The past few months have proved financially challenging for many Americans.

You probably know of friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers who are struggling with debt, job loss or even foreclosure. You’ve no doubt had more than one conversation with people who have become frightened or despondent after watching their house and retirement plan fall in value over the past 18 months, leaving some of them to wonder if they’ll ever be able to retire. I know you’ve had these conversations because so many of our clients have contacted us on behalf of a loved one who needs assistance with his or her finances.

To help you be a good friend and neighbor to those who feel overwhelmed by their finances, here’s a brief list of resources detailing where financial help can be found. At a time when many are looking to prey on those facing difficult circumstances, it’s important to know where families can find honest advice.

• Free foreclosure prevention counseling is available through nonprofit agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ( Counselors can explain available programs and will help those eligible obtain a home loan modification or refinance under the government’s new “Making Home Affordable” program. HOPE NOW (, an alliance between HUD-approved counseling agents, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants, provides free foreclosure prevention assistance via a hotline (888-995-HOPE) staffed by HUD-approved credit counselors who can guide callers through options.

• Free and low-cost credit counseling, housing counseling, bankruptcy counseling and education is available from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (, a national nonprofit credit counseling network that has more than 100 member agencies and nearly 850 offices in communities throughout the country. NFCC-trained and certified counselors can create a debt management plan that sometimes results in reduced or waived finance charges. Services are available in person, via telephone (800-388-2227) and through the Internet. One NFCC agency we often recommend is ClearPoint Financial Solutions, a 30-year-old national non-profit organization that helps consumers with credit, housing and bankruptcy counseling. Services are available in person, via phone (877-422-9045) and through the Internet.

• The Job Loss Guide created by Edelman Financial ( is for those facing the prospect of unemployment. Our guide offers practical tips to help people prepare for unemployment as well as the newly unemployed — with special advice for those who need to deal with moving 401(k) and other retirement plan money to IRA accounts. We’ve found that many people are so busy dealing with other aspects of the job loss that they often ignore important 401(k) issues, exposing themselves to potentially big tax problems. Substantial additional information on most every personal finance topic is available free at our Web site’s article library.

          Paul Marquis
      Your Web Master