February: the sweetest month.
It may not seem so sweet if you’re struggling to make ends meet, burdened with debt, trying to find funding to start or run a small business, or coping with your own or a loved one’s disability.
This month we bring you some love in all those areas.
We know it’s tough out there and you hear are too many promises you can't trust. Our articles are well researched and provide honest information about finding help. We never ask you for money, and we warn you about scams.
In our February Free Money Highlights you’ll find information about the following topics you should find very useful:
- finding help with debt relief – and avoiding bad deals;
- good news for women-owned businesses seeking government contracts;
- a new partnership that benefits current and would-be entrepreneurs; and
- where to find help if you are disabled or caring for a loved one with a disability.
Discover your program today!
Do you have more debt than you can handle? If so you’ve probably seen or heard all the ads offering debt relief, sometimes making it sound like a piece of cake to clear your debts for pennies on the dollar. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Here are some tips for finding trustworthy help:
- Your first stop should be a credit counseling agency. They offer the first visit free and meeting with them won’t affect your credit rating. If you can manage to pay some amount of monthly payment as part of a plan designed to pay your debts in full, they can help set that up for you.
- If you can find free legal assistance or can afford to pay for legal advice, talk with an attorney to see if bankruptcy is a good option for you.
- Remember that you may very likely be liable for taxes on any debt that is forgiven by your creditors.
- If you decide to go with a debt-relief company, be aware that there are some fairly new laws regulating them. The company must specify how much time it will take for you to get any sort of settlement. They cannot charge you an up-front fee so don’t be bullied into paying one. In fact, they may not collect until you have a written agreement with your creditor and have made at least one payment per that agreement.
According to the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program, 5% of all government contracts must be set aside for women-owned businesses. That would equate to $20 billion – a good thing. However, that 5% target has never been reached. Part of the barrier to success has been the program's setting of maximum amounts for contract awards that those eligible could receive. This deterrent has now been removed. The 2013 legislation has been praised by the National Business Women’s Council (NWBC) as a major step forward and one that should greatly benefit women-owned businesses. For other tips and resources for business women see our article Grants for Women-Owned Businesses.
A new partnership has been announced between SCORE, a non-profit service group supported by the Small Business Administration, and Business Fundability, a group providing a variety of services to business. Business Fundability will be an additional asset in the arsenal of tools SCORE has to assist entrepreneurs and those seeking to grow their businesses. Through this new working relationship, SCORE mentors will be able to offer several new tools critical to individuals and businesses seeking funding. These include assistance developing or repairing business credit; advice that shows business owners how to preserve and protect their personal credit; how to determine what may be hurting their chances of being funded and how to enhance their attractiveness to potential sources of funding. If you are a small business owner or someone hoping to start a small business, be sure to take advantage of the free or low cost mentoring offered by SCORE along with the benefits of this new program. Start with an overview of services offered and supported by the Small Business Administration.
We get so many requests for assistance from people who are disabled, have a disabled parent, or are caring for a disabled loved one. The challenges are numerous; fortunately so are the resources available for assistance. These come from the federal government as well as state governments, local agencies, and non-profit organizations. An invaluable way to find these resources – and one that should be the first place you look if you need help – is disability.gov. This is an interagency web site that brings together an unbelievable array of information, tools, and support at all levels. First launched in October 2002 at the direction of President George W. Bush, within eight months it had 20 million visitors. It has received many awards for its usability and the extent of the information it provides. In 2009 it was updated and re-launched to include social media, interactive features and the ability to personalize the information you receive.
We encourage you to learn more by reading our more detailed review of disability.gov.