Colorado Debt Relief Programs & Resources
InCharge provides free, nonprofit credit counseling and debt management programs to Colorado residents. If you live in Colorado and need help paying off your credit card debt, InCharge can help you.
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The experts say Colorado’s economy is on a Rocky Mountain high, and just for the record, the state’s legalization of cannabis back in 2012 only plays a small role in that analysis.
The chart-topping health and wellness of its population (the John Denver kind of Rocky Mountain high) is a bigger factor in Colorado’s lively economy. Pretty much every list of the healthiest places in the country includes Colorado in its top 10, with some ranking it No. 1 thanks to the active outdoor lifestyles and regular physical activity of its residents.
The state’s mountains, open spaces, and sunny and welcoming climate — and, yes, its legal cannabis, too — make tourism one of the primary drivers of the state’s hearty economy, along with agriculture, manufacturing and mining.
In economic terms, the state has outpaced the national average in coming back from COVID-related downturns. Since the pandemic has eased, Colorado’s unemployment rate has dropped and its economy has expanded rapidly. The employment growth has been in industries such as aerospace, biochemistry, software development, advanced technology, information technology, and clean energy.
No wonder the experts are saying nice things.
- A CNBC study lists Colorado as the fourth best state for business in 2022.
- A WalletHub study released in early summer 2022 ranked its economy sixth in the nation for economic performance and strength, based on 28 key indicators.
- It came in sixth, too, among all 50 states in the ratings for Economic Performance in the 2022 edition of ‘Rich States, Poor States.’
- S. News & World Report had its economy ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2021, behind only Utah.
That’s the good news. The not-so-good news? Most of those lofty rankings are based on backward-looking statistics. The prospects for the immediate future, while certainly not dire relative to many states, aren’t quite so rosy. That same 2022 ‘Rich States, Poor States’ analysis that ranked Colorado sixth in Economic Performance only rated it 22nd in the nation for its overall economic outlook going forward.
For starters, the comeback from the pandemic hasn’t yet been as vigorous in the leisure and hospitality sectors as the tourism industry would like to see. Mining and natural resources industries, too, are still in the COVID recovery process.
And Colorado isn’t immune to the issues causing headaches everywhere else in the U.S. The effects of the war in Ukraine, inflation, rising interest rates, and continuing supply chain problems are expected to slow down the state’s economic growth considerably by the fourth quarter of 2022.
Of course, those issues take a toll on Colorado residents. The state’s June 2022 Economic & Revenue Forecast pointed out that inflation will continue to cause particular problems for lower-income households. The report also noted an increase in the number of Coloradans taking on second jobs and drawing down on their savings.
Not surprisingly, rising prices are pushing plenty of the state’s residents into a dangerous reliance on their credit cards. A 2022 WalletHub study found that the median credit card debt in Colorado is among the least-sustainable of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Fortunately, through free credit counseling at InCharge Debt Solutions, help is available for Colorado residents whose debt is overwhelming their finances.
Debt Relief Options for Colorado Residents
The average interest rate was 17.98% for a new credit card in 2022, and that percentage is rising thanks to the recent rate hikes announced by the Federal Reserve. At nearly 18%, the current average credit card interest rate is well above where it topped out during the good old days before the COVID pandemic.
It gets worse. If you miss payments on your balance, the interest rate will skyrocket far beyond the percentage you agreed to when you signed up for the card. In many cases, it jumps to 25%-30% quickly.
When it becomes all too much, here are some of the ways InCharge can help Coloradans deal with their debts.
Colorado Debt Management Programs
A debt management program can cut credit card interest rates by more than half for cardholders flailing to keep their heads above these new high-water marks. If you’re one of them, a debt management program can reduce the interest you pay on your credit card balances to around 8%, which should lower your monthly payments to a more affordable level. It can help you eliminate your credit card debt altogether within 3-5 years.
It works like this. A nonprofit credit counseling agency such as InCharge works with your creditors to reduce the interest you’re paying and comes up with a single monthly payment tailored to what you can afford. (You know what the new monthly bill will be before you agree to take part in the program!) You make a single monthly payment to the nonprofit agency, which uses the money to pay the debts in a predetermined schedule developed by the counselor and your creditors and approved by you.
A debt management program not only reduces the amount of your total monthly payments, it also simplifies the process for you. If you have three or four credit cards with three or four different monthly deadlines and three or four different minimum payments to make to three or four different addresses or accounts, they are combined into one. You make one payment to one source, once a month.
This kind of program works with high-interest credit card debt. It is not available for secured debt such as your home and car. It consolidates and reduces many of your financial obligations without the need to take out a loan, which would add even more debt to pay off your existing debt.
And assuming you make your one monthly payment on time, a debt management program eventually will improve your credit report and credit score.
Colorado Debt Consolidation Loans
Like a debt management program, a debt consolidation loan combines a number of credit card balances into one monthly payment. A bank, credit union or online lender will loan you the amount of your total credit card debt, which you use to pay off those balances. You still owe the same amount of principal, but you’re only making one payment to the institution that gave you the loan.
Depending on your credit score, the interest on the loan can be less than the interest charged by the credit card companies, which will save you money. And the rate can be improved if you’re willing to put up collateral such as your home or car to back the loan, as most people do with a debt consolidation loan.
This option might benefit you if you have a good credit score and a comfort level with your ability to consistently make the one monthly payment on time. But the worse your credit score, the higher the loan interest will be. And if you put your home or car or anything else up as collateral, you could lose them.
Debt Settlement in Colorado
Debt settlement takes a few years, but when it works, it allows you to pay less than what you owe, and you can eliminate a debt in one lump sum. You or, more likely, a debt settlement company you hire to do it for you, negotiates a lower payment amount with the company to whom you owe the money. If you have more than one creditor, a separate debt settlement agreement must be reached with each one.
You’ll be asked to stop making payments on your credit card balances. Instead, you’ll put money into an escrow account. When the size of the escrow account is large enough, the debt settlement company starts the negotiations.
One of the drawbacks is that the credit card company might only come to terms on a settlement if it decides it’s better off getting some money from you rather than the nothing you’ve been paying. Some companies refuse debt settlement deals altogether. Another drawback is that a debt settlement (and all the missed credit card payments) will appear on your credit report for the next seven years.
Credit Card Forgiveness in Colorado
With Credit Card Debt Forgiveness, creditors agree up front to accept 50%-60% of what you owe over a three-year period. There is no negotiating or lump-sum payment. You make 36 fixed monthly payments, and your creditors forgive the rest of the balance.
As in debt management, InCharge or another nonprofit credit counseling agency sets up a once-a-month fixed payment for you on a debt that combines your credit card bills. That payment is less than what you originally owed, and you pay no interest on the outstanding balance during the three-year repayment time.
One thing to note: This is a relatively new option. So far, only a handful of banks and nonprofit credit counseling agencies are offering it. InCharge is one of the agencies that does.
Filing for Bankruptcy in Colorado
In most cases, bankruptcy should be a last resort to get out from under an avalanche of debt. But if you can’t see any other way to pay off what you owe in the next five years or so, filing for bankruptcy can give you a second chance to get your finances in order.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, most of your assets that aren’t considered essential to your everyday life are sold by a trustee appointed by the court. These “non-exempt” assets could include a vacation home, an expensive car, artwork, card collections, jewelry and the like. The proceeds of their sale is used to pay off your debts.
It is worth noting that trustees declare 94% of Chapter cases “no asset,” meaning the trustee doesn’t believe the property has any resale value.
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you create a repayment plan that allows you to keep your assets as long as you make regular payments to the court-appointed trustee to pay down your debt. That plan generally lasts 3-5 years. At the end of it, any unsecured debts such as credit cards are discharged.
Financial Resources for Colorado Residents
Colorado offers financial aid for crisis situations, help with medical expenses, legal aid, and help dealing with debt collectors.
The state makes grant and assistance programs available to state residents, and it delivers federally funded help through rent vouchers for low-income people. Many of these programs can be found through the Colorado Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK) website, where you can apply for medical, food, cash and early childhood-assistance programs in one place.
Some of the assistance programs available to Colorado residents include:
- Health First Colorado: The state’s Medicaid program provides low-cost public health insurance to low-income Coloradans who qualify.
- Housing Choice Voucher Program: Formerly known as Section 8, this federally funded program provides rental assistance to income-eligible residents, subsidizing a portion of their monthly rent and utilities. If utilities are not included in rent, the program may pay a larger portion of the rent to help tenants afford utility payments.
- Colorado WORKS: This cash-assistance program helps residents with very low incomes through monthly payments, help with emergency household expenses, and/or services such as counseling, training and employment assistance.
- Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP):This program provides child care assistance to families who are working, searching for employment, or are in training, and families who are enrolled in the Colorado Works program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency.
- Low-Income Energy Assistance (LEAP): This federally funded program helps pay a portion of winter home-heating costs for low-income residents.
- Colorado Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) Program: This program provides income-qualified Coloradans in participating counties with energy-efficient upgrades at no cost, whether they own their own homes or rent.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Residents struggling to purchase food can get financial help through SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.
- Colorado Employment First: A part of the SNAP, this initiative increases employment opportunities for food stamp participants through referrals, support, accountability, and community work.
- Colorado Low Income Telephone Assistance Program: This federally funded program provides monthly discounts on phone bills as well as help paying set-up fees or deposits on a new account.
- Colorado Mortgage Foreclosure Hotline: This hotline connects callers with mortgage counselors who can provide information on your options when facing foreclosure. The number is 1-877-601-HOPE (4773).
- Colorado Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+): This low-cost insurance plan is offered to Colorado’s uninsured children and pregnant women who cannot afford private health insurance. For information, call 1-800-359-1991.
- Hospital Financial Assistance: This Colorado Consumer Health Initiative service helps uninsured patients navigate the financial assistance programs that Colorado hospitals are required to offer.
- Colorado Office of Financial Empowerment: This office, created in 2021, focuses on developing strategies to support local communities to help grow the financial resilience and well-being of Colorado’s most economically vulnerable communities.
- Community Resources for Women in Need of Assistance: This website includes links to statewide and Denver metro resources for aid to women in immediate need, specifically, and to accelerate economic opportunities for Colorado women and their families, generally.
Debt Statistics for Colorado
In the 10-year period from 2010 to 2020, Colorado’s population grew at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the nation, making it the seventh-fasted-growing state in the country. It is home now to approximately 5.85 million people, with a projection that the population will increase to 7.8 million by 2040.
People seem to want to move to Colorado, despite a cost-of-living index that puts it in the top third of the most expensive states in which to live.
Here are more things to know about the cost of living and Colorado’s economy:
- Colorado’s cost of living is the 17th -highest of the 50 states according to World Population Review’s 2022 analysis, with a cost of living that is 5% higher than the national average.
- Most of the high cost of living in Colorado is a function of a housing shortage, which is perhaps not surprising in light of the population growth. Housing costs, whether buying or renting, are 17% higher than the national average.
- The cost of monthly utilities is 13% lower than the national average.
- Transportation costs are 6% higher than the national average.
- The cost of healthcare services in Colorado is 2% lower than the national average.
- The poverty rate in Colorado in 2022 is 9.78%. Nationally, it is 14.4%.
- Colorado’s unemployment rate in June 2022 was 3.4%, compared to the national rate of 6%.
- In 2022, the Wall Street Journal rated Denver, the state capitol, as the nation’s 7th-hottest job market among metropolitan areas of at least 1 million people.
- The total average consumer debt in Colorado in 2021 was $140,327, up 6.3% from 2020 according to a study by Experian. That’s the highest in the nation except for the District of Columbia.
- Colorado’s credit card-holders rank 10th in the nation in highest median credit card debt ($2,646) in 2022, according to a WalletHub study.
- That same study reports it would take the median Colorado resident 13 months and 25 days to pay off his or her credit card balance.
- The median household income in Colorado in 2022 is $72,331, which ranks 11th in the country.
- In September 2021, Colorado’s average mortgage debt was $297,813, the fourth-highest among all states.
- An estimated 70.8% of Colorado homeowners have a mortgage. The national average is 61.7%.
- Colorado’s debt delinquency rate is 21%, compared to the national average of 26%.
- The average auto loan balance in Colorado in 2021 was $21,593, up 5% from 2020. The national average in 2021 was $20,987.
- The average student loan debt for students graduating from Colorado’s public universities college with a four-year degree was $25,700 in 2020. That number has fallen every year since 2015. The most recent national average debt for a bachelor’s degree was $28,950.
- The average FICO credit score in Colorado was 728 in 2021. The national FICO average was 714.
- So far in 2022, bankruptcy filings are down in Colorado. Through June, the state recorded 2,389 bankruptcy filings, a 32% drop from the first six months of 2021.
Avoid Debt Relief Scams
Coloradans should be prudent and smart when pondering debt relief, and keep in mind that there are those who will prey on you when you are in a difficult position.
These are the two most obvious signs of a debt relief scam:
- Someone contacts you with offers to settle your debt. Any unsolicited call offering help with debt has a good chance of being a scam.
- They ask for fees up front. Anyone who makes you pay first, before helping with your debt, likely is a scammer.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office recommends filing a complaint if either of the above happen. The Attorney General also recommends credit counseling to help with debt issues. InCharge Debt Services has licensed credit counselors who are obligated by law to act in a client’s best interests.
Seek Professional Help
A certified credit counselor at InCharge will help Colorado residents review all their options as they look for ways to get out from under their debt load. The initial counseling sessions are free and can be done over the phone, in person or online. They usually last no more than 40-45 minutes.
An InCharge counselor can walk you through the ins-and-outs of a debt management plan. The sessions can also entail anything from how to create a budget to how to file for bankruptcy. Nonprofit agencies such as InCharge also offer free reading material to help educate consumers about how to manage their money.
Among other things, counselors at nonprofit agencies can work with you to create an affordable monthly budget, offer advice on managing money and debts, and help you get a copy of your credit report and scores. Anyone experiencing problems with debt would benefit from a free counseling session.
About The Author
Michael Knisley writes about managing your personal finances for InCharge Debt Solutions. He was an assistant professor on the faculty at the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism and has more than 40 years of experience editing and writing about business, sports and the spectrum of issues affecting consumers and fans. During his career, Michael has won awards from the New York Press Club, the Online News Association, the Military Reporters and Editors Association, the Associated Press Sports Editors and the Sports Emmys.
- N.A. (2022, July 13) America’s Top States for Business 2022: The full rankings. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/13/americas-top-states-for-business-2022-the-full-rankings.html
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- N.A. (ND) States Overview: Colorado. Retrieved from https://www.richstatespoorstates.org/states/CO/
- N.A. (ND) Economy Rankings: Measuring states’ economic stability and potential. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings/economy
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- N.A. (2022, June) Economic & Revenue Forecast, Colorado Legislative Council Staff. Retrieved from https://leg.colorado.gov/sites/default/files/images/lcs/june22forecast.pdf
- McCann, A. (2022, July 26) 2022’s States with the Highest & Lowest Credit-Card Debts. Retrieved from https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-highest-and-lowest-credit-card-debts/63822
- N.A. (ND) STATE PROFILE, Colorado Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.codot.gov/programs/your-transportation-priorities/colorado-transportation-matters-old/assets/documents/statewide-transit-plan/chapter-3-state-profile.pdf
- N.A. (ND) Cost of Living Index by State 2022. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/cost-of-living-index-by-state
- Horymski, C. (2022, April 29) Consumer Debt Continued to Grow in 2021 Amid Economic Uncertainty. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/consumer-debt-study/