Forgive Us Our Debts: The Debt Counseling Experiment

I’m $40,000 in debt.

Not really, but that was my cover story. I wanted to investigate these so-called debt counseling services that help people who are drowning in credit card debt.

I had heard that many of these places are shams, so I made my story as simple as possible:

  • I’m $40,000 in debt.
  • I have 3 credit cards, with outrageous interest rates of 32%, 22%, and 20%.
  • I have a girlfriend who spends like crazy, on my cards.
  • I pay off the bare minimum each month, because I “don’t want to ruin my credit rating.”

This story was so simple that even Lindsay Lohan would be able to give me financial advice.

Lindsey Lohan Debt Counseling

I would rate each debt counseling service on how many of these correct answers they gave me. This way, I could determine whether these debt counselors really wanted to help, or whether they were just trying to get money out of the guy who was already broke.


Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc

I called the toll-free number, located just above the flying woman, and spoke with an incredibly polite man named Robert. I told him my story, and he sympathized.

“It’s going to take you well over twenty years to get rid of that debt,” he said.

“Ohhhh,” I moaned.

“Now, there are other options for managing your debt besides our program,” he said. “Some people get another job. Some people take out a second mortgage. Some people borrow money. Have you considered any of these options?”

“Yes,” I whispered. “I borrowed money from this guy at the gym named Vinnie. He’s kind of a thug, and now he’s making threats. I’m scared, Robert.”

“We can’t help you with Vinnie, but we can consolidate your other debts into one lower monthly payment. This is probably the least expensive way of getting yourself out of debt, but the bad news is you will have to cut up your credit cards.”

“Noooo,” I protested. “My girlfriend’s going to throw a fit.”
“Two things I can’t help you with,” he said. “Vinnie and your girlfriend.”

“But those are the two things I need help with,” I moaned.

“Believe it or not, you really need help with your financial situation most of all. Look, I’m not a psychologist. But you have to ask yourself, what’s more important? Getting your finances in order, or keeping her happy?”

Couple in Debt

I pictured my fictional girlfriend something like this. And I pictured myself much more handsome.

“I don’t really love her,” I confessed. “I’ll bet if I just dumped her, this would be a lot easier.”

“Correct,” he said. “Let me give you my information, and you can call me when you have your finances in front of you, and we can get this started.”

He gave me his phone number, and told me to call him anytime. To the end, he was incredibly professional and courteous. But how was his advice on the Lindsay Lohan scale?

Lower interest payments: YES
Break up with girlfriend: YES
Pay off as much as you can: NO
Cut up credit cards: YES

Pretty impressive, but could I do better? How about if I asked a financial planning celebrity?

Please continue to Test #2: He’s Kind of a Big Deal!

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