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Preparing to Meet with a Credit Counselor

Part of the Managing Debt For Dummies Cheat Sheet

If living on a strict budget is not enough to resolve your financial problems, meeting with a credit counselor to negotiate concessions from your creditor may help. Do your homework and get the following information together for your initial meeting with a credit counselor:

  • A list of all your debts. Include the amount of your current monthly payments, the interest rate on each debt, whether a certain debt is secured or unsecured, and whether you have fallen behind on a debt (and by how much).

  • Debt-related paperwork. This includes loan agreements, credit card statements, and any threatening notices you may have received recently from creditors.

  • Your budget. Take a stab at figuring out how much you can realistically afford to pay on your debts, starting with the highest priority ones.

  • A list of what you want from each of your creditors. You may need a temporary or permanent reduction in your interest rate, to make interest-only payments for a while, or a temporary or permanent reduction in the amount of your monthly payments.

  • A list of what you are willing to give up to get what you want. Here are some ideas:

    • You'll stop using your credit card until your debt is paid off.

    • You'll allow the creditor to put a lien on an asset you own.

    • You'll pay more on your debt than what you offered at the start of your negotiations (if you're certain you can afford it) or after you've made a certain number of reduced payments.

    • You'll give the creditor a balloon payment — a one-time larger payment (if you're certain you'll be able to afford that payment) — in the future.

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