By the end of the first quarter of 2006, U.S. consumer debt totaled $11.8 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. The new bankruptcy reform, higher interest rates, rising gas prices and increased minimum credit card payments, also make it apparent that consumers are in need of financial advice and more businesses need to offer it.
A recent study from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) indicates that individuals coming to NFCC agencies for pre-bankruptcy-filing counseling “were in desperate financial shape with debts that vastly exceeded their income. And, their biggest source of difficulty was poor money management.”
Of course, counselors providing bankruptcy or pre-bankruptcy counseling services are required to obtain approval from the Executive Office for United States Trustees (EOUST), the division of the Justice Department responsible for the nation’s bankruptcy court. It is a mistake, however, to assume that credit counseling only occurs and is helpful during the bankruptcy process.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA’s) 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is a national effort of the CPA profession to improve the financial understanding of Americans. It provides a comprehensive approach to financial education, focusing on the information that people need at each stage of their lives, from childhood to retirement.
Other credit counseling programs are offered by the Financial Victory Institute, which specializes in credit restoration and financial education. The Institute also offers the Credit and Financial Strategies Program to train people on how to counsel clients, one on one, regarding a wide range of topics, while the Credit and Financial Seminar Program equips individuals to conduct financial seminars. Each program comes with a teaching manual containing 4-6 hours of material, plus a corresponding PowerPoint presentation.
“My training programs are great for businesses looking to add to their existing services,” Deborah McNaughton, founder of the Financial Victory Institute and author of the Get Out of Debt Kit, said in a prepared statement. “Credit counseling and financial seminars not only generate more revenue, but also enable businesses to build customer loyalty while providing a valuable service to their clients.”
Financial advisors, realtors, mortgage brokers, insurance agents, banks, credit unions and auto dealers are among the many that can benefits from adding credit counseling and/or financial seminars to their repertoire. These types of businesses work with clients on personal financial matters so it is a natural fit for them to counsel on credit and finances. By adding these services, business owners will be able to boost their revenues, as well as build customer loyalty and confidence.