If you are stressed by debt and can't pay your bills on time, especially credit card debt, you may want to enlist the help of a nonprofit credit counseling agency. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Inc., (NFCC) is the longest serving and largest network of nonprofit credit counseling agencies nationwide. NFCC members are mostly known as Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS). Some are known by other names but all can be identified by the NFCC member seal.

NFCC agencies offer free and low-cost services through in-person appointment, by phone, and the Internet. Their goal is to assist you with getting out of deep debt and helping you understand how to avoid future debt traps.

In a confidential counseling session, a certified credit counselor will analyze your personal financial data and advise you on successful money-management methods. With proper budgeting, you may be able to pay off your debt.

However, if you cannot pay off the debts as scheduled, the counselor may propose a plan to negotiate directly with your creditors to work out terms that you can meet. Under this type of plan, you make consistent monthly payments to the counseling agency, which in turn pays the creditors.

To find an NFCC member agency near you, call 800.388.2227 or visit their Web site at www.debtadvice.org. Spanish language services are available at 800.682.9832.

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