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How do I prepare for credit counseling?

If you are preparing for credit counseling, you are not alone. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling conducted the 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, which found that 73 percent of adults in Washington, D.C., and around the country agree that they would benefit from working with a financial professional. Another 20 percent surveyed said they strongly agreed with that sentiment.

While there are courses that anyone could take, the Federal Trade Commission notes that only a government-approved agency can provide the credit counseling required within 180 days prior to when you file bankruptcy. Some important considerations for those courses include the following: 

  •        If you are unable to afford the fee, the agency must – by law – provide the counseling for free.
  •        You will receive a certificate at the end of the session, which you must present with your bankruptcy filing information.
  •        The U.S. Department of Justice has a list of approved counselors from which you should choose an agency.

To prepare for your session, which will usually last between 60 and 90 minutes, experts advise that you put together a list of your debts, including how much is owed and to whom. Next, either bring your monthly budget or outline your monthly expenses and income, including bills, groceries and gas.

One thing a credit counselor will do is to help you set goals and come up with ways you might be able to achieve them. Prior to your session, you could start thinking about some objectives, such as a timetable for when you could reasonably be debt-free.

Getting a fresh start on your finances is key to protecting your future. While this information may be useful, it should not be taken as legal advice. 

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