Who Do You Recommend as a Financial Consultant for Debt Issues?

Dear Steve,

I have a Parent Plus loan w/ a $500/mo regular payments, not income-driven or whatever.

I have about $2800 in credit card debt. I think I’m putting approximately only $300–400/mo into retirement savings which started at nothing three years ago.

I want to increase that amount, of course. I was unexpectedly laid off in 2009 and spent a year without a regular income, so I withdrew all my money from my retirement account to live & pay bills.

Would it be beneficial to use a financial consultant to re-work my interest rate, which I think is 7–9% right now? If so, do you have any financial consultants you DO recommend, or are they all bad?

Or, as I saw another person ask, would it be beneficial to go on an income-driven payment plan and make extra payments?

This affects my retirement savings, and I would like to put some of that $500 toward that.

XJX

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Answer:

Dear XJX,

You’ve hit the nail on the head. But unfortunately, the most significant debt crisis people face is not credit cards or some creditor, but retirement. Although people live longer and have fewer assets for those years, they will not be working.

Social Security Says They Are Not the Full Answer

Many believe Social Security payments will be enough to retire on. But that’s not true. The Social Security Administration says, “ Social Security Should Be Just One Part of Your Retirement Plan.” On average, retirement beneficiaries receive 40 percent of their pre-retirement income from Social Security.

If you want to keep the same income level, you will need to have a plan to replace the other 60 percent.

The Social Security website does an outstanding job of providing data about your account. I just logged in to my account the other day to see how things were going. I strongly suggest you take a look at your account. You can login here.

Would it be Beneficial to Get Help for My Situation?

The honest answer is it’s complicated.

On the one hand, there is no dispute that an expert’s good educated, and experienced advice can be priceless.

There is a story I heard once.

A guy is broken down on the side of the road on a dark and rainy night. The car just stopped running. Roadside Assistance is hours away from helping him.

Later a pickup truck pulls up, and a guy gets out, says he’s a mechanic and asks if he can help. The stranded driver says, “Only if you let me pay you for your help.”

“If you insist,” the mechanic says.

The good samaritan looks over the situation, walks back to his truck, and grabs a hammer. He reaches under the stranded car and gives something a couple of taps.

This time the car roars back to life.

As requested, the mechanic hands the stranded man an invoice for $100.

“That’s outrageous,” the stranded motorist exclaims. “All you did was hit something twice with a hammer. I want a detailed invoice to show others what you did.”

The mechanic goes back to his dry truck and writes out an invoice that reads:

Roadside Assistance Invoice
Hitting with Hammer — $1
Knowing Where to Hit — $99

What is ironic about that story is I faced something like that.

I’m a pilot. One day I landed at a distant airport to pick up several dogs rescued from a kill shelter and needed to fly to new adoptive homes.

After landing at the small airport, my plane would not start. Unfortunately, there was no mechanic at the small airport. So I called my mechanic back at my distant home airport, and he told me to take the cowl off the airplane, find something heavy, and hit the starter right at this spot hard a couple of times.

I was then able to start the airplane.

Knowing where to hit makes for a good story, but it is true.

What Does a Typical Debt Relief Salesperson Do?

The reality is that, on average, it doesn’t matter if the debt relief provider you call is selling debt settlement, credit counseling, bankruptcy, debt validation, or some other magic pixie dust.

The person you are talking to is often a commissioned salesperson or incentivized to close the deal so the company can make money. Yes, even nonprofit credit counseling groups are focused on making money. Nonprofit is their tax status, not the business model.

If someone does not want to find a talented independent advisor for advice, that’s their choice. People do dumb things every day, even after you’ve advised them not to.

For those folks, I suggest they talk to many different debt relief providers but only listen to what they have to say. I want the sales messages to percolate and not cause anyone to leap emotionally.

They will quickly learn that debt help companies are often not providing financial advice but selling their product by talking about how bad the others are.

People are left confused, and they should be because what they have heard are sales messages and not good advice tailored to their situation.

This is Who I Recommend for Good Debt Advice

There are two people I have high regard for providing good advice. One is Michael Bovee. Michael is a hell of a guy who I’ve seemingly known forever in the debt space. You can’t go wrong with the advice from Michael.

The other individual is Damon Day. Damon and I go back more than a decade. Ironically Damon and Michael worked together at some point, and Michael might have introduced me to Damon.

Damon and I talk daily, and he brainstorms client situations with me to get a second opinion. He is astute and looks at client situations the way I do, holistically.

Do You Have a Question You’d Like Steve to Answer? Click Here.

You see, it is not the particular solution that is most important. It is the best path for the client, given their circumstances. So rather than this or that solution, the correct answer for many is a little of this and a little of that.

No two people are the same, and logically no two solutions should be the same.

In Your Case

I would guarantee that if you called a debt settlement company or credit counseling group, they would try to pitch you on their debt relief solution. They will make it sound like it is perfect for you and magical. A one-size-fits-all product.

But your situation is not first about the debt. It is about needing a plan and approach that solves the major crisis, retirement savings.

My advice is to tackle the planning for retirement savings first and then come up with a solution to deal with the debt and student loans to best accomplish the primary goal.

If you decide to contact Damon and you’d like for him to discuss your situation with me and brainstorm, just let him know he’s got your permission to do so.

You are not alone. I’m here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don’t give up.

Originally published at https://getoutofdebt.org on January 27, 2022.

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