When dealing with credit card debt, make it a priority 

Joan Hatem-Roy

Question:

I owe a sizable amount on several credit cards. This past year, I was hospitalized and had to charge my deductibles and some medications. In addition, I had to replace the transmission on my car. I can afford to pay only the minimum amount due on these credit cards. I have never been in debt, and now I am worried. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

You are not alone in such a financial situation. In a recent Forbes article, it was found that for seniors, "carrying a credit card balance is the strongest predictor of struggling to pay monthly bills and facing financial strain.” However, you can try and control your amount of debt. Your high bills for medical care and prescriptions suggest your health insurance is not meeting your needs.

I encourage you to review your current health insurance coverage with one of the highly trained volunteer counselors from the SHINE (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone) Program. SHINE volunteers provide free, unbiased information and are thoroughly familiar with all of the approved plans in the area where you live and may help you locate another company with more comprehensive coverage. This is especially important for anyone who requires many prescription medications as not all plans are equal. You may be too late to address your current bills, but, in the future, remember that hospital billing departments often work with patients to arrange payment plans that have lower rates than credit cards. To arrange a Medicare consultation, call your local Senior Center or the regional SHINE office at 978-946-1374.

Additionally, you may want to consider making credit card debt and consolidation of those debts a top priority. Many organizations offer debt consolidation services but choose a reputable one that has your best interests in mind. One option is the Financial Resource Program, part of the AARP Foundation, which is administered through our agency. The program’s goals are to assist older adults in making sound financial decisions and to provide them with the basic skills to successfully manage their financial resources.

These volunteers handle all conversations with the highest level of sensitivity and confidentiality. They can offer suggestions about reducing your credit card debt, but the final decision on taking any action will be yours. If you wish to pursue that route, they may be able to aid you in negotiating with the credit card or debt consolidation company. You can contact the Financial Resource Program at 978-946-1462.

I wish you the best of luck.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

 

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