Q: I was unemployed for several months and really got myself into a pickle with credit card debt. I’m back to work but now I have creditors calling me at home and at work. I saw an ad for a credit repair company, but they want several hundred dollars up front. What are my options at this point?
A: Here are some tips that can help get you started on the road to financial recovery.
The most important: You need a steady income. Do whatever you need to do to stay employed.
Then, collect all your bills – all of them, new and old – into one pile and make a realistic monthly budget. Remember that you have to pay your living expenses like rent and groceries before you can pay down your debts.
Next, contact your creditors. This the hard part but the sooner you do this, the sooner you can move forward into debt repayment. You do have the right to ask creditors to not contact you at your workplace as long as they have an alternative means of communication for you.
Whether you write or call, have a specific amount that you can regularly pay on your debt. Remember they will always want more, but don’t agree to pay any more than you can afford. Also, ask them to stop the interest on the account as long as you make regular payments.
If you are calling a creditor, always get the name of the person you are speaking with. If any representative is rude, calmly explain that you are trying to work with them on resolving this issue but that you expect to be treated in a professional manner. If that does not work, ask for a supervisor. If that fails, hang up and write a letter to the company explaining that you are trying to work out a payment plan. You could include the first payment as a show of good faith.
There is no need to pay a credit repair counselor when you can do this on your own. However, if you feel the need to involve a third party, always check with BBB first to verify that they are legitimate and will really help you. Also, credit repair companies must register with the Attorney General’s Office. Check them out to make sure the company complies with all regulations.
You are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting companies. Access yours by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. It’s a good idea to check your report at least once per year, more often if you can to make sure payments are received and accurately reflected.