Are you having trouble making your monthly credit card payments? Do you—or a friend or loved one—dread answering the phone for fear of another collection call? If so, you’re not alone.
According to a survey conducted for the Global News last year, the average Canadian owes $8,539.50 in consumer non-mortgage debt. Even more troubling, 12 percent report consumer debt above $25,000, and 14 percent are carrying consumer debt between $10,000 and $24,999.
Fortunately, the Credit Counselling Society can help. The non-profit—with offices in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan—has assisted more than 500,000 Canadians with solving their debt problems and improving their finances.
Reducing Consumer Stress Since 1996
“The Credit Counselling Society was initially started to address the growing number of people experiencing financial difficulties,” Scott Hannah, the company’s president and CEO, told RewardExpert. “We opened our doors in 1996, and at the time, the number of people who were going bankrupt was on the increase. There was a desire amongst the credit granting community to form an organization to provide people with objective information and guidance to help them resolve their financial problems.”
Hannah, who has been the non-profit’s leader since day one, said the organization has since grown from one office with three employees to 22 offices with over 100 employees. The number of consumers they help continues to increase each year as well.
“Last year, we helped our debt management program clients pay off over $50 million in debt,” he continued. “That’s a lot of stress off their shoulders for sure.”
Free Counseling and Debt Repayment Alternatives
While Hannah explained that the Credit Counselling Society’s clients come from many walks of life, he said that there are some common traits among those who seek the organization’s assistance.
“I would say our clients are people who typically aren’t managing their income with a budget,” he said. “They are having difficulty keeping up with their payments, and at times, they have little or no savings on hand to deal with emergencies.”
Hannah said consumers find themselves in financial difficulty for many reasons.
“It could be from a loss of job or the break up of a relationship,” he continued. “If it’s a younger person, perhaps they are carrying large student loans. But today, we’re also seeing an increase in older people. These are people who you would think would be preparing for retirement but are instead indebted with income that just isn’t sufficient to keep up with expenses. Generally speaking, we’re able to help all of these clients find some solutions and get back to a point where they are able to live within their means.”
The solutions the Credit Counselling Society offers include free credit counseling and budgeting information and guidance. When clients are dealing with difficult creditors or collection agencies, the non-profit is able to advocate on their behalf.
“We also provide different debt repayment alternatives,” Hannah said. “And we have a team of financial educators across Western Canada and Ontario who provide free educational workshops as well as webinars to consumers at no cost.”
Charting a Path to Better Financial Health
If you think you may need the Credit Counselling Society’s help—or know someone else who could benefit from their assistance—it’s easy to take that first step towards better financial health. Simply contact the organization and arrange to speak with a counselor.
“You can meet with a counselor in person or by telephone,” Hannah explained. “The counselor will sit down with you and make sure you understand that anything we talk about is confidential. We’ll then look at your overall financial picture: how much income is coming in, what your monthly expenses are, your assets, your liabilities, and the problems you’re encountering.”
Hannah said the organization’s first goal is to help clients establish a budget that allows them to live within their means and resolve their financial problems.
“Depending on the severity of your circumstances, the solution can vary from showing you how to set and live within a budget to helping you reorganize your debts under a debt management program,” he continued.
With a debt management program, the Credit Counselling Society asks creditors to accept a reduced payment from the client and to stop charging interest on the outstanding debts—making it possible to pay them off within a reasonable period of time.
Hannah noted that the organization’s counselors are accredited and must complete ongoing education to maintain that accreditation. They also treat clients with respect and dignity at all times while helping them find a way out of financial difficulties.
“We know that our clients are under a tremendous amount of stress,” he said. “We provide timely assistance and always keep our mission in mind, which is to help, educate and give hope. People leave here with solutions. We help them put things in perspective and outline a way forward.”
To learn more about the Credit Counselling Society and how they can help you improve your financial situation, visit www.nomoredebts.org or call 1-888-527-8999