How ‘Holistic’ Financial Planning Can Help Avoid Foreclosure

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Despite whatever marginal gains are made in the number of delinquent mortgages in the U.S., times remain tough for many American homeowners.

And while homeowners facing foreclosure have tried everything from loan modifications, borrowing from family and friends and taking on second and third jobs to save their homes, the sad truth is that they don’t always work.

But what if there was another way to shave off hundreds of dollars from one’s monthly budget, enough to make those monthly home payments and keep a home out of foreclosure?

That’s the promise of “holistic financial counseling,” a practice whereby a financial advisory firm (like a debt counselor) comes in and takes a 360-degree look at the household’s financial picture to find other places to save and keep at-risk homeowners out of foreclosure.

A new white paper from Stratmor Group, a mortgage industry research organization, says that holistic counseling can not only keep those at-risk homeowners from losing their homes, but can vastly increase the chances they won’t default again if they’ve already been in foreclosure.

The authors write that holistic counseling can save homeowners up to $300 per month in added savings to the family budget – cash that can be “freed up” to clear those monthly mortgage payment barriers. The holistic approach also can reduce losses, Stratmor says, for mortgage investors who count on homeowners to make their payments by as much as $71 million on a portfolio of 10,000 properties.

“Almost 29% of all homeowners are under water on their home mortgages now, owing more on them than they are worth,” notes Bill Magro, president and CEO of Outreach Financial Services, which sponsored the research. He adds that there is an “estimated 6-million-plus home loans delinquent today, and the potential for another two to three million borrowers to default over the next three years.”

The difference is that most financial counseling strategies focus on the monthly mortgage payment, but holistic counseling looks at the “entire spectrum of a borrower’s financial picture, including lifestyle decisions,” the Stratmor Group says. That includes credit card debt, car payments and discretionary spending, researchers note.

Stratmor says that a holistic financial review needn’t be done independently. Matthew Lind, managing director of the Stratmor Group, says that a holistic review that yields $300 in monthly savings, coupled with a loan modification with $500 in savings, can mean $850 in month in “freed-up cash flow,” which the paper notes would reassure many by “sharply lowering the predictive foreclosure and re-default rate for borrowers who initially cured their loan through a loan modification.”

One study isn’t the final word on the subject, but for desperate homeowners, the holistic approach might be worth a shot. For many families it could even be a game changer.

If you’re looking for help managing your budget, make sure to consult a trained professional. Check out MainStreet’s look at The Worst Money Advice I Ever Got: 6 Stories and 10 Ways to Sniff Out Bad Financial Advice, and then read A Who’s Who Guide to Financial Advisers to plan your next steps!

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