Looking out for the consumer

2013-05-27T10:21:00Z 2013-05-27T17:25:16Z Looking out for the consumerDiane Poulton Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 27, 2013 10:21 am  • 

MERRILLVILLE | What is the average age of a client seeking help at Consumer Credit Counseling Services? If you guessed thirty-something, you are wrong.

“The average client we serve is about 52 years old,” said Executive Director Warren Callahan.

Callahan said the typical case scenario is that the unemployed or underemployed client is faced with a tough economic situation having depleted their savings account and 401(k) to stay financially afloat and pay housing expenses. Many who planned to retire early have to work to age 70, Callahan said.

Serving Lake, Porter, Jasper, La Porte, Newton, Pulaski and Starke counties, the nonprofit agency is a HUD-certified housing counseling provider and offers the counseling and certification necessary for filing bankruptcy.

Callahan stresses it is never too late to seek help; the earlier clients come to Consumer Credit Services the quicker their financial recovery.

“We could have assisted them and they might not have exhausted those other financial resources,” Callahan said. “We are able to work on behalf of our client with creditors to get them out of debt in three to five years and helping them reduce their interest rates in some instances to zero percent.”

One program, The Hardest Hit Fund, aids the unemployed, if they qualify, to obtain up to $30,000 in state funded mortgage assistance, Callahan said.

The Credit Readiness Program aids clients in raising their credit scores to an acceptable rate.

“My definition of a good credit standing means that they are in place to receive favorable interest rates,” Callahan said. “We will work with these individuals whether their interest is home ownership or they are looking to get lower interest rates for student loans or to buy a car.”

The Overall Financial Literacy Program deals with money management and a Budgeting Program helps individuals look at their spending habits.

“Consumer Credit Counseling Services has been in existence for 37 years in Northwest Indiana,” Callahan said. “We have levels of accountability and accreditation that others do not.”

Consumer Credit Counseling Services is accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling which requires a triennial review process to maintain that status.

Executive director for one year, Callahan, a former board member, has worked for more than 25 years in various senior-level positions in the non-profit sector including United Way Crusade of Mercy in Chicago, Amtrak Corporation, where he oversaw organizational development, labor and employee relations in 41 states, and Habitat for Humanity in Chicago. His work experience coupled with an MBA in economics made Consumer Credit Counseling Services a perfect fit, Callahan said.

“I cannot think of a better organization to be a part of to help people look at their finances, help people obtain and retain home ownership, help people from a financial literacy standpoint and help them get a better understanding of what it means to manage their financial affairs on a daily basis,” Callahan said.

“That was a passion of mine that I want to see everybody be able not only to save money but to become financially independent.”

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