Have you ever had a consumer question and wanted to get in touch with Clark Howard — but you were either too shy to go on the air with him or couldn’t get through to his show?
The Consumer Action Center (CAC) offers the perfect compromise, with free off-air advice available 45 hours each week from a team of volunteers who are trained in a broad range of consumer issues.
Here’s what you need to know about the Consumer Action Center
The Consumer Action Center aka “Team Clark” is like the hidden gem in the crown of Clark Howard’s media empire. Few people who know of Clark Howard know about his off-air advice center, and that’s a shame.
Every day, some of the CAC’s 70 volunteers answer consumer questions on a wide range of topics at the CAC. Founded in 1993, the CAC has been empowering callers with advice, education and techniques for problem resolution so they can become their own best advocate for the past 25 years.
It’s a lasting legacy that couldn’t please Clark more. “I’m forever grateful to the men and women who volunteer in the CAC to serve their fellow Americans. To know that someone who needs advice and guidance is able to receive it is such a joy,” reads a quote from the consumer champ that’s displayed prominently in CAC headquarters.
As you would expect, the nature of calls that come into the CAC span the entire spectrum of consumer issues and personal finance.
The most popular call topics going back to two years to July 2016 include:
- Credit agencies
- Customer service
- Credit cards
Fortunately, the CAC is also equipped to handle a wide range of other topics — everything from questions about landlord and tenant issues to queries about life insurance, estate planning, timeshares, student loans and more.
“We are the heartbeat of America,” CAC director Lori Silverman says. “When there is a new consumer issue, we are usually the first to hear about it from a caller.”
A perfect example of how the CAC is on the front lines of America’s consumer issues would be the Equifax breach. During the first few days when the news broke, the CAC fielded several thousand calls from nervous and distraught Americans.
Meet some of the CAC volunteers
The volunteers at the CAC represent people from all walks of life with a common goal — to prevent you from getting ripped and give you the free financial advice you need to make better money choices in your life.
To stay current on the latest federal and state consumer legislation, all CAC volunteers attend regular professional seminars. These seminars are presented by offices of the state government, trade associations and consumer help organizations. They include the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Credit Counseling Services and Equifax, among others.
The CAC volunteer staff includes many very accomplished retired professionals like builders, CPAs and Fortune 500 executives — all ready to take your call and give you the info you need to make an informed decision and to steer you away from scams.
Among our newer volunteers is Peter Pawlak, who has has volunteered with Team Clark for three years.
When he’s not taking your calls, Peter has his own law firm where he practices intellectual property law. In addition, Peter also served five years in the Air Force.
“I enjoy working at the CAC because it is very fulfilling to use the skills I have developed to help others,” he says.
Another one of our volunteers named Michael Linn has been with Team Clark for 14 years.
Michael served in Vietnam and was in the military from 1967-1986 in the infantry and as an Airborne Ranger. Following that, he worked a certified financial planner for 18 years with USAA.
Michael says he learns from helping others and enjoys giving back to the community.
Our longest-serving volunteer of all is Marietta Haunsz. She’s pictured below with Clark Howard when Clark dedicated a Habitat for Humanity build to her after 25 years of service at the CAC.
Marietta began her career as a tax examiner with the IRS. While there, she studied tax law and moved up the ranks to management. She retired after 25 years, and that’s when she began volunteering with Team Clark.
Marietta is also an accomplished artist and continues to paint in her home studio.
She says the CAC’s mission hasn’t changed since its inception and it can be boiled down to three simple words: “We help people.”