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Clean Slate Podcast – Episode 5

In episode 5 of the Clean Slate Podcast, Juan explains CreditGuard’s approach to debt management and how they help consumers pay down their debt.


About the Speaker:Juan Valladares

Juan Valladares is the Vice President of CreditGuard of America, Inc. and has been working in the credit counseling industry since 1997.

Juan began his career at a major answering service center, responsible for the training and supervision of over two hundred employees. Now in charge of managing CreditGuard’s counseling department, Juan’s management, organizational and motivational skills are all vital to the company’s success.

Juan is a devoted father of two and a passionate racquetball player who competes regularly to satisfy his competitive instincts. He has dedicated his professional life to helping people get out – and stay out – of debt.


“Clean Slate” Podcast Episode 5: The CreditGuard Approach to Debt Management

Wayne: So how does CreditGuard approach debt management and/or helping consumers pay down debt?

Juan: It starts off, as I mentioned before, in getting an understanding of where the consumer lies when it comes to their finances. I’ll give you an example of what a typical conversation will consist of when a consumer contacts us or walks through the door and sits across the table from one of our certified credit counselors.

First and foremost, we have to build the rapport; find out what some of their concerns are, because it’s not just the financial aspect of things, there’s also the emotional part of this. The stress that finances can create in humans can cause their health to obviously be poor. We have to see exactly where they are coming from, and what some of their concerns are. Do they feel overwhelmed with all of their debt; are they getting too many calls from creditors? The most important thing to do first, I always go back to this, is to see where they are with their finances.

We start to gather the names of the creditors that they have, amounts that they owe, the interest rates that they have with those types of creditors, and we’ll put together what their monthly payments are for each one of them. We’ll also look at all different types of income; some people with overtime, babysitting jobs for the family, whatever that income may be, we have to gather that and put it all together.

We then begin to look at some of their monthly expenses. Most people don’t really realize what they spend [money] on, especially when it comes to their hobbies. They may have some idea about their mortgages, their rent, their car loans, their car insurance, but we get quite detailed, like ‘Okay, how much do you spend to go get your hair done on a monthly basis?’ or, ‘How much do you spend if you go to the movies?’ or anything like that.

So typically, we start to gather all of the information together. We do have our own software applications where we enter all of this information, and then we come up with a plan for them. We see at that point what is it that we can do to help them at least manage their finances at this particular time. We’ll recommend things like ‘Okay, it seems like you’re spending a little bit too much money on this side, we should just lower that but apply this particular loan or this particular debt and that should help you alleviate some of the problems that you have.’

In addition, we may make some recommendations to contact the creditors directly and see if they can give you some benefits like lowering the interest rates or something like that. A lot of the time, it’s just organizing and helping them with their finances and budgets that help the consumers quite significantly. But then there are cases where people are having financial difficulties, they are falling behind in their monthly payments, and that’s really where we specialize.That’s really our specialty: helping consumers who are having financial difficulties.

At that moment we see their overall finances; we see how our debt management plan will be able to help them out. And the good thing about debt management plans is that there are a significant amount of benefits. For example, we are able to get a reduction in interest rates from each one of their creditors that they owe. We are also able to reduce the actual monthly payments a significant amount, up to approximately 50% in most cases from what they were making on their own. We’ll stop any late fees, discontinue any late fees, or any over-the-limit penalties that they may be incurring because they are having financial difficulties, or falling behind in their payments.

Another benefit is that we can thing also re-age the account. Re-aging is a benefit that creditors offer to consumers once they go through our program which means to mark the payments back on track, back up to date, typically in the credit report.

So overall, it’s a good thing for them. They come to us; we gather all of the information and determine where they’re at with their finances. If they’re falling behind in their monthly expenses, or their credit card payments, we simply just start to apply the debt management plan, apply all of the benefits, and we get them on a new payment plan that is going to get them out of debt in a period of approximately five years or less.

Wayne: Wow. The benefits seem absolutely incredible. And you mentioned the sort of hunting and gathering process as you have in the past, and it seems like you’re saying yes, someone could get that together on their own and then call, or they could also just get the things they need and if it seems overwhelming than their counselor will work with them over the phone to help them through the actual process of making the list if need be.

“We’re all certified counselors; we’re all professionals here. Conversations are between the counselor and the consumer.”

Juan: That is correct. It’s embarrassing to contact somebody and tell them, ‘Hi. I’m having financial difficulties. I’m not able to manage this on my own. Can you please help me?’ to a complete stranger.

The great thing about our counselors is that they’ve been doing this for a very long time. We go through an extensive training plan with them, something that is required by the states, anyway. Many of the states require that our counselors be certified so they have to be certified within six months of employment. They go through an extreme training course of sensitivity, psychological things, and of course the financing part of it. We’re all certified counselors; we’re all professionals here. Conversations are between the counselor and the consumer.

They’ve seen this over and over again. Conversations can last an hour, or go on for weeks at a time sometimes because the consumer may be calling back and forth communicating with their counselor regarding their finances and some of the things that they’ve done. But really, once we’ve determined what the cause may be, and we’ve come up with a solution for them, we start that process immediately as far as the debt management plan is concerned.

We’ll send out contracts, they’ll sign them over, full disclosures on everything that we have. We’ll get them in a plan as quickly as possible, to start giving them some relief, and most importantly, relieve the tension. It’s so important to be able to just breathe at the end of the day, and not be overwhelmed with all of these finances and then people can live their life a little more comfortably.

Wondering if our services might be a good fit? Call 1-800-500-6489 or visit our Debt Solutions page for more information on how we can help you get out of debt. The call and initial consolation are free, so what are you waiting for?