One-on-One with DebtWave’s Certified Credit Counselor Pat Gombes

For more than five years, one of DebtWave’s Certified Credit Counselors, Pat Gombes, has helped hundreds of consumers struggling to find that bright light at the end of a dark debt tunnel. In fact, Pat has helped so many people through this process, she now has it down to a science.

“When I first start talking to someone, they often feel stuck, alone, like they don’t have any options,” Gombes shared. “When you are behind on your bills you start to feel like the world is closing in. What I like to do is remind them to take a deep breath and remember that they are more than that debt. I want them to see past the debt, see what it would be like to live debt-free.”

Gombes brings up a good point here. Oftentimes when we find ourselves with an uncomfortable amount of debt, we feel shame and embarrassment, which further prevents us from getting the assistance or support we need, especially when it comes to personal finance.

One-on-One with DebtWave’s Certified Credit Counselor Pat Gombes

While Gombes knows first-hand how a debt management program can lessen the amount and duration it takes to pay off debt, there’s a large education component every time she’s speaking with a new client. Gombes noted that individuals often have their guard up because they’ve been passed around to numerous companies and they’re unsure if they’ll be asked to file bankruptcy or if a debt management program will help them after all.

When you are behind on your bills you start to feel like the world is closing in. What I like to do is remind them to take a deep breath and remember that they are more than that debt. I want them to see past the debt, see what it would be like to live debt-free.

To try and help consumers feel less shame surrounding their debt, Gombes said she’ll ask them to imagine a life, a time in which their financial situation is improved. “I’ll ask them, you know, how would that make you feel? To wake up and have your debt be gone?”

I want them to be able to dream again, to really get lost in imagining what kind of vacation they may plan, to save for retirement, a child’s college fund, or just create an emergency fund, Gombes explained. She noted that it’s those moments when we dream big that our debt load doesn’t seem as consuming, which allows us the time to separate the debt, our financial mistakes, from who we are and our worth.

When meeting with Gombes or any of DebtWave’s certified credit counselors, the first step is to determine your outstanding balance on your different credit cards and/or lines of credit. Once the debt amount is determined, your credit counselor will also help you understand how much of your monthly payment is going toward interest and fees, and how much is actually going toward paying off your debt.

This is an important part of the education component as Gombes notes that many people are surprised at just how problematic high-interest rates and rewards can be, especially when it comes to store-branded credit cards.

“I’m often explaining to consumers how if they are using a store card with a 25 percent or more interest rate because they get 25 percent off for using that credit card on that purchase, they are really not benefitting from any sale or discount unless they pay off the balance of that card in full each month,” she explained. “This is expensive money!”

Creating a Workable, Personalized Budget

Once your credit counselor has determined your total outstanding debts and credit score, your credit counselor will work with you to create a detailed budget. Specifically, your credit counselor will ask you how much you spend on monthly expenses such as:

  • Housing/Rent
  • Food/Groceries
  • Donations
  • Insurance
  • School/Education
  • Auto
  • Clothing & Gifts
  • Investments/Savings
  • Entertainment

The idea behind going over your monthly budget with a credit counselor is that you’ll have a better understanding of where your money is predominantly being spent, and whether your spending is above or below the recommended amount. This can be helpful in finding out if there’s room for you to save money by cutting out excess or wants – at least temporarily.

“We take a holistic approach to try and understand your current financial status as well as help you change your behaviors and perception of spending and saving,” says Carlos Perez, Director of Counseling Services at DebtWave Credit Counseling, Inc.

Although it can be extremely beneficial to discuss your budget with a certified credit counselor, it can also be extremely daunting.

“It takes a while to win over their confidence, especially since we’re asking a lot of personal questions,” Gombes said. She noted she’s often reminding clients to take a deep breath and “believe that I’m here to help you.”

How much money could you save by paying off credit card debt with DebtWave’s debt management program? Use our FREE credit card payoff calculator here or schedule a complimentary financial analysis with one of our certified credit counselors here.

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