Credit Counselors Offer Clients More Than Just Debt Advice

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In-Charge Passes 250,000 Mark On Clients Helped With Rent, Food, Medicine

InCharge clients connected to essential services since 2011

Credit Counselors average from 10-to-15 calls a day and almost 100 percent of the clients get advice on the closest place to find help with a job, rent, food and many other everyday expenses.

There are some places parents never want to go with their children and Carlos Morales was in two of them last year: debt and despair.

Morales was deep in debt trying to keep up with the cost of two medications for his special needs son. Without the medications, his son would suffer convulsions. With no savings to pay for them, Morales turned to credit cards to bail him out.

“What was I supposed to do?” Morales asked. “It was credit card debt or my son’s medication. I had no choice.”

When he maxed out his fifth credit card, his bank cut him off and suggested he get help from InCharge Debt Solutions, a 501(c)(3) credit counseling agency. That is where he found Miyera Quebles, who helped him get rid of both debt and despair.

Quebles, who has done credit counseling at InCharge for 12 years, took aim at Morales’ credit card woes by helping him find a way to pay for the medications. She steered him to an online service that supplied one of his son’s medications for free and another online service that reduced the cost of the second medication from $450 a month to just $60 a month.

She also helped him craft a family budget that applied the monthly savings to his credit card debt, which he is well on his way toward eliminating.

These days, offering more than budget advice is a common practice at InCharge. Credit counselors average from 10-to-15 calls a day and while every client gets advice on managing money, about 95 percent of them also get advice on where to find help for rent, food, jobs and other every day needs.

InCharge credit counselors just passed the 250,000 mark on clients assisted with help finding social services.

“Most of the people we talk to are facing hardships beyond just paying off credit cards,” Quebles said. “We always tell them that taking care of your family is the priority No. 1. For a lot of them, that means finding options for rent, food, or in this case medicine, so they can cope with those financial hardships and get back on their feet.”

Credit counselors like Quebles have always been expected to educate consumers on how to budget and use financial tools to eliminate debt, but their role has expanded dramatically in the last three years. They are now a gateway to social services for people whose debt has put them in survival mode.

As consumers explain the circumstances that got them into debt, counselors start with advice on managing money, then guide them to government, church and community resources that offer immediate help with employment, rent, food, utilities, medicine, phone and other daily needs.

Unfortunately, nearly every story the counselors hear, starts with credit card problems. The average American household with credit card debt owes $15,762. Only 51 percent of U.S. consumers say they have enough money in an emergency account to clear their credit card debts if they had to.

That’s almost exactly where Alicia Plummer was when she ducked into survival mode and called InCharge to help her get out.

Plummer moved to New York City from Jamaica five years ago and immediately found work as a home healthcare aide. When her client died a few months ago, she was out of work and tried to handle expenses with loans and credit cards. She was $17,000 in debt and still unemployed when she turned to InCharge for help.

Plummer wasn’t a candidate for InCharge’s debt management program because she had no income, but credit counselor Denise Cook directed her to sign up for unemployment, sent her information on job websites and gave her a list of food pantries in her area.

“I didn’t know what was available or where to go,” Plummer said. “I’d always been able to pay my own way, but the money dried up when I lost my job and the bills kept coming. I’m more confident about my situation now and I am really grateful to Denise for helping me get by.”

Stories like Morales and Plummer are the norm, especially for Americans still trying to recover from the Great Recession of 2008. Wages increased by less than 1% in the first quarter of 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This continues a 35-year trend of flat or falling wages for workers in the U.S.

And explains why people are calling InCharge for more than just advice on paying off credit cards.

“You can tell people are stressed out when they call,” said Angel Rodriguez, who has been a credit counselor at InCharge for seven years. “They’re not in a good place because they can’t keep up with the costs for simple things like food and rent.

“But if I can get them started on a solution, you can feel the weight coming off their shoulders. You can almost see the smile coming through the phone and that is a good feeling.”

InCharge Debt Solutions provides credit counseling, and housing counseling services to consumers and service members in need of financial literacy education, money management guidance, and help finding the right debt solution for their specific situation.

  •     Credit Counseling: Certified credit counselors give free, confidential counseling (online or by phone) and offer an alternative to debt consolidation through debt management programs and free budgeting assistance. Call 877-486-4924.
  •     Housing Counseling Services: Our certified housing counselors can assist consumers with free foreclosure prevention counseling, mortgage scam assistance, pre-purchase counseling and first-time homebuyer education. Call 877-251-1882.
  •     Online Credit Counseling: Free, comprehensive web counseling provides budget building tool, analysis and available solutions from your computer. Visit

About InCharge® Debt Solutions
Founded in 1997, InCharge® Debt Solutions is a leading 501(c)(3) non-profit, community-service organization offering confidential and professional credit counseling, housing counseling, debt management, bankruptcy education and general financial education to individuals seeking options to manage credit card debt and consolidate debt payment. The company, accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) and a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), interacted with over 1.6 million consumers in 2015. InCharge is affiliated with InCharge® Education Foundation, Inc. (ICEF) which is dedicated to providing educational products, services and research supporting the personal financial literacy of consumers across America.

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Chris Henningsen
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