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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Too much debt Who you gonna call

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SILVER SPRING, Md . (12/9/09)--Are you one of the 13 million Americans who carry a credit card balance of $10,000 or more from month to month? Or one of the 58 million who admit to not paying their bills on time (National Foundation for Credit Counseling Nov. 20)? Or do you simply worry about what you owe and wish you could get a handle on your debts? A new law won’t automatically ease your concerns, but it will point you toward help. Beginning on Feb. 22, 2010, your credit card issuer will be required to include a toll-free phone number on your statements for information about credit counseling. “Nonprofit counselors offer their services to the public at no charge because they receive their funding from financial institutions,” explained Philip Heckman of the Credit Union National Association’s Center for Personal Finance. “Lenders don’t do this for charity. They do it in the belief that when borrowers learn to manage credit--whether motivated by desperation or mere discomfort--they become less likely to default on their loans.” Certified credit counselors can help you with more than relief from current debt troubles. They also can show you money management and financial planning skills that can head off problems in the future. “Look for affiliation with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling,” Heckman said. “Many credit unions have certified counselors on staff. Because you’re a member-owner, your credit union is keenly interested in your financial security.”