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TESS VIGELAND: For a response to Weston’s assertions, we turned to Gail Cunningham. She’s with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Gail Cunnigham: I think anyone would agree that when people come to us in a terrifically fragile financial situation and we are able to help rehabilitate them to the point that they can repay their debt, that’s a success.
Cunningham says the NFCC doesn’t gauge the success or failure of its efforts by the percentage of people who pay off their bills through a debt management program.
Cunningham: I don’t know how many pay off their debts 100 percent through us versus how many pay through us for a bit and then are able to stand up on their own two financial feet, because to us, both of those are successes.
She also disagrees with Weston’s argument that some consumers should not go through counseling and instead head directly to bankruptcy court.
Cunningham: I don’t think there’s ever a time that it’s too late to receive financial assistance, not that we’re going to be able to resolve every financial distress that walks through that doors. But to sit down with a counselor teaching them how to survive this rough patch in their lives, that’s valuable.
But Cunningham says no one should expect counseling to solve all their financial problems.
Cunningham: We do not have a magic wand under our desk, I say that to underscore that we don’t give everybody the answer that they hope for when they walk through our doors. Nonetheless, when things go south and they’ve had to take a more serious financial decision, such as bankruptcy, then they won’t start beating themselves up because they will know that I tried everything else first.
So what’s your opinion? Have you gone through the credit counseling process and emerged debt free and financially savvy? Or was your experience more of a let down? We’d like to know – write to us at Marketplace.org.