debt

Military man fighting battle of the debt

Steve BucciQuestionDear Debt Adviser,
Hello, I'm currently deployed in the Middle East, and I'm in financial trouble. I have about $12,000 in credit card debt, an $180,000 mortgage, a $500 car payment, two kids and a wife. I'm over here, and I do all the bills, and it's getting very overwhelming. I can't think straight sometimes, and my job is very dangerous. But my family is in trouble. I need help. I need a total restructure of my budget and living expenses. I'm spiraling, and I lose sleep every night. Is there anyone out there that knows someone who can do this for me? I'm in financial trouble, and I don't have a lot of money. Do you have any suggestions?
-- Israel

AnswerDear Israel,
First, let me thank you for your service to our country and assure you that help is out there. Many organizations provide help for members of the military in similar situations to yours. I suggest you start by contacting Military OneSource. Military OneSource is a free service provided by the Department of Defense for service members and their families. It can help with a broad range of issues, including money management. Services are available 24 hours per day by telephone or over the Internet with professionally trained consultants. Many staff members have military experience, and all receive ongoing training on military matters and military lifestyle, so they should have a firsthand understanding of your situation. You can reach them at (800) 342-9647. You can also contact Military OneSource via Voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP. It also provides international calling options. If you need or want it, credit counseling is available in person and over the phone through a partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC. You could also contact the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies, or AICCCA, directly.

You will need to spend some time with whomever you end up contacting for assistance in order to help improve your financial situation. If your wife is able to communicate the basic financial information for you, it may save you some time. But I believe you would benefit from working with a financial counselor once he or she has a good idea of your circumstances.

I also want you to be sure to ask about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, formerly called the Soldiers and Sailors Act. This act limits the amount of interest that can be charged on your accounts, gives you special rights on court hearings, extra protection on car leases and more. For example, credit card accounts that you had before you began active duty have their interest rates limited to 6 percent ... but you have to ask for it.

Additional resources that you might consider depending on in your service branch are: Army Emergency Relief, Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Just to let you know you're not alone, I once counseled an air traffic controller who was getting collection calls in the tower while he was landing planes! He got the help he needed and so can you.

Good luck!

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