Monday, November 30, 2009


Holiday Spending Quiz Helps Consumers Evaluate Their Financial Situation

One in every 10 Americans is currently unemployed. Foreclosure filings were reported on close to one million properties in the third quarter of 2009. Personal savings, if it exists at all, is a fraction of what it should be. Terms on credit cards are rapidly changing, putting some consumers over the financial edge. And the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, has just passed.

“Considering the volatility of the economy, consumers would be well-served to take a hard look at their personal financial situation and evaluate how to best approach the holiday season,” said Michaele Pena, Director of Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS), a division of Family Services, Inc. “Self-inflicted financial pain that could have negative consequences for years to come is a gift to no one.”

Family Services, Inc. suggests that consumers take the following Holiday Spending Quiz to assess their current financial stability before they begin shopping: (answer true or false)

• There are arguments in my home about money.
• I sometimes hide my purchases.
• I have thought about filing for bankruptcy.
• I struggle to make my mortgage payment.
• I sometimes pay my bills late.
• I have used more than 30 percent of my available credit lines.
• My debt interferes with my sleep, job or home life.
• I have little or no savings.
• I am receiving collection calls or notices.
• If I lost my job, it would mean an immediate financial crisis in my life.

The harsh reality is that consumers who answer “True” to two or more of the above are not candidates for a holiday shopping spree. Ignoring the reality of your financial situation will almost certainly lead to further financial distress down the road. It will come in the form of an unmanageable debt load, resulting in a damaged credit report and lower credit score, likely limiting your access to future credit. If there were ever a year to approach holiday spending with your head instead of your heart, this is it.

“Family Services, Inc. supports financial responsibility, regardless of the season,” Pena continued. “With the ghosts of Christmas past still lingering on many credit cards, piling new debt on top of old cannot be considered responsible by any measure. With any sacrifice comes reward, and the benefits of not having a mailbox full of bills in January will likely outweigh any lifestyle spending adjustments consumers make during the holidays.”

If you’re wondering how to deal with holiday spending on a limited budget, reach out for help by contacting the Consumer Credit Counseling Services division of Family Services, Inc. Call 843-735-7802, or go online to www.fsisc.org.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


by Debbie Kidd

It was with great interest that I read the Department of Treasury’s report on South Carolina and the Home Affordable Modification Plan (HAMP). While it is extremely gratifying to see the program gain some traction, I can’t help but think of the herculean efforts of the teams of default counselors who have been working to help homeowners for the past two years. Our counselors have really born the burdens of the many clients who have come through our doors. Many have shed tears with them, and others have offered their own time to help families move out if a foreclosure did occur.

I am honored to work with such a devoted team of professionals who got up to speed quickly, conquered the technical requirements and adapted to every requested change. It’s not easy facing sadness and despair each day, but our counselors do it with dedication and integrity.

As proud as I am of our team, it’s the families who are etched in my mind and heart. It is not easy to walk into a public building, meet with a stranger, and have to explain why the mortgage hasn’t been paid in months. Additionally, having personal and sensitive financial documents reviewed and analyzed – with a critical eye looking for excess – would test the mettle of anyone. Yet, every single day, more and more people come to our office for help. We constantly take calls from people who are desperate, scared, and often misinformed. In some cases they have been scammed by a promise of something that’s too good to be true. Fortunately, we have been able to help a few folks get their money back.

Next year, we are going to have an opportunity to help even more families. It has been estimated that as many as 5 million adjustable rate mortgages are going to reset, resulting in serious payment shock. As we prepare to endure longer days, and even sadder stories, I am going to celebrate the turn of circumstances for those 7,914 South Carolinians who are going to stay in their homes. If a modification happened for them, it can happen for many others as well. South Carolina is very fortunate to have a responsive foreclosure task force and the staff of The Homeownership Resource Center standing ready to do all we can to help.

If you are a homeowner having trouble making your mortgage payment, or you suspect that trouble is just ahead, call us today at 888-320-0350 or visit us on the web at www.fsisc.org.