Death of a Credit Card Balance, Part 2
When the creditors come calling, here's what you should and shouldn't do.
Over the summer, the deluge of calls started to come in with a vengeance from all the various creditors. My accounts were in different degrees of delinquency, and I was more than familiar with the song and dance I described earlier when they called. The situation was fairly straightforward: My accounts receivable were slow in coming in, and my bills were fast in piling up.
On one particularly exasperating day, I remember thinking, "Given the choice of talking to someone from Bank of America (BAC) or someone from the IRS, I'd take the IRS right about now."
However, as I spoke to more and more of these collections folks, I learned quite a bit from them about how to make my situation better.
Things You Definitely Want to Do:
1. DO answer the phone. Despite how frustrating it is when the calls seem frequent, inconvenient, and never-ending, you must answer the phone. Automatic dialers make most of these collection calls (especially when the delinquency is less than 30 days). If the dialer reaches a voicemail, it hangs up and tries again in an hour. Or sooner. According to the law, it's not considered harassment unless you answer the phone and they continue to call you anyway.
2. If they haven't reached you at a good time, DO tell them a better time to reach you so they can call you back. Then answer the phone. They'll follow up according to your instructions, guaranteed.
3. If you need an extension of time, DO ask for one. I found this to be helpful with my utility bills when I was working with American Express (AXP) to comply with a payment arrangement I made. It was kind of like robbing Peter to pay Paul, but hey -- if Cablevision didn't mind giving me an extra 10 days to come up with payment, I was happy to take them up on their generous "offer."
4. DO treat the caller with respect, even if they don't reciprocate. If you cannot make a payment at this time, and you aren't sure when you'll be able to make one, ask him/her what your options are. Does the company have any special programs you might qualify for at this time? Would it be possible to reduce the payment/interest? Can you pay something now and something later? They want to help you pay -- their job performance is judged (and sometimes even their pay is affected) by getting you back in the good graces of the company in question.
5. DO protect your confidence. It's important for your emotional and mental well-being to stay positive throughout this whole process. It's critical that you remember you are not a delinquent, even though your payment may be.
This was very hard for me to deal with when I went through it. I tended to withdraw from others, including my clients (which didn't help my business one bit). I beat myself up because I "should have known better." How did I let this happen? Why wasn't I pulling myself through this faster, better, smoother, etc.This was just not me.
Well, guess what? It was me. At least in that moment it was. I had two choices: wallow in self-pity and play the victim in the mess I'd created, or put the past in the past and deal with what was happening in the present.
There was nothing I could do about the balances on my credit cards now. The money was spent. And quite frankly, the large majority of it was well-spent on investments in myself and my business that I knew would pay off eventually.
6. DO get help! Depending on your circumstances, there may be qualified advisors and coaches that can get you through this, or even someone else who's been through it. (Email me if you have to!)
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