Come Out From the Shadow of Debt

FT_Jan21-DebtFree

Thinking of lightening your financial burdens? Check out GreenPath, a national company with offices in northwest Oklahoma City that empowers people to lead financially healthy lives through various programs and services like debt management and financial coaching. Every day, this nonprofit talks with 2,500 people to make plans for a more positive financial future. Overseeing the Oklahoma City branch is Emily Reed, who has also assisted people to healthier financial paths in Texas, Michigan and across the East Coast. “I’ve been with GreenPath for 18 years,” Reed said.

On average, each household in the United States carries $90,000 in debt. Since COVID-19, the company is now seeing the largest housing debt needs in history. All debt, in general, has been amplified due to the pandemic. However, there is hope for each person. “They are not alone,” Reed said. “We are here to help.”

In 2020, GreenPath assisted 503 Oklahoma City clients on their way to financial wellness. Of those clients, 316 are in the Debt Management Plan. By understanding each person’s unique situation, GreenPath can guide clients through any financial crisis whether it be overwhelming debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy or credit challenges. Once the financial situation is assessed, programs can then be offered for a solution. Such programs include credit counseling, debt management, financial education, housing counseling and bankruptcy counseling/education services. “It is customizable,” Reed said.

One success story is from an Oklahoma City area client who had accrued $37,000 in credit card debt. After incurring additional expenses due to her brother’s funeral, her payments and living expenses were no longer affordable on a fixed income. She was frequently facing overdrafts, often several hundred dollars short, in her checking account.

After getting on a GreenPath Debt Management Plan, she saved $386 each month on her minimum monthly payments. Her average interest rate went from 21% to around 10%, and she saved a lot in interest. The savings helped her avoid overdrafts in her checking account. She is estimated to pay off her debt in February 2021.

Many people, Reed explained, don’t want to admit they have a lot of debt. Some are ashamed and some feel as if it is their “dirty little secret.” It is a major reason why it is hard for people to get out of debt. But if they can take the first step in addressing it, financial wellness is a possibility.

Reed recalled a long-ago client who did take the first step and contacted GreenPath for help. This person was reluctant to make any changes but once she heard about the Debt Management Plan, she made the leap. After six months on the plan, she paid off a credit card and was on her way to being debt-free. The client was so excited and sent Reed a photo of the credit card statement with a zero balance. Reed still has that photo and that happy memory.

For more information email Emily Reed at ereed@greenpath.com; call GreenPath at 1-800-476-7284; or visit greenpath.com.

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