How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Florida

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In a Nutshell

It’s important to do some research into the reputation and operations of any Florida credit counseling organizations you may be interested in scheduling a counseling session with. Once you’ve found a Florida nonprofit organization that meets your needs, you’ll need to gather some information about your personal finances before you meet with your Florida credit counselor.  

Written by Attorney Kassandra Kuehl.  
Updated December 3, 2019


Sometimes, no matter how hard you work or how much you try to cut back on your spending, your personal finances can feel unmanageable. Perhaps, you’re having trouble meeting your expenses. Or perhaps, your debt load has become overwhelming. Either way, if this scenario seems familiar, you may benefit from participating in a free Florida credit counseling session. Afree credit counseling session from nonprofit, accredited credit counseling agencies that offer them, is generally available to anyone who could benefit from some informed financial guidance. Most of the time, these sessions only last about an hour and don’t require much preparation. When you arrive at your Florida credit counseling session (or access your session over the phone or online, depending on the organization you’re working with), you’ll be asked questions about your financial challenges and goals. After your credit counselor assesses your answers, looks over some financial information, examines your income, debts, expenses, etc., they will give you personalized recommendations for your next steps. The decision to follow these recommendations or to make an informed alternative choice will always be up to you. Although the organization providing your credit counseling may offer follow-up services at a cost, your initial credit counseling session will be free and (as long as you work with an accredited nonprofit staffed with certified credit counselors) will not be influenced by any incentive to “sell you” on follow-up services. As a result, you should be able to trust that the action plan you’re given has been created in your best interests, not the best interests of the organization you’re working with. Depending on your circumstances, you may receive a recommendation to consider additional debt counseling, debt consolidation, a debt management plan, or bankruptcy. Nonprofit organizations usually shy away from recommending debt settlement plans, as these tend to be risky and don’t offer participants actionable guarantees.

How to Get Free Credit Counseling in Florida

It’s important to do some research into the reputation and operations of any Florida credit counseling organizations you may be interested in scheduling a counseling session with. Once you’ve found a Florida nonprofit organization that meets your needs, you’ll need to gather some information about your personal finances before you meet with your Florida credit counselor. 


Find Florida Nonprofit Credit Counseling Agencies

When searching for a Florida credit counseling agency, you should strongly consider scheduling credit counseling services with a nonprofit organization that is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Working with a nonprofit organization that is NFCC accredited will help to ensure that you can trust the recommendations that your credit counselor provides you with. Unfortunately, for-profit companies in the United States that offer financial counseling are often more preoccupied with selling additional services to participants than they are with giving them personalized financial education. By working with an accredited, nonprofit agency, you’ll significantly reduce your risk of being taken advantage of

Information to Research Before Talking to a Florida Credit Counseling Agency

To ensure that the Florida credit counseling agency you’re interested in working with has a solid reputation, you’ll want to do a little research. The Better Business Bureau, and the Florida consumer protection division provide consumers with information about credit counseling organizations that behave in unacceptable ways. If you check each of these resources and discover that the Florida credit counseling organization of your choice has an excellent record, you can feel confident in scheduling your consumer credit counseling session with that agency. If you discover recent red flags have been raised regarding that organization, consider scheduling your credit counseling session elsewhere.

Questions to Ask the Florida Credit Counselor Before Signing Up

When you call to schedule your Florida credit counseling session, make sure that you’re not being charged for this initial service. The organization you’re working with likely charges for other services for its clients but an initial credit counseling session should always be free. You’ll also want to make sure that the credit counselor you’re working with is certified. If your session is being conducted online, you’ll want to ask how you’ll be able to share your financial information with your credit counselor in a secure way. Regardless of whether your session is being conducted in person, over the phone, or online, you’ll want to ask how long the session will last and how you should prepare for your meeting. Oftentimes, agencies will give credit counseling participants worksheets and intake forms to fill out before their sessions.

What to Expect During Credit Counseling

When you arrive for your Florida credit counseling session, you can expect to meet with your credit counselor for roughly 45-60 minutes. During that time, your credit counselor will ask you about your financial situation, including your financial challenges and goals. You’ll also answer questions about your debts, expenses, and income. It can be helpful to provide your credit counselor with recent financial documents that illustrate your financial circumstances in detail. For example, you may want to bring along a copy of your current credit report, bank statements, and pay stubs, so that your counselor can get the strongest sense possible of what your finances look like. After your counselor has asked you questions and looked over your documents, you’ll be provided with recommendations for the next steps to take to reach your financial goals.

What Happens After Credit Counseling in Florida

At the end of your consumer credit counseling session, your certified credit counselor may encourage you to look into debt consolidation, bankruptcy counseling, a debt management program, or additional debt counseling services. Whether you choose to follow these informed recommendations will depend upon your financial goals. If any of the money management recommendations you’ve received from your Florida credit counselor seems like it would benefit you and your family, it’s time to start researching how to turn them into reality.

Florida Debt Consolidation

If your income is steady and you can afford to make a monthly debt repayment, you may benefit from seeking a debt consolidation loan. This zero percent interest loan will serve as a bank transfer that will allow you to pay debt balances on your student loans, medical bills, credit card debt, and other consumer debt. You’ll then be able to make one monthly debt payment on that loan, instead of paying each of your creditors separately.

Florida Debt Management Plan

Sometimes, nonprofit credit counseling agencies in Florida are empowered to help clients execute debt management plans. A payment plan is constructed and a Florida credit counselor negotiates with each of a debtor’s creditors. If you choose to participate in a debt management plan, you’ll send one monthly payment to your credit counseling organization, which will pay each of your creditors according to the terms they’ll negotiate with your creditors. Depending on how willing your creditors are to work with the nonprofit credit counseling organization you’ve chosen, your repayment plans could favorably erase fees, lower your interest rates, or even forgive some principal.

Florida Bankruptcy

Unlike debt consolidation and debt management plans, filing for bankruptcy provides an opportunity for straightforward debt relief. Depending on which kind of bankruptcy you qualify for, you can have your eligible debts erased in either a few months or after you’ve completed a 3-5 year debt repayment plan. Some individuals hesitate to file for bankruptcy because they are worried about how the process will affect their credit score. Thankfully, studies indicate that filing for bankruptcy helps individuals raise their credit scores significantly over time, despite the minor initial “hit” that they take once the bankruptcy is filed.



Written By:

Attorney Kassandra Kuehl

LinkedIn

Kassandra is a writer and attorney with a passion for consumer financial education. Outside of consumer law, she is focused on pro bono work in the fields of International Human Rights Law, Constitutional and Human Rights Law, Gender and the Law. Kassandra graduated from Universi... read more about Attorney Kassandra Kuehl

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