The National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies lists affiliated legitimate credit counseling services across the United States. Also, consumers can check with their state's attorney general’s office and the local consumer protection agency to determine if consumers have filed complaints about a credit counseling organization. As another resource, the United States Trustee Program keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. Bankruptcy law mandates that anyone filing for bankruptcy must first undergo credit counseling.
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa.
Under a DMP plan, the consumer deposits money each month into an account within the credit counseling organization. The organization then uses the funds to pay the unsecured debt, such as credit card bills, student loans, and medical bills. Paying off of debt follows a payment schedule the counselor and consumer develops. Often creditors will need to agree to the scheduled repayment plan. Creditors may decide to lower interest rates or waive fees. A successful DMP requires regular, timely payments. It may take 48 months or more to complete a debt management plan.
In the United States, credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services. Different states may regulate DMPs individually and attorneys general are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud.
Put a spending freeze on your entertainment costs for a little while. This means no going out to the movies, concerts, mini-golf, bowling or whatever you do for fun that costs money. Instead, challenge yourself to find free ways to stay entertained. Take the kids to the park, go for a walk or a hike, enjoy a free concert, or look for a free event in your community.
Without a proven track record of success, we simply wouldn't be in business. In fact, National Debt Relief only enrolls clients who have a strong chance of benefiting from our debt settlement program. We predicate our reputation on our ability to help consumers move past their debts and begin rebuilding their financial lives - not on our ability to enroll as many clients as possible or charge unnecessary fees.
Asking for help with debt can be difficult. Those in trouble may be hesitant to let others know, but Kalkowski says there should be no shame in reaching out for a lifeline if finances become unmanageable. "There are a lot of Americans in this sinking boat," she says. Rather than going it alone, use the resources available to keep your finances afloat.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
The fact is, more than half of Americans actually spend more than they earn each month, according to a Pew Research study, and use credit to bridge the gap. So it’s easy to see how so many people are struggling with debt — and why some choose to bury their heads in the sand. For many in debt, the reality of owing so much money is too much to face — so they simply choose not to.
Credit Score Issues: One thing is certain: your credit score will be damaged. The lender, collector or credit-card company will report the debt as “settled for less than agreed’’ or “settlement accepted’’ for seven years. Also, even though you are dealing with the debt-settlement company for payments, the lenders will report late-payment status updates to the credit bureaus. That could be the case until the account is actually settled.
I’m also going to start back up my college business. I ran a small business in college that brought in a couple hundred dollars a month. Although in college I did it by travelling, I could provide similar resources and work via a web site. I only work 14 days a month at my job, so I know I have time to build this and work towards it. Hopefully it can generate an additional $500 per month for me as well which will greatly help!
While your credit score may suffer if you’re falling behind on monthly payments before you get your debt management plan set up, starting your plan should provide some relief. Your credit score should increase as you begin making regular monthly payments and your debt balances drop. Experian does note that you may see some negative side effects when accounts are closed, usually due to changes with your credit utilization rate or credit mix.
Unsecured debt such as credit cards and medical bills are, by far, the most common debts associated with debt management programs. Utilities, rent and cell phone services are other types of unsecured debt that could be part of a DMP. Some installment contracts, such as country club or gym memberships also could be eligible. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how far in debt you must be to get in a program, but most creditors and legitimate credit counseling agencies say your financial situation needs to be severe. In other words, you must owe more money than your income and savings can reasonably handle. Secured debts, such as a mortgage or auto loan, are not eligible for the program.