If you enter a debt settlement program, you’re essentially hiring a company to negotiate with creditors on your behalf. In order to show creditors that you’re truly unable to repay your debts (and hopefully convince them to settle for less than what you owe), the debt relief company will ask you to not make payments on your outstanding debts. During this time, interest and late fees will accrue on your loans.
In most cases, medical debt has no interest rate attached to it so there really is no gain by including it in a debt consolidation program. Remember the key elements of debt consolidation are: a) a reduced interest rate; and b) lower monthly payment. The one advantage to medical debt consolidation is that it becomes part of your single, monthly payment and could help you pay off the debt faster.
This is the last-ditch solution if your financial situation has become so overwhelming that there doesn’t appear to be a way out. Bankruptcy offers a “fresh start” though with lots of restrictive conditions. You can file for either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which cancels your debts, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which sets up a 3-5 year repayment plan to eliminate your debts.
The services provided by credit counseling services are nothing consumers can't do by themselves. "You could do it, but it's an involved process," says Kyle Winkfield, partner with financial firm O'Dell, Winkfield, Roseman and Shipp in the District of Columbia. The benefit of using an agency is that they have experience in negotiating debt payments and disputing incorrect information on credit reports. Paying an expert to do these tasks not only saves a person time, but can minimize the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar territory. "If you find a good one, they are worth more than they charge," Winkfield says.
Lower interest rates and monthly payments. A debt consolidation loan or debt management program should reduce the amount of interest you pay on your debt, plus get you a monthly payment that is more in line with your income. The stability of knowing that you have an affordable monthly payment that eventually will eliminate your debt can remove a lot of the anxiety associated with the problem.
Pay more than the minimum on your accounts. See examples of how you can save thousands of dollars in interest costs and potentially late fees by paying more than the minimum balance on your credit cards. This is arguably one of the best ways to reduce your debts over a reasonable period of time, and it works for credit cards, medical bills, car loans, and really anything. You need to start with your higher interest rate commitments first. Find the benefits of making more than minimum payments.
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