05/28/2013 04:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I'm Looking for Free Help and Counseling With Debt. Who Can I Trust?

Huffington Post Reader Question

Dear Steve,

My niece in Ohio has considerable student loan and other debt. My guess is around $40,000.

She's working a 20 hours week as a waitress and is a single mother with three kids under six.

Can she get free counseling for her student loan and other debts. Who can she contact and trust for some free help?


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Dear Richard,

Thank you for reaching out to me and asking your question.

There are a number of things your niece should do. The first thing however is to strike any assumptions on how to best tackle the situation until she does the research on options and their effectiveness. She should also research all of the major debt relief options before making any decision about what to do.

On the student loans she should read this to understand what she can do.

But before we embark on that journey it sounds like your niece should visit and find out what benefits she is eligible for. Every dollar she receives in eligible benefits is a dollar further her budget will stretch in these tight times.

Based on her limited income and debt it would be a mistake to first look for some sort of repayment plan. We need to think more about creating a better future than trying to repair the past. The goal should be to get herself in a financial position as soon as possible where she is living within her income and still able to save some money each month in an emergency fund and hopefully some towards retirement.

I'd suggest you and your niece first read How to Get Out of Debt. The Honest and Unvarnished Truth, then read How Do I Get Out of Debt Quickly? Change Your Mindset, and finish the homework up with The Truth About The Success Rates, Failure Rates and Completion Rates of Credit Counseling, Debt Settlement, and Bankruptcy. They will give her a great overview of what we need to deal with to get her moving in the right direction.

Then she should use the free How to Get Out of Debt Calculator to review the obvious debt relief options.

Once she's identified a company she wants to work with, then follow my step-by-step guide on what she should look for and expect from a good debt relief company.

If bankruptcy makes the most sense, she can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney and talk to them for free about her specific situation.

The bottom line here is we want your niece to make an informed and educated decision about how to tackle her debt so she can create a better and safer financial future for herself and the kids.

And of course your niece can always reach out to me, I provide all my help for free.

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