(Pictured Above: Helene Raynaud, President and CEO of Guidewell Financial Solutions, Martha Souder, Award Winner, and Susan Keating, CEO of the NFCC)
Every year at the NFCC Connect Conference, we love to highlight the great work that our member agencies do to help their clients. Many clients achieve financial freedom by paying off their debt in 36-60 months with a plan from their agency. Each year, a client is chosen to receive the Brighter Financial Future Award. The winner from 2016 was Martha Souder, a client from Guidewell Financial Solutions.
Ms. Souder came to the agency in 2012, after years of trying to pay off debt on her own. She had been paying on her debt for ten years and managed to pay off $10,000, but she felt it would take forever at that rate. She began researching and realized the best place to get help was probably a nonprofit credit counseling agency. Ms. Souder entered a debt management program in 2012 with nearly $50,000 in debt. In June 2016, she completed her program and left with a host of new skills that would forever change the way she managed her finances.
Martha has now become a financial literacy advocate with the motto, “There is no shame in recognizing you have a serious debt problem. The sooner you get the help the better your life will be.”
People in situations like these can declare bankruptcy and be done with their obligations, but Ms. Souder felt a strong sense of accountability. Knowing she had gotten herself in this situation she felt it was only fair to work hard to get herself out of it. Having a plan made all the difference. In times when she felt discouraged she would remember she didn’t get here overnight, so it was going to take some time to dig out from the mess. Knowing her goals and sticking to the plan, she could tackle the debt head on.
Being on the debt management program, she learned how to exercise discipline and self-control. She had to make lifestyle changes to be able to repay what she owed. She began rewarding herself for small victories, not with a shopping splurge, but with a nice meal or luxurious bath. As she ended repayment, she began to worry she would relapse, or get back into debt. Instead of letting these thoughts hold her back, she enrolled in a financial coaching program, where she is continuing to learn and grow.
She found out for herself that paying back your debts can be hard. Our member agencies know that each client faces different financial hurdles that are best approached in baby steps. The process takes determination, commitment, and support. To start, the problem must be identified, whether it is a shortfall in your monthly income, overspending, or just a money management problem. The best place to help you figure out the big picture problem is a holistic nonprofit credit counseling agency like Guidewell Financial Solutions. You can find an agency near you to begin the first steps today by going to this NFCC agency locator.
To close, a quote from Ms. Souder, “The ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, Lao Tzu, said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ For anyone with unmanageable debt, I highly encourage them to take that first single step: Get help from a reputable nonprofit agency that belongs to the NFCC. They can assist you in your journey, and it will be a most rewarding experience!”