If you’re a Georgian looking for reinforcements as you wage an uphill battle against credit card debt, help is here.

You’d rather not talk about money? We get it. So does Kenneth White, Ph.D., a professor in financial planning and consumer economics at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. White oversaw an eye-opening study about the power discussion plays in the successful understanding, management, and distressing of personal finance.

“Money is a taboo topic in society,” White says. “Parents don’t talk to their kids about money. Instead, one of the things a lot of families do comes down to mental accounting. They try to keep it all in their heads.”

That almost never works, White says, and can lead to generational trouble. Instead, he advises talking about money over a written budget, and tick every box: “This is our income; these are our bills. Explain that resources are finite, so you have to plan,” he said.

White’s study indicates families that include frank talks about money — where it comes from, the purpose it serves, how to run a budget, and how to save and invest — cultivate offspring who report having less anxiety and more optimism about their ability to manage money and secure their financial futures.

If this not your lived experience and, as a result, you’re battling a debt monster, read on. InCharge Debt Solutions offers counseling to residents across the United States, including Georgia.

Georgia Debt Relief

If you’re among those who achieved adulthood without much in the way of money talk, all is not lost: InCharge is among the nonprofit debt counseling services operating in the Peach State. Georgians seeking help online can begin their investigations with a free credit counseling session.

Concerned about a low credit score? Not to worry. It’s not a factor with InCharge’s debt management program. Even consumers with bad credit can enroll in our debt management program.

InCharge works with creditors to consolidate your debt, lower the interest rate on your credit card balances (to around 8%, sometimes lower), and create an affordable monthly payment plan. InCharge oversees the program, taking your single payment each month and dispersing it in agreed-upon portions to your creditors. Sound good? Learn more online or by telephone.

Other avenues to consider include:

  • Debt settlement – This is a plan to get your creditors to accept less than what is owed. With a debt settlement plan, a company will agree to accept a lump-sum payment that is less than what is owed on your debt. This can be the solution for people who are battling just to make minimum monthly payments, those who have fallen behind on their bills, or those who have been forced to use credit cards or loans to take care of personal or business expenses. However, this is a risky option that will do damage to your credit score for seven years.
  • Debt consolidation loans – If you have a good credit score (something higher than 670), this can be a good debt-relief option. That good credit score allows you to receive a loan with lower interest rates so you can pay off your credit card debt. It is worth remembering, however, that you’ll still have the consolidation loan to pay off. If your credit score is low, you could be hit hard with steep interest rates and this could cost you as much or more than continuing to pay your credit card debt.
  • Bankruptcy – This option can eliminate credit card debt, but your credit score will drop dramatically for the next 7-10 years. It could become very difficult to get a home or car loan over that timeframe if you are seeking an upgrade in the near future.
  • DIY (Do It Yourself) Plan – This can be done through a personal loan, a zero-interest credit card, a home-equity line of credit (HELOC), or a cash-out refinance of your home (if you have plenty of equity). Getting on a strict budget (at least temporarily severing those subscriptions and splurges you hold dear) and using either the snowball or avalanche approaches to reducing credit card debt, also work.

Georgia Debt Resources

While a debt consolidation program is one potential solution to money woes — even keep you out of bankruptcy — Georgians have other state and local options to help get them through a financial crunch: rent assistance, subsidized childcare, foreclosure aid, medical expenses, legal aid, utility bill relief, and food assistance — to name only a few. The state also administers certain federally funded financial aid programs.

Among the assistance programs offered in Georgia:

  • PeachCare for Kids, offering low-cost or free health insurance for children up to the age of 19, can help families pay medical bills and health care expenses. Children under the age of 6 are covered free.
  • Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS), through its county branches, helps low income and working poor Georgia families find and afford quality childcare for youngsters up to the age of 13 (or 18 if the child is disabled).
  • Georgia Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a monthly cash-assistance grant program designed for poor families with children under age 18.
  • It’s a mouthful, but the Georgia Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets helps those who have suffered a reduction in income, such as a layoff, reduced hours, or other income shrinkage.
  • Through Workforce Centers and other offices, Georgia Career Counseling and Resources for Unemployed provides clients free support and assistance, including counseling, leads to government training, resume reviews, and more.
  • The Division of Family and Children Services offers some emergency assistance, focusing on low-income families, unemployed people, seniors, single parents, and the disabled. The agency also can help eligible families enroll in Medicaid, a joint federal-state program designed to help low-income people afford medical care.
  • Federally funded, the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) helps low-income Georgians defray the costs of heating and cooling their homes.
  • Georgia families struggling to afford their groceries may be eligible for food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Need help affording a phone (land line or cellular)? Your connection to the outside world is a necessity, not a luxury. Check with Lifeline and Link-Up, two of the primary sources of phone-related aid for low-income families, senior citizens, and the disabled. The discount plans are offered through telephone companies, traditional and wireless.
  • Do not overlook nonprofits (the United Way, Salvation Army, food banks/pantries) and charities, such as churches and other faith-based entities, when looking for stop-gap resources.

Being in Debt in Georgia

This brings us back to Dr. White, who wants us to talk routinely about what money is, what it does, and how we can be its master.

The problem, White observes, is that most families have trouble getting past the taboo part. The evidence is rampant in Georgia, where residents know more than a little about spending beyond their means.

At the end of 2020, Peach State residents ranked seventh in the nation for credit card debt, fifth for student loan debt, and third for auto debt.

It’s not like they were managing those balances all the well, either: One study ranked Georgians No. 6 for bad money management, the result of combining the state’s median household income (29th) and its average credit score (45th).

The good news: Even if your parents didn’t school you on money management (don’t be too harsh; their parents probably didn’t, either), InCharge has experts on the topic. If you’re serious about shrinking your debt while learning (at last) about money and getting your financial life in order, we’re ready to help you rally.

Once that happens, you can start taking advantage of Georgia’s overall economic advantages: the nation’s ninth lowest cost of cost of living, highlighted by the seventh lowest cost of housing. (Not everyone has to live in Buckhead, after all.)

Sources

Duffin, E. (2020, March 27) U.S. per capita personal income, by state 2019. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/303555/us-per-capita-personal-income/

Duffin, E. (2020, September 25) Per capita personal income in Georgia from 2000 to 2019. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/205231/per-capita-personal-income-in-georgia/

N.A. (ND) Per Capita Income by State 2020. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/per-capita-income-by-state

N.A. (ND) Cost of Living Index by State 2020. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/cost-of-living-index-by-state

Masterson, L. (2021, January 6) States with Lowest Cost of Living. Retrieved from https://www.insure.com/cost-of-living-by-state.html

Villarreal, C. (2019, September 19) Georgia ranked among top 10 states with highest credit card debt. Retrieved from https://www.ajc.com/business/economy/georgia-ranked-among-top-states-with-highest-credit-card-debt/aZP1uxkP84PAT0wUSvYLXK/

Villarreal, C. (2019, November 19) Georgia ranked among top 10 worst states for money management. Retrieved from https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/georgia-ranked-among-top-10-worst-states-for-money-management/1010189218/

N.A. (2020, November 30) Georgia Home Values/Georgia Market Overview. Retrieved from https://www.zillow.com/ga/home-values/

N.A. (ND) Georgia Fair Market Rent for 2020. Retrieved from https://www.rentdata.org/states/georgia/2020

N.A. (ND) Georgia Assistance and Financial Aid Programs. Retrieved from https://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/georgia_assistance_programs.html

Powell, C. (ND) Kenneth J. White. Retrieved from https://facsmag.uga.edu/story/kenneth-white