Huge debts? Where to find help

Dear Liz: My husband and I are in a huge amount of debt. I understand that there are nonprofit agencies that can sit down with us and help us develop repayment plans and strategies. How do I find a reputable one?

Answer: Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at (800) 388-2227 for a referral to a legitimate, accredited, nonprofit credit counseling agency in your area. A counselor can review your financial situation, help you with budgeting and see whether you’re a candidate for a debt management plan, which would allow you to pay off your credit card debt over time, perhaps at a lower interest rate.

You also should consider making an appointment with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. You can get referrals from the National Assn. of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys at A credit counselor may try to steer you away from bankruptcy, whereas an attorney can let you know if it might be a better option.

Unfortunately, many people wait too long before they contact a credit counselor. They may be approved for a debt management plan but find themselves unable to stick with the plan long enough to pay off their debt. In other words, they continue to struggle with debt that they ultimately can’t pay. Understanding all your options, including bankruptcy, can help you make a better choice about what to do next.


  1. Having been through a business bankruptcy and then subsequently a personal one, I found both the personal and business bankruptcy attorneys to be amazing. Both gave me free extremely thorough hour consultations (so make sure to interview a few if you can) where they laid out pros and cons of filing. Even though it meant money for them if I hired them there wasn’t pressure – just facts and the knowledge of what would happen if I went either direction. Get a good recommendation though because I’m sure there are bad ones out there. But bankruptcy, while hard to muddle through was a life saver. Personally I am healthier (no longer drinking a bottle of wine just to keep the anxiety at bay) and I have slowly rebuilt over the past 18 months and actually have savings!!! It sucks but can be the right answer.