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YOUR MONEY: Tackle late bill payments and debt collector phone calls

Baton Rouge WAFB logo Baton Rouge WAFB 9/29/2020 Amanda Kitch
a cellphone on a table: Financial experts say you should not ignore calls from a debt collector. © Provided by Baton Rouge WAFB Financial experts say you should not ignore calls from a debt collector.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It can be easy to forget about a bill sometimes, and the late fees and bill collector phone calls can get overwhelming.

A recent survey by debt recovery platform, Symend, shows over half of Americans have been late to pay a bill because they don’t have the money or they forgot about the bill altogether.

Then comes the debt collector phone calls.

At that moment, do you answer it, or do you ignore it? Jessica Sharon from Pelican State Credit Union says pick up the phone.

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“It’s really, really important to talk to them and say, 'Hey, this is what is going on in my situation. What kind of arrangements can we make?’” said the director of financial outreach.

If you’re behind on a bill and strapped for cash, ask your debt collector for a different payment arrangement with clear terms you both agree upon.

"Talking with your creditor, finding a solution that works for both of you is going to be the best case scenario,” said Sharon. “Ultimately, they want you to pay the bill. You want to pay the bill.”

She reminds us that debt collectors are people too and may be sympathetic to your situation. To her, it’s all about communication.

“If you know you’re going to be late, call them first. Call your bill collector first and say, ‘Hey, I was just laid off. It was because of COVID. What can we do?’”

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It’s better to deal with your payments head-on. A late house or car note and credit card bill show up on your credit report immediately, which doesn’t bode well for your credit score. Plus, late fees on your utility bills add up.

“The more money you pay in late fees, then the less money that you have, and if you’re already strapped for cash and can’t make it paycheck to paycheck, having to pay those late fees can really affect your budget,” said Sharon.

She says financial stress affects your quality of life and you’re not alone if you experience it. Reach out for help from a financial institution to steer you back on track.

Call 211 to find help for things like utility payments and food pantry options. Any supplemental resources you bring into your home may help free up more income to make bill payments on time.

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