What to expect in your credit counseling session

You might be thinking that you could benefit from a session with a nonprofit credit counseling service. Calling someone you may not know to ask for help can be hard, so I wanted to share how your session will go when you call Money Management International (MMI).

A majority of our clients start by calling 888-889-9347. You can choose to conduct a session by phone or schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor at one of our branch locations. All of our counselors are trained and receive certification from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Many of our counselors have also had additional training and certification in housing counseling, reverse mortgage counseling, and bankruptcy counseling.

Plan to spend about an hour with your counselor. If you are married, it is best that both you and your spouse attend the counseling session.

Your counselor will start to get to know you by talking to you about your financial goals, and give you a chance to share the circumstances that brought you to MMI. All information is confidential and until you give us permission, we won’t release your personal information to anyone. It’s important that you know that we do not report information to the credit bureaus.

Your counselor will gather some information about your income and expenses. One of the core pieces of every counseling session is to help you create a realistic household budget. That budget will help you change some of the spending habits you have and help you gain control of your credit use. The counselor will make many suggestions on areas of your budget where you might consider making a reduction or consider eliminating completely. It’s your choice; yet many times, hearing those suggestions from a trained credit counselor makes them easier to implement.

Next will be to create a complete list of your creditors, your current balances, and the status of your accounts. Your counselor will then take your net dependable income less expenses—this will leave you with the amount you have to repay creditors on a regular basis.

The final part of your counseling session becomes very individualized. The counselor will help you weigh your options such as ways to increase income and decrease expenses. If appropriate, your counselor will also discuss the pros and cons of selling assets, refinancing, entering a Debt Management Plan (DMP), or other options that might work for you in your current situation. Your counselor will also help you find additional credit education resources and other tools to help you track and manage your money.

Whatever option you choose, we hope your counseling session is beneficial and you learn more about your finances, how to better repay your debt, and begin to build a savings plan.

Cathy Williams is a former writer for MMI.