Debt and debt collection are the focus of recent webinar

In February, Consumer Action presented “Kitchen Table Economics: Dealing with debt and debt collection,” a webinar that covered recently implemented new rules for collectors along with debt demographics, debtors’ rights and the importance of getting control of your finances.
Published: Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Consumer Action’s Linda Williams, who, along with Nelson Santiago, hosted the webinar, opened by explaining that, in every city and small town across the U.S., the kitchen table is where many households gather to conduct their finances—where they determine whether there's enough money to pay the bills and make it to the next month. When there's not enough money and families fall behind, Williams said, debt collectors start calling and add stress to already difficult situations, especially when the calls involve harassment or intimidation.

On hand to help consumers understand their debt collection rights and get a better handle on their finances were April Kuehnhoff, a staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and Vickie Elisa, a community educator and trainer with the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER).

Before discussing the details of new CFPB debt collection regulations, Kuehnhoff explained why we're talking about debt in America: Before the pandemic therewere 68 million Americans with a debt in collections on their credit reports, and by the end of 2021, that number had grown to 77.6 million. "It's a huge problem affecting tens of millions of Americans, and it's growing," Kuehnhoff said. She also cited statistics from the Urban Institute that show that exploding debt is a racial justice issue. According to the data, there are racial disparities in terms of the distribution of debt in collections. At the national level, 24% of the population in predominantly white communities has debt in collections, compared to 39% in predominantly non-white communities.

In a later segment, WISER’s Elisa explained that her organization provides women with basic tools and financial information to help them take control of their financial lives and prepare for a secure retirement. Elisa addressed the question of why women are so important when it comes to talking about reducing debt and figuring out how to have solid credit: There are a lot more women than men in the U.S. Among those 65 and older, there are 5.8 million more women than men. And women make up about 67% of the 85-and-older population. This last age group is expected to double, or even triple, over the next three decades and is the most likely to end up in poverty. "I'll repeat that this group is the most likely to end up in poverty," Elisa reemphasized, issuing a warning to community educators and advocates. She added that many women who have never been poor before end up in poverty in their later years.

Tune into the webinar recording here. The in-depth discussion by Elisa covers everything from jump-starting emergency savings accounts to taking control of debt and credit, to finding help with healthcare expenses. The presentation by Kuehnhoff provided crucial information on the new debt collection rules that became effective last November, including details about when and how collection agencies can contact consumers by text message and on social media platforms. Kuehnhoff also discussed key consumer protections for old, "time-barred” debts.

One attendee, from Birmingham, Alabama, provided feedback on the webinar, saying it included "very valuable and timely information with great presenters." Another viewer, from Los Angeles, said, "Wow! This was great! I needed this like a car needs a tune up every” so often.

Check out the recording on Consumer Action’s YouTube channel.

Have you missed any of our other webinars? Click here to view them now.

By Nelson Santiago




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