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Judgment Free Financial Help with Kate Mielitz

George Grombacher August 31, 2023

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Judgment Free Financial Help with Kate Mielitz

LifeBlood: We talked about judgment free financial help, how to get out of debt once and for all, how financial counseling and financial therapy can help, and how to get started, with Dr. Kate Mielitz, Program Manager with Beyond Finance.      

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You can learn more about Kate at BeyondFinance.com , Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

kate mielitz

Dr. Kate Mielitz

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:02
Dr. Kate millets is a PhD, she is an AFC, she is the AFC Program Manager with beyond finance. Welcome back to the show, Kate.

Kate Mielitz 0:12
George, it is so good to be back. Thanks for inviting me.

george grombacher 0:16
It is wild how time goes quickly sometimes and slowly other times, but we were talking, it’s been four years. So welcome back, refresh our memory, tell us about your personal lives more about your work, and why you do what you do.

Kate Mielitz 0:30
Well, so much has changed George. So I appreciate the chance to update things that have not changed, I still have two children, I am still happily married, I now have four dogs, I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in August. And I am now a recovering academic. I’ve left academia for the world. I’ve almost 25 years now of experience in the financial services industry. And, boy, I think that’s probably the the high level of stuff that hasn’t changed. Or it hasn’t changed much. I have joined the beyond finance team to lead the new financial counseling program for their clients. And I was thinking about this. And as I mentioned a little bit earlier, just offline to you, George, I kind of pinch myself on a regular basis, oh, my gosh, I get to do this for a living. Because what I get to do is I get to help people, I get to further refine and create within this financial counseling program. I get to lead other financial counselors, and we’re growing a new program to benefit clients who really need the help. And it’s really exciting to be at this point in my career where I’ve been able to find the thing that I really think it’s right.

george grombacher 1:59
I think it’s so exciting. When you’ve always loved your work. And I know you’d be really passionate and, and dedicated and committed person and to hear that you’re now with an organization and doing the work and it really has lined up I think is a really exciting thing. So congratulations, and 20 years of marriage and for dogs, those are all really good things.

Kate Mielitz 2:21
Hey, they’re doing all right. And I figured you know, my kids keep getting older year by year. And I’m not going to I’m not going to say that that is a small feat as a full time working mom and professional and the dogs complicate things enormously. But everybody’s alive. So I’ll take it.

george grombacher 2:38
There you go. Yeah. What’s the matter with me? I’m complimenting you on marriage and dogs, but I forgot about the kids. So graduate congrats on keeping the kids alive two

Kate Mielitz 2:46
times. I? I do. It’s okay, George, we’re in this together.

george grombacher 2:51
We’re all in this together for sure. So, all right. So from academia to, to the world of not academia. Can I call that from theory to practice?

Kate Mielitz 3:02
You absolutely can call that from theory to practice. I mean, there is some practice if you’re teaching right and I really strove to strove strived, tried to do the best that I could to bring practice into the classroom. Because it is so important that when you are teaching emerging adults how to craft what they’re going to do, if you don’t bring practice in, you got you got some hurt coming on. So when I’m, when I was doing the financial counseling class that I would teach, we would do mock sessions, they would go out they would practice with disclaimers to their friends, hey, this is for a class and, and we’re trying some things out. But yeah, really getting to go from Hey, this is what you do how you do it. Let me let me be the expert here. To now I get to practice what I was preaching. put things into place, try new things. It’s it’s a thrill. It really is.

george grombacher 3:59
Yeah, and I appreciate that. And when you’re when you’re working with with grownups and talking about money, there’s not a right way to do it. So I’m fascinated to learn about how you, you all have decided to design the program decided to, to how to approach this financial counseling. But tell me a little bit more about the actual mission of the organization.

Kate Mielitz 4:28
So beyond finance is a national leader in debt resolution. And our settlement team works with creditors across the country to resolve qualifying unsecured debt in order to help our clients move beyond debt. Now, the reason that I connected so much with beyond is because they are the only debt settlement organization that not only said hey, financial counseling is important, we need to find Find a way to support support our clients, but they also have group financial therapy. And you bring all this together and it’s like wait a second well, and then to compound what’s already awesome in my mind, my work history has predominantly always focused on helping the underserved and beyond, I get to continue to do so in a slightly different way. I mean, my, my history was working with transitioning offenders working with recovering substance abusers, men and women in the military serving their country, which is a hugely underserved population, college students. And so when we think about vulnerable populations, we’re also thinking about the underserved who are burdened by debt. And not every financially challenged person, let’s say, not every financial challenge person can qualify for a personal loan, or wants to file bankruptcy, or can even in some cases, qualify for a chapter seven, or the 13. Debt is something that you have, not who you are, and so consumers may need more assistance than others to escape it. And for those that choose beyond finance, as the company to help them do that, beyond has said, okay, we can we can do this, and we can do it extremely well. But what do we do to help people make even better decisions as they go forward? How do they practice and implement behavior change, so that they don’t need our services anymore. And it’s really exciting to be able to meet with people who have chosen debt settlement as the best way for them to move forward, help them navigate what that means for their personal financial lives, and, and be the resource for them.

george grombacher 6:53
I love it. I love I love the idea of I’m not interested in taking on a lifelong client, I’m interested in solving the problem and then having this person go forth into the world. And hopefully, I never see them again, unless they want to come back and say thank you, which is always nice. So that settlement, why would I choose that versus in? What is the alternative?

Kate Mielitz 7:17
That is a terrific question, George. There are a vast array of ways that people handle debt. Some people have the capability, have the finances have, frankly, the privilege to be able to use the card, wait for the statement, paid in full, or take out the loan, make more than that minimum payment, and then pay it in full. Lots of people get into financial straits, where they’re trying to pay for medical debt, pay for things that they need at home, but they don’t have the income to do so. Life changes all the time. We know based on the pandemic, that lots of people were put out of work, that people were relying on credit, this happened before the pandemic, it happened during the pandemic, it’s happening after the pandemic. And oftentimes, people have to take on unsecured debt just to survive, which means they may not be able to have the financial privilege in order to pay it back in full. So then you have to choose, how do I move forward with this. And bankruptcy is not the option for everybody. Some people don’t qualify, some people don’t want to go that route. But they want to be able to breathe beyond provides the opportunity for people to breathe by working with them to get the money and settle the debts. So instead of paying each individual creditor, the clients come to beyond, they put the money in an account that accumulates and beyond uses that to then settle the debts with the individual creditors. And then that way, you know, clients have the freedom to know that if a creditor calls or sends a message, email or snail mail, they can pass that onto beyond beyond will handle it. And the client no longer has to have the stress of oh my gosh, what am I supposed to say to this creditor? No, I am working with beyond finance. They are going to take care of this for me. Please refer all communication over there.

george grombacher 9:31
Nice. Okay. I’ve been spending a good amount of time thinking about when thinking about essentially helping the kinds of people that that that that you are describing folks that that find themselves in an impossible situation. And now I feel like I’m drowning or just I’m stuck. It’s hopeless. I go to beyond we come up with a plan. I’d kind of love to hear just that. The The process for we have a conversation, we create a plan without putting words into your mouth. And but my thing is, how do I, how do I create the space for them to be able to see themselves past this, like a better tomorrow kind of thing.

Kate Mielitz 10:17
I think the first step is recognizing in that, George, okay, I need help. And so if you need help, and you’re trying to figure it out, beyond may be an option for you. Reach out to beyond beyond finance.com, fill out the interest list. If that’s not where you want to go, or you’re still trying to figure things out, you can go to find an A F C. F indanafc.org. Talk to an accredited financial counselor. If you do choose to go through debt settlement or through beyond specifically, someone will onboard you and ask you the questions about what they need to know, in order to get the debt that you’re going to that’s qualifying into your plan, and help you understand what you’re doing as you go forward. And then once you’re on boarded, and and you’re making your your first payment, financial counseling is an option, if you choose to, here’s the thing beyond provides it, clients can opt in, or they can choose not to do it. But it is available, we are slowly launching it to the to the entire client base, we’ve been kind of tiptoeing into it to make sure that we have the capacity that we have all the all of our ducks in a row. So it should go big and broad by the end of the year for certain. But the marketing team is working really hard to make sure that we get the message out there and get it out there consistently. I currently have a team of two financial counselors, I did the pilot work and got a feel for you know, what are we going to see, every time you meet with a client, you find something new, right? Well, this is my first time coming into a debt settlement organization and trying to frame what financial counseling would look like in that space. And so I got a chance to go in, I still have some clients that I’m seeing on a short term basis. And then I get to help my counselors prepare for and manage their loads and continue to, to preparing and grow the opportunity for the program to get bigger and have more accessibility.

george grombacher 12:46
And what is the goal of financial counseling?

Kate Mielitz 12:51
The goal of financial counseling overarching LY is to help people create and maintain strong financial foundations. That is what accredited financial counselors do. That’s our heart and our soul. Insofar as beyond finance is concerned, we want to make sure that people Okay, so the client comes to beyond, they have made the choice that this is the best way for them to get through, get beyond their debt. So is their budget balanced? Do they have short term, medium term, even long term financial goals? That we can help them structure in a smart way? Specific, Measurable, action oriented, realistic and timely? Do they know where their money goes? Do they know how to plug the leaks? Do they know where the leaks are? These are the things that we work with our beyond clients on to identify what’s the overarching plan for the money every month? How do we know what’s going to work? What goals or excuse me what goals are we setting to get them through that process and and moving on to growing wealth and doing other positive positive things with their money?

george grombacher 14:09
So, there is financial literacy component to it. Do you do I understand as as as the as the client of beyond? Do I understand budgeting? Do I understand my cash flow? Do I understand soliciting? And then from my perspective than the financial wellness is am I actually doing the things that, you know, people at every level of financial whatever income people that make a million dollars a year some of them live paycheck to paycheck and people that are struggling still live paycheck to paycheck.

Kate Mielitz 14:42
It’s true. I you know, I remember when I was working, working with the military, I had a private come in one day e one, e two. And he was like, Well, I’m just not quite sure I’m going to be able to do it. And we were talking about his progress through the military and what his goals were. And he He was like, I just can’t wait to get promoted, because then I’ll get this more money. And I said, Okay, well, let’s put together a plan for that. And I said to him, I said, Listen, as a private, you can have better financial habits than a general, it all depends on the choices that you make. And you’ve got to relate it to you into your reality. And one other thing I wanted to share with you, George is, so financial counseling I already mentioned, you know, what kind of the purpose is and creating that strong financial foundation. Financial Counseling is really about skills. So we work with people in skills. The other piece that beyond has really highlighted and said, This is important, is financial therapy, financial therapy, takes the emotions and helps people identify, you know, are we feeling shame? How do we combat shame? How do we navigate when we are stressed and using money? What are triggers that may come into play that influence money? And so when we’re talking about putting financial counseling and financial therapy together, and we think very broadly about why do why do i Why do i Doctor Kate, me, let’s use a credit card. Sometimes I use it as a tool. I use it deliberately to accomplish something I paid in full at the end of the month. Sometimes, yes, I have used my card in an emotional way. I am fed. I know shocker, right? I told the story a couple of years ago, I woke up one morning, and looked down at the carpet in my living room. And I went back in to the bedroom and I said to my husband, I said, I need you up, I need you up now. Because we’re gonna go replace this carpet. And he said, You just told me last week, we can’t because we don’t have the money in savings. I said, I am so far gone. I don’t care if it goes on the credit card. I don’t care if it takes me a year to pay it off. I mean, I was just it’s carpet, okay. But I was I was done. Okay, people do that. But people also use, I mean, I’m an emotional eater. If I don’t have something I want that makes me that that’s responding to my happiness. Yes, I will go down the road. And I will, I’ll use my debit card or cash instead. But we spend emotionally. And so it’s the combination of skills, and recognizing the emotions and processing the fact that we’re not alone. We’re not alone, not knowing the skills, we’re not alone in not implementing the skills. We’re not alone, feeling all sorts of emotions, when it’s associated with money. And beyond said we not we don’t just want to settle people’s debt. We want to help them make life changes that are going to result in a better stronger financial future for them. And that is why sometimes I still pinch myself, that I get to do this on a day to day basis, I get to be in a position where I’m positively impacting lives and and helping other people positively impact lives via my team. It’s really exciting.

george grombacher 18:11
You’re 100% is and I know how important it is. And so important to be able to be honest with people and say, Hey, I’ve made plenty of bad financial decisions and still do Nope. And we, we all do.

Kate Mielitz 18:25
Yes. Without a doubt. We’re human right. And we have all sorts of tools. I mean, we could compare money to exercise, we could care and compare money to eating right. The fact of the matter is, we make we make good decisions, we make less than optimal decisions. every once awhile, we make some real humdinger bad decisions. But it’s recognizing that a change needs to happen. And knowing that if you reach out to an accredited financial counselor, or you reach out to a Certified Financial therapist, you’re not going to be judged. And it’s so hard sometimes to get up the courage to ask for help. But when you do ask for help, whether that’s help settling your debts or that is help putting together a budget or figuring out what’s not quite fitting right, or asking for help navigating how these emotions impact your behaviors. It’s brave, and it is important to do.

george grombacher 19:31
Amen. So how much does it cost people to work with beyond finance?

Kate Mielitz 19:37
Very good question. George. Thank you for asking that. Beyond finance. So the FTC governs the debt settlement industry. So we are a government regulated industry and beyond finance charges 25% of the enrolled debt. So if you enroll and you have 20,000 dollars worth of debt, they’re going to settle it for less than the $20,000. And the fee for the settlement will be 25% of that $20,000. So about $5,000 for that settlement,

george grombacher 20:16
got it process, and do I pay that as the individual,

Kate Mielitz 20:21
it is part of the entire agreement. So before anything starts, you would be walked through what, what debt is going to be included, what the total amount is, what the fee is. And that is part and parcel of what you sign or agree to. And then as the accounts are settled, the fee comes out. But beyond does not collect a dime. Until after that first account is settled. And then it’s typically on an account, by account basis, as one account is settled, that fee for that account is included. As this next account is settled, the fee for that account is settled. But you are given a very clear picture, you sign it, knowing what the total cost of your plan is going to be. There’s no hidden charges.

george grombacher 21:18
I think I would imagine that. Just having that plan is such a powerful thing. And you know upfront how much it all costs and who’s getting paid what. And that’s nothing but a really positive thing.

Kate Mielitz 21:33
I think it’s terrific because transparency in our money is so important. Beyond doesn’t want to hide anything. I’m not going to hide anything from my clients, I want them to see I want them to ask these questions, right. And having the government regulation really helps to show that we are putting the consumer first. And in that agreement, you’ll be the you as the client would be given a guide to understand how much you would pay if you paid only the minimum payments until it was paid in full. And most people are paying only the minimum payments, because that’s what they can afford. And then you’ll see what the difference is in terms of paying only the minimums versus what you’ll get via beyond that is exciting. It’s clear, it’s in writing. And whatever that figure is on beyond, unless you add an account to it later. It’s not going to move. It’ll also if you take an account out of it, it’ll decrease. But if you keep everything the same as the day that you entered it in, yes, these balances may grow while you are in the settlement process. But we’re not worried about the growth here. We’re going to only charge based off of what you enrolled with. clear, transparent.

george grombacher 22:54
Beautiful. Well, Kate, thank you so much for coming back on where can people learn more about you? How can I engage with you and how can I engage with beyond finance?

Kate Mielitz 23:04
Absolutely, George, thank you so much for having me back. This has been fantastic. To engage with beyond you can go to beyond finance.com. And to engage with me you can find me on Twitter at Kate millets that’s at K T E M as in Mary i e l i t is and Tom Z as in Zebra, or you can find me on LinkedIn. Just search that name and LinkedIn and I should pop up with a smile on my face.

george grombacher 23:31
Excellent. Well if you enjoyed this as much as I did, show your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas. If you find yourself in a situation like so many of us have in the past where you just don’t know where to start and you’re in debt go to beyond finance.com and find out if the solutions they are offering what Kate’s been describing today is a good fit for you could find Kate on Twitter or x whatever it’s called these days. It’s at Kate millets que te mie la tz and linked in the same I’ll link all those in the notes of the show. Thanks Kincaid.

Kate Mielitz 24:07
Thanks, George. Thanks so much. And until next

george grombacher 24:09
time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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