Here’s Help For 20-Somethings Who Are Screwing Up Their Finances

PHOTO: Graduates from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities during Northeastern Universitys commencement exercises in Boston, May 2, 2014.Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Graduates from the College of Social Sciences and Humanities during Northeastern University's commencement exercises in Boston, May 2, 2014.

It’s not often that a problem and a solution land in your inbox within hours of each other, but I swear that’s what happened.

First, the website Credit Karma alerted me to its survey showing 7 out of 10 Americans make a drastic financial mistake in their late teens or early 20s then spend years trying to recover from it, jeopardizing their financial life into their 30s or 40s. Credit Karma says this is a newly discovered one-two punch and they’ve dubbed it “The Credit Fumble.”

Interestingly, the website focuses on fumbles like taking on suffocating amounts of credit card debt, missing payments on those cards or getting sent to collections. Those are all potential financial cancers, to be sure, and Credit Karma suggests that financial education for college students is the antidote.

What the website doesn’t mention is that those same college students may have more student loan debt than they do credit card debt. Yep, school debt outstripped beer debt for the first time in 2012, according to the Federal Reserve.

So who can help? The same folks who have been helping Americans tame their debt demons for decades. The other press release that landed in my inbox was from The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, parent organization of Consumer Credit Counseling Service. NFCC’s nonprofit member agencies just announced that they are going to begin offering student loan counseling services for the first time.

And guess what? While all those 20-somethings are there getting a handle on their crushing college debt, they can get advice and assistance with their credit card debt too. After all, that’s what CCCS counselors have been doing for years. Need their help? Visit NFCC.org to find a location near you. And remember, credit counselors should always be not-for-profit organizations that don’t charge you money up front. After all, why would you want to go further into debt? Good luck!

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please share your ideas with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.