A good credit counselor can help

Figure carrying red debt sign

If you're buried in bills, you need professional help from a reputable credit counselor who can review your finances and help you get out of debt.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad credit counselors out there, looking to profit from your problems.

That's why we recommend members of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the nation's biggest and oldest credit-counseling organization.

Its 120 member agencies abide by a set of professional and ethical standards that have served many individuals and families well for the past 50 years.

Here's where to find a credit counselor in your area.

A good credit counselor will thoroughly evaluate each client's income and expenses before recommending a debt reduction plan.

Many consumers are surprised to find that they can catch up on their bills by simply spending a little less, managing their cash more wisely or taking on a part-time job.

For consumers with more serious problems, NFCC members can establish a debt management plan.

That requires the credit counselor to negotiate with your creditors to write off part of what you owe and establish a realistic, 36-to-60-month repayment schedule to retire the balance.

In many cases, the counselor also persuades credit card issuers and bill collectors to reduce or waive many of the late fees and other penalties they've imposed.

Whatever the plan, a good credit counselor can put an end to harassing phone calls and help re-establish your credit after you're out of debt.

The fees will be modest. Many NFCC members charge nothing to review your finances and less than $100 to establish a debt management plan.