We wrote recently about how unemployment and relief are working during this pandemic, and how those payments impact you. We also talked about forms of mortgage relief, namely “forbearance.”

Whether in a time of national crisis, or in the middle of your own financial struggles, understanding and solving debt issues often comes down to one thing: Calling someone and asking for help.

We wrote back in February about medical debt, and talked about the importance of speaking with your insurance provider. Oftentimes, your insurance provider will agree that $100 is too much to charge for an aspirin, and work with you to reduce your obligation.

Way back in October, we encouraged you to talk to your mortgage lender if you were in danger of lapsing into foreclosure. Much like our recent forbearance discussion, nobody really wants you to lose your home. Most lenders are anxious to see you recover and resume regular payments.

We read something recently in the Wall Street Journal that offered some helpful tips for making these calls and having these conversations. Here are a few of our takeaways:

  • Know what you’re asking for. When you go to shop for a car, you have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to pay. When you call your mortgage lender, or credit card company, or landlord, know what you’re asking for. Do you want temporary relief? A reduction in payments? A discounted payoff? Rehearse these questions in your head, and avoid cold-calling someone and asking, “What can you do for me?”
  • Be persistent. That first customer service representative is not familiar with the particulars of your situation, and may be (like you) working from home, and unable to access your direct records. They’re also probably not the ultimate decision maker. Most of those representatives are there to answer questions – not provide solutions. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, thank them for their time and hang up. Call back later, or at a different time, and see where you get with someone new. And don’t be afraid to move things up the food chain, and hopefully talk to someone in a better position to make a decision.
  • Be honest. If you’re out of work and can’t afford an immediate payment, be clear about that. Be honest about how much you’re capable of paying. Be clear about your goals and why you’re making this call in the first place.

You’re not the only one feeling a pinch and a lot of uncertainty right now. Ultimately, you can come out of the other end of this. But it’s important to be proactive, and to find the solutions that can help you. If you’re teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, these tools may help you out, and we can help you find them.