Special to GUIDON
October is National Credit Awareness Month, and the Financial Readiness Office and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have tips for anyone struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
How FRO can help
The holidays are approaching quickly. Tammy Fink, a personal financial readiness specialist with FRO, said she wants community members to consider whether they have a plan to pay for this year’s holiday season — security clearances can be and have been affected by financial crises.
“Financial Readiness is offering telephone consults as well as video consults,” Fink said. “Our services include budgeting, savings plans, money management, identity theft techniques, debt avoidance/management, consumer advocacy and all financial issues surrounding the revocation of security clearances.”
To schedule a financial check-up, call FRO at 573.596.2068.
CFPB: Trouble paying credit cards
The CFPB reminded everyone to act right away and call credit card companies if they believe they’re unable to pay the minimum payment on their credit cards. Many creditors may be willing to help if facing a financial emergency. Cardholders do not need to be behind on payments to ask for help.
Ignoring the problem may cause higher interest rates, higher minimum payments, losing charging privileges, late fees and damage to credit scores.
Here’s what to do:
— Add up income and expenses. Look for ways to cut costs. If you can’t find enough to pay your minimum payment, decide how much you can afford to pay.
— Call the credit card company. Be sure to clearly explain why a minimum payment cannot be made, how much is affordable and when it would be possible to resume normal payments.
— Consider credit counseling. If consumers need more help, non-profit credit counseling organizations can teach more about handling money. Before signing up for credit counseling, ask if there are charges, how much and what services will be provided. Be sure any credit counselor takes the time to learn about the particular financial situation, and offers to help teach them how to make it better.
Remember that there are no easy fixes. Some for-profit debt relief companies say they can pay off debts “for pennies on the dollar.” But many times, these promises don’t measure up. Watch out for any debt relief organization that charges fees before it settles debts, guarantees it can make unsecured debt go away or suggests stopping communication with creditors.
For more information, such as staying on top of credit reports and how to deal with debt collectors, visit https://www.consumer finance.gov/about-us/blog/protect-yourself-financially-from-impact-of-coronavirus/.
(Editor’s note: Some information in this article was taken from the FRO and the CFPB website, consumerfinance.gov.)