            Credit Counseling Accreditation

            Whatever credit counseling program you choose, you should ascertain that they are accredited and in good standing with their business practices. Trade associations, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies (AICCCA), monitor the dealings of credit counselors. Credit agencies should also be accredited by either the Council on Accreditation (COA) or the International Organization for Standardization (IOS). A Better Business Bureau reliability report of good standing is also an effective measure of a company’s business practices. It should be free from unresolved complaints.

            Gathering information from the firm itself is equally essential in making an informed choice. Seek out an agency that provides a wide range of services, such as budget advice and savings/credit classes. Uncover the qualifications of their counselors, how their employees are compensated, as well as the security of your information. All of these factors will have influence on the service that you receive from the agency.

            Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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