Stacy Johnson begins debt series with a look at Credit Counseling.

Like so many laid-off Americans, Francine Adams is trying to cook up a new career. After losing her job as a systems engineer, she’s now trying to make it on her own with a line natural skin care products she created and makes herself.

But what she couldn’t do herself was get any cooperation from her credit card companies. She did the right thing: called them, told them she’d been laid off and asked for lower payments. No dice.

“It was very disappointing for me to find out that some of my creditors didn’t want to cooperate with someone that was trying to maintain a good relationship and preserve their credit. ”

But Francine didn’t give up: she found a non-profit credit counseling organization.

Credit counseling organizations can typically get clients one payment that’s lower than all their payments put together. Interest rates are typically lowered to around 9 or 10 % depending on who their creditors are and it typically gets people out of debt in 4 to 4 and a half years.

For Francine, it was just what she needed. “My minimums totaled, actually, up to about $700 a month. And now with Consolidated Credit I’m consistently paying $420 a month and that includes their fee.”

These programs typically take about 4 years to complete. The cost varies, but it’s normally less than 50 bucks a month. It’s not for everyone: you need to have sufficient income to pay off your debts. If you don’t, bankruptcy is the better choice. But for people like Francine, it’s time and money well-spent.