Claudia Steele has a note in her desk from a fortune cookie that reads, “Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness.” She says this adage defines her. But even before Claudia became a certified credit counselor, she was a financial adviser to her friends and family. She helped her ex-husband get out of $15,000 in credit card debt and helped a good friend realize that she was drowning in credit card debt. As a seven year certified credit counselor with Consolidated Credit, Claudia is now doing what she was born to do.
How do you separate your personal life from your work life?
It’s so weird because when I go home and start to take care of things I forget about it. But when I go to sleep I start thinking about all my clients. Sometimes in my dreams I’m doing applications and asking, “Ok but how much are you spending on this? Why are you spending so much on this?” It’s so weird.
What’s the most memorable call you’ve received since becoming a counselor?
One day I took a call from a past client who was calling customer service to find out how much her last payment was. I remembered her story very well because she was going through Chemo therapy at the time. She was a very tough person even though she was going through these changes and the illness, she was a trooper. She was like, “Yeah I’m going to be ok.” And I said, “Yes you are, you are going to be ok because you have a positive attitude. If your mind is in the right place you’re going to fight this cancer and you’re going to be fine.” And she said, “Yeah I remember you and what you told me and, see, I’m cancer free and debt free.” I was moved to tears.
What’s one uncommon reason people give for falling into debt?
There was one lady she was 80 years old or so and she had money, but all her family took advantage of her. She ended up with $40,000 in debt just helping her family. To me you cannot take advantage of older people, kids or animals so that kills me. I spoke with her for an hour and I told her, “If you were my family or grandma I would tell you, you have to stop and learn to say no.”
How do you handle such distressing calls?
One day somebody called and said, “I think I’m going to end my life.” And I was like, “No you cannot do that! Don’t say that! You don’t have the right to take your life. Don’t talk nonsense!” People are thinking that they have all this credit card debt and they can’t take it anymore and think about taking their own lives. I had a long conversation with him. I’ve cried more than once too. Some stories you can’t help it. Although, you can’t show it to people on the phone. But I have had to put people on hold for a second because I get overwhelmed. I have to just breathe and go back to the conversation. A lot of the stories are really, really, really sad.
What do you do when you feel like you can’t help a person?
Sometimes even though we can’t help the person because this is not the program for them, you will be amazed how people appreciate the fact that you listen to them and give them advice. At the end of the conversation I’ll say, “Sorry I couldn’t help you much” and they’ll say “Are you kidding me? Of course you helped me. You listened to me and that’s priceless.” Hearing that makes me feel great. It makes you think about when you are having a bad day sometimes and you start getting short with people. You then think about that person and say I have to relax.
What were your thoughts about debt consolidation and consolidation companies prior to becoming a counselor with this company?
I never had a bad opinion about the program itself because I was familiar with it. People have the tendency to confuse our program with the debt settlement program but it’s totally different, so that’s our job too – to educate people and to let them know the difference. Some people come to us very guarded and say things like, “Well I just want to know if this is going to help my credit because I hear horror stories.” I let them vent and hear what they have to say to me. I respond by saying, “Okay I’m going to explain to you or I say, allow me to educate you. There are three different programs out there I’m going to explain to you the difference.” Then after I explain, they say, “Oh okay now I understand.” Most of them sign up.
We Can Help You Overcome Your Challenges
We all have our battles and demons to conquer in life and often one of them is falling into debt. But help is available to get us through them. If you are battling a situation that has led to amassing excessive amounts of debt, call Consolidated Credit at and a certified credit counselor will help you. If you prefer, you can take the first step online with a request for a Free Debt Analysis.