Win $1,000 for sharing financial woes at Prosper.com

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loanIf you haven't heard of Prosper.com until now, a $1,000 contest and a new web site might get you interested.

Prosper.com is a peer-to-peer lending site. The idea is that if you're having trouble getting a loan at a bank, or maybe you're feeling a bit anti-bank these days and would rather see someone else profit off your money, you might want to seek out a loan with Prosper.com.

Or conversely, if you'd like to invest a bit of your money and see where your funds are going, you may want to check out this site. You can borrow or lend, from the public, instead of the banks.

It's a much more sophisticated operation than it sounds, though. And, yes, you still have to be deemed creditworthy before you're going to get a loan here.

And so about that web site...Prosper.com has a new site called "Talk Taboo." As it says on the home page, "Did you know that there was approximately $2.46 trillion in outstanding U.S. consumer credit debt at the end of last year? That means someone among your close circle of family and friends is probably struggling with their personal finances. Perhaps that person is even you. What can we do about it?"

And then the site goes on to suggest that we all need to talk about our money problems, adding, "Sharing a problem is often the first step toward solving it, after all."

So if you feel like griping, venting or asking other people for advice about your debt problems, this could be the place to go.

And about that contest...Talk Taboo is also offering an incentive for going to its site and sharing your financial woes (although you can just give your name and e-mail, and that'll suffice). If you enter your name and e-mail and/or share your financial woes between now and April 12, 11:59 p.m., PST, you'll be eligible to win $1,000.

I think talking about finances as a taboo is a pretty interesting idea. Although there are a lot of blogs where individuals are sharing their financial tales, admitting you have money problems is still a dicey topic for a lot of people to discuss.

So I asked Prosper.com CEO Chris Larsen how this whole idea came up. He said that it's really due to the more than 30,000 borrowers who already have "thrown open the hood on their financial lives and their desires to get out of debt."

That borrowers -- if they want investors to be interested in their story and more likely to lend them money -- already discuss their finances made this Talk Taboo web site seem like a natural, according to Larsen. And he thinks it can be a healthy thing, to talk about debt.

"By opening up the conversation beyond Prosper's marketplace and urging all Americans to talk about their debt, financial goals and achievements, and share financial lessons learned, we think we can help play a role in fostering an environment akin to financial therapy," he says.

Larsen adds that he has a feeling the people with the higher credit scores really need this therapy just as much as, if not more than, those with low credit scores.

"Because it's these folks who are probably the most timid about admitting they have a problem with debt, given that they make a decent or great living," he said. "They've been responsible for managing their finances, yet they're carrying credit card balances at high rates, and it's hurting their household balance sheet."

In fact, says Larsen, "Getting out of a vicious circle of credit card debt is hardly exclusive to those at the bottom end of the credit spectrum."

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the new book "Living Well with Bad Credit."

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