Archive for Sunday, January 11, 2009

Credit counselors see business go up

January 11, 2009


— Some Kansas credit counselors say their business is up as the economy continues to have problems.

In Wichita, the nonprofit Consumer Credit Counseling Service helped 5,793 individuals or couples in 2008 — a jump from the 2,160 it served in 2005. And counselors in that city don’t see the numbers dropping, with more residents expected to go bankrupt or become delinquent on bills.

Jeff Witherspoon, who’s over the Consumer Crediting Counseling Service office, said the nonprofit has braced for thousands of new calls from people needing help with household bills and possible foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Many of those in financial trouble have been laid off, were in accidents or have increasing medical bills or other problems that are beyond their control. But Witherspoon said a growing number of people in debt are in binds because they spend more than their income, often on unnecessary items.

“We’ve created a false economy based on credit card debt,” Witherspoon said.

Gail Cunningham, the Texas-based spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said she’s seeing more cases in which people in financial dilemmas avoid taking responsibility for their situations.

“Most people now blame everybody else: ‘The credit card company should not have extended me credit. The real estate company should not have sold me this house,’” Cunningham said.

She said there used to be a time when clients seemed more concerned about their roles in their debt and felt bad about owing money.

Hagan Featherston, who went through the Consumer Credit Counseling Service in Wichita and served on the nonprofit’s board of directors, said he got into credit card debt in the early 1990s.

After taking debt education classes, he did something that other debtors might find drastic: He froze his one remaining credit card in a block of ice in his freezer.

The ice block kept him from using the card to make purchases on impulse.

“We could all learn a lot from Hagan,” Witherspoon said.


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