by Broderick Perkins
12/1/09 - Virtually every new or overhauled federal finance industry regulation comes with some level of counseling for consumers.
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) is no exception
That's a good thing.
A 2009 National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey revealed that 28 percent, or more than 58 million adults, admit to not paying their bills on time.
"One of the most fascinating observations from this economic downturn is the fact that consumers have continued to make payment on their unsecured debt -- namely their credit cards -- while they have strategically elected to allow their secured debt their mortgage -- to go into default," said Nancy Osborne, chief operating officer of ERATE, a Santa Clara, CA-based financial information publisher and interest rate tracker.
The NFCC survey also found that 13 million households carry credit card debt of $10,000 or more from month to month, with the same number either having debts in collection, seriously considering filing for bankruptcy, or have already done so within the past three years.
"The data speaks for itself. There is a need for increased financial literacy in our country, and providing consumers with the tools to take control of their financial future can only be viewed as positive," said Susan C. Keating, president and CEO of NFCC.
The CARD Act, designed to instill more fairness and disclosures in the consumer end of the credit card business, also requires creditors to include on customers' statements a toll-free number where they may receive information about accessing credit counseling.
Consumers learn not only that counseling is available, but the number directs them to federally approved, legitimate, nonprofit counseling agencies, says NFCC.
"Previously, for a number of reasons, consumers have been reluctant to reach out for help, resulting in a delay that only made matters worse," Keating continued.
Counseling does help.
• NeighborWorks America, the administrator of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) Program this month announced its program clients are 60 percent more likely to avoid foreclosure than homeowners who don't seek counseling.
"The findings announced today demonstrate the real impact foreclosure counseling can have for families facing foreclosure," said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America.
• "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Credit Counseling," research conducted at Georgetown University's Credit Research Center by director Michael E. Staten and Purdue University economics professor John M. Barron, found consumers who were recommended for a debt management and counseling program had a significantly lower incidence of bankruptcy over the two years following counseling. The opposite was true of those who were recommended for debt management program, but chose not to attend.
Having financially literate consumers should be viewed as being of fundamental importance to the country's financial health as well," said Osborne.