MasterCard has recently launched a consumer assistance site called Debt Know How. I found it not only loaded with great tips and information but a solid reference work for those in need of varying financial calculators.
The site is divided into 6 parts: Debt Basics, Debt Warning Signs, Assess Your Debt, Know Your Credit History, Pay Off Your Debt and Debt Resources. Each of these divisions is further divided into bite size morsels offering a very good overview of the topic.
For example Debt Resources offers links to federal sites, bankruptcy authorities, and credit agencies. It also lists some downloadable resources in a PDF format such as a debt warning sign quiz, cash flow worksheet and a sample letter to a creditor. There is also a rather good series of often asked Q&A;'s.
Similarly, the section on Debt Warning Signs not only includes common sense approaches to handling financial emergencies but also offers a section entitled "Helping Friends and Family". A good deal of effort was put into adding this section as the concept is one I have never considered in my many years of teaching and writing on this subject.
I was particularly impressed with Assess Your Debt which offers a 4-step plan to manage expenses. Each step offers fill-in styled calculators. You can easily determine what you owe but it also displays your debt to income ratio. Included also is one of the best fill-in budget worksheets I have ever seen. This extensive worksheet encompasses 6 different calculators for 6 different areas of your financial life. Finally, there is a cost-cutting worksheet to help reduce expenses within each of these same 6 areas. The concept empowers the individual to develop a personal plan to get back on financial track.
I feel so strong about this section that henceforth I will be referencing these calculators as I counsel clients in debt reduction. Who says crunching numbers isn't fun?!?
I spoke with Patrick Dwyer who is MasterCard's Vice President of Consumer and Government Affairs. I asked about the formation of the site.
"Formulated in April of 2005, MasterCard launched the site in November in order to take consumers to a different level of what is currently being offered online in terms of debt education. Robust calculators are a good example. We have gone far beyond the norm [with reference to other educational material available] to help people in this area. Debt Know How is designed to empower the consumer to understand their debt situation and make a personal plan to pay off debt."
During our conversation, Mr. Dwyer also referenced "Train the Trainer" courses available for this same material.
"Available to educators and consumer affair agencies, two Train the Trainer course pilot programs have now been completed. There will be even more this year."
One more note about the site- at the top of each Debt Know How page is a link to fraud prevention tips, identity theft info. and a glossary. In closing, if you or someone you know has a need for a solid basic education about consumer debt issues, I would be hard pressed to offer a better free resource.
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