It's no secret Memphis is home to some of the worst credit ratings in the country. If you're in debt and want to get out there are options.
Emmy Stricklin learned about one of them when she downloaded her free money management application called Credit Karma. "It brought everything into light. I typed in my information. It said these are all the cards open. Any loans open in your name. This is how much you owe on each one and this is where they put you," she said.
Within six months, Stricklin says she was able to cut her debt in half. She says she was also able to get a free copy of her credit score through her app, something the financial experts say is the first thing you should do if you want to get your debt under control. "It shows where you stand," said Bruce Hopkins who is the president of the West Tennessee region of First Tennessee Bank. Hopkins says most banks will provide you with some sort of free credit counseling and that free credit report. "There are a lot of people who aren't aware of that" he said.
Payment reminders are also usually free. Stricklin says she sets hers up through the app on her phone. Most credit card companies will email you a reminder if you sign up. "Sometimes I completely forget that I had a bill due and about 5 days before it's due my phone lets me know it's time to pay," Stricklin said.
Hopkins says you might want to consider another option. "In Memphis, there's a wonderful program. It's called the RISE foundation. It was created in 1999," he said.
"I'm glad he said that because basically the work we do really helps a lot of low income families move forward," said Linda Williams with the RISE foundation. At the RISE foundation, anyone who lives in Shelby County can get free financial help, sometimes in a classroom. "We try to help them first to look at what their expenses are and first look also at their income coming in. If they don't match, that means something needs to happen," Williams said.
If you qualify for public housing or the earned income tax credit, you can take part in what's called the "save up program." It's also free. "For every dollar that they save, we match it with two dollars up to $2,000, which means they can have $3,000 for an asset purchase," Williams said.
Williams says she sometimes refers clients to Clear Point Financial Solutions. Free credit counseling is available there too, but it's usually offered over the phone. "We go through the budget of the monthly expenses that the client has and we make suggestions and recommendations," said Cynthia Hampton. Hampton says her staff also coaches you on how to deal with your creditors. She says all counselors there are certified and they're even approved to offer free housing counseling. If you can't make it to them, they'll come to you. "We give them free presentations, we will bring giveaways for each client as well as the information," she said. Giveaways that include pens, cups and even chip clips.
As for Emmy, she says she plans to be debt free by December.
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