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Friday, February 20, 2009

Questions You Should Ask Your Prospective Credit Counselor

By Paul J. Easton

When starting your first session with your financial counselor, here are some tips what to ask to help you search for that counselor you can trust. Ask what services he or she offers. Look for a counselor from a reputed non-profit organization offering a wide range of services. This can include budget counseling to debt management classes. As a warning, never make a deal with organizations pushing for a certain debt management plan as the only option before they even spend the time to analyze your financial situation.

Do they offer information and educational materials for free? Avoid those organizations charging you even for preliminary information. Can they help you develop some kind of a plan to avoid future financial problems? If they don't, they are not truly concerned with your situation. Ditch them.

Ask for their rates and other fees. What are the terms? Do they require monthly fees? Get a written price quote to have a reference later. Inquire if they are willing to help you even if you can't afford to pay the fees. If they are not even willing to help you right now when you have financial problems, how much more in the future? Look somewhere else, help is available with so many options today.

Ask if a written agreement or contract will be made between you and the organization. Never sign anything first without reading it. Ensure that verbal promises during your conversations are well recorded and in writing.

Always seek information of their legitimacy. Are they licensed in your state? What are the qualifications and designations of the counselors? They should have at least been they accredited by an outside organization. Try to deal with organizations whose counselors were trained by non-affiliated parties.

Expect to be treated with confidentiality as you are dealing very delicate information. Query on the assurance that your personal information like your address, phone number, and financial information will be kept secure.

And lastly, ask how the employees are compensated. Inquire along the process if they are paid more if a client signs up for certain service or if one makes a contribution. A positive answer is a red flag and a good signal for you to exit the signing of that deal.

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