NORMAN — 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
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 nonprofit 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.
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.