Sunday, November 24, 2013

Take a moment for others

In my blog, I rarely bring in my day to day job into the discussion.  Today is an exception.  My primary career is that I manage a contact center in the student loan industry.  Whenever I tell people this, the initial response that I receive is, "Oh, you're one of those people".  My response invariably is, "No, I am one of those individuals with the white hats that can provide people with the best options for their situation." 

While my career has been within several verticals within the debt collections and customer service industries, my current path is one that provides guidance and solutions for individuals who are frustrated by their situation.  The team responsible for providing counseling to the consumer are all focused on one goal, and that is to get it right the first time we speak with an individual so that the consumer is able to make better informed decisions through resources and feedback we are able to provide to them.  We don't collect money and we don't set up payment arrangements.  Simply put, we explore options and solutions with consumers to allow them to successfully manage repayment of their federal student loan debt.

It is amazing how much information is available for consumers that people do not take advantage of.  There are times that bad things happen to good people.  Take for instance the situation of an individual who has become 60 days past due on their student loan pay.  The first thing that needs to be understood is how a person became past due (besides the obvious of not making a payment).  Not making the payment is the result, but getting down to basics and understanding if their were triggering events which caused payments not to be made timely.  In this example, the person had their hours cut 3 months ago, which forced them to make decisions about how their money needed to be spent.  The quick answer would be to choose a discretionary hardship forbearance on this debt.  However, what the consumer may not understand is that this is going to cause capitalized interest to occur as a result of the interest accrual since their last payment was made.  Due to interest capitalization, their principal balance will increase, resulting in a higher monthly payment amount.  By gaining an understanding of their situation, it may be learned that the spouse lost their job during this period for a family of 5.  Again, bad things happen to good people and their are better options than just digging a deeper hole.

As we enter the holiday season, it is important, that we all recognize that bad things happen to good people.  There are some out there that have been through situations that are completely outside of their control, while there are situations that people have made some poor financial decisions.  Most of us have been their at some point in our lives.  These situations cause stress for individuals and their families.  Typically, without intervention, bad decisions lead to worse decisions.

While not everyone will have an opportunity to positively impact a persons financial situation in the way that we are able to in the contact center I'm responsible for, we all have the ability to provide fresh perspective to those around us.  Take the time to be a positive moment to a complete stranger.  Ask a friend or a family member how things are going and if they have a plan.  Bottom line, invest time in others not just during the holiday season, but all the time.

If you are in a bad situation, know there are a myriad of non-profit resources available for you to talk about your situation.  Also, know that bad situations will lead to sacrifice.  Things you were able to do, you may need to give up until things are back in balance.  There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and usually it is not a train coming at you.  Take a step back, breath, re-evaluate, and move forward. 

Situations can change, but only if there is a catalyst for them, and it all starts with us as individuals. 

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Hanukkah over the course of the next week and remember to have a positive impact on someone this week.


  1. I am amazed and impressed that someone in your position would look for a deeper more personal reason for a late payment. And then try to find alternatives in order to fix their financial situation. It gives me a very warm and fuzzy to know that people still have empathy in world where I believe we have an empathy deficit Now there's something to be thankful for! Hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving :)

    1. Jacquie - The company I work for is always looking for ways to help students, borrowers, and families improve their situation through education. I have been fortunate to work for organizations like this one (and a couple of others) that hold this as a fundamental organizational value.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Making a positive impact on someone is life lesson. To be able to do that on a daily basis is truly living. You are lucky that you can do this in your job and that you and your team see it from that perspective.

  3. Thanks for this post, Mark. It reminds us that each of us has the ability to make a difference in someone's life if we listen to their story and provide impartial, balanced feedback without judgement.

  4. Glad you are giving your clients a helping hand. In this day and age millions and millions of people all over the world are in the kind of situation you describe simply because of the current economic depression. Chapeau to you for doing what you can to give them a helping hand.

  5. I agree with Jacqueline. You are an amazing person. I agree with you when you say many people are not aware of the many options they have available o them when a serious issue arises such as the one you mentioned. The fact that you dig a bit deeper to find the root cause is amazing to me, most won't/don't.

    When individual are offered resources, and guidance it's makes all the difference in there ability to rise above it and hopefully know ho to avoid the same thing again in the future.

  6. For a moment as I thought about asking the question you suggest, I got a negative vibration. Right now I think I will listen and then maybe ask.

    Your role sounds quite interesting and one in which you can make a big difference in people being more self-reliant and responsible.


  7. hello; thanks for sharing some of what it is you do at your work place. it sounds like your group is proactive but i doubt that is the approach of all such agencies. I'm sure many more are only concerned with collecting payment. and you are right being interested in other people's struggles and caring for them as human beings isn't just a holiday occupation. thanks and take care, max

  8. What a smart and thoughtful perspective. Most of us know that we should always try to see things from the other person's perspective, but that doesn't mean we do it. Sadly, it's even less likely when we are at work, but people are people no matter the context. Thank you for reminder.

  9. That's admirable that you help people look at the triggering events that lead to them making certain decisions regarding the payment or non-payment of their loans. Often all it takes is a small act of intervention to help put someone on the right path.

  10. My daughter does the same job you do. She is very good at what she does, but sometimes it is hard when you have people calling you names and cursing at you before you can even start to help them.

    People like you and my daughter are special people, it is sad that not everyone sees you as someone who can help and educate, great post.