Credit counseling provides guidance and support on consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. The objective of most credit counseling is to help a debtor avoid bankruptcy and to provide primary financial education on managing money. Borrowers with an understanding of money management are assets for lenders as well. Many counseling services also negotiate with creditors on behalf of the borrower to reduce interest rates and late fees.
Always keep in mind when dealing with services like debt relief that many customer view it as a magic pill to solve all their debt problems and make them financially stable, which is not the case. There are no guarantees when it comes to debt relief. These companies try to work with customers to lower their debt burden, but they aren’t going to work miracles.
How it works: Settlement companies ask you to stop paying the credit card companies and instead, send regular payments to an escrow account. When the balance in that account has reached a sufficient level, the settlement company negotiates with the card company for a reduced, lump-sum payment. If the creditor agrees, money is sent from the escrow account. If there is not enough money in the account, a payment schedule is agreed upon.
Does This Affect My Credit? Yes, debt negotiation will negatively affect your credit temporarily and it can be improved after you have completed the program and you are debt free. The effects are not as severe as bankruptcy. If you are already behind on your bills, your credit score will already be lower so the effects of our program may not be as severe. You have to decide if it’s better to resolve your debt now at a lower cost and then rebuild your credit.
It’s also worth noting that working with debt counselors doesn’t negatively impact your ability to qualify for new financing. Even if you enroll in a debt management program, you can still get approved for loans, such as a mortgage or an auto loan. You can’t open new credit accounts during enrollment. However, you can get approved for major financing to purchase a home or car or to fund a higher education. This way, you don’t have to put your life on hold while you pay off your credit card debt.
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For example, a person with three or four credit cards, might owe a combined $20,000 on the cards and be paying something like 24 percent interest. The credit counseling agency representing him could go to a bank and negotiate a loan at half that rate and save quite a bit of money in interest. The loan money would be used to pay off the credit cards, creating a zero balance on each card. Instead of making three or four payments every month, the person would have only one payment.
Accept a plan only if you can fulfill your requirements. If you can't make the monthly payment the program requires, don't enroll. Ask if they can get it any lower, contact your creditors yourself, and/or check with another debt management agency. Again, be aware that many debt management plans require you to avoid taking on any additional debt or at least any additional revolving credit debt (i.e. credit cards, store charge accounts). Understand the terms and conditions, and make sure you can follow through on them.
The rule also specifies that the consumers’ money set aside to pay debts be maintained in an account at an insured financial institution; that the consumer owns the funds and any interest accrued; that the debt settlement company does not own, control or have any affiliation with the company administering the account; and that the provider does not exchange any referral fees with the company administering the account, the FTC says.
Tax man awaits. If you have debt forgiven, that probably will count as taxable income and should be reported on your federal income taxes. The lender who forgives the debt should send you a 1099-C tax form detailing how much the original debt was and how much was forgiven. For example, if you owed $25,000 and had $10,000 forgiven, you would have to claim the $10,000 as income on your taxes.
I am 37 and have amassed $45,000 in credit card debt (over three cards). I have student loans, a mortgage loan, and an equity line of credit. I have never been late with any payments. However, I am a bit stressed with the high credit card debt. Would it be wise to file for chapter 7 on the credit card debt only while keeping my mortgage, equity line of credit, and student loan payments?
If you’re not sure where to start, track your spending for at least a day to see if you’re getting enough value from the things you buy. Just write it down as you spend and see how you feel. You’ll probably be amazed that you begin making changes immediately, cutting out the things that don’t really matter to you and getting more of the things that do instead.
I started today while reading this article by putting 5 dollars into my savings account. I feel like I’m drowning in debt and living from emergency to emergency. I know they key for me to getting out is establishing savings…and I’ve procrastinated. No more! Today I started, next pay check I’ll put in 50, next 100, maybe I’ll get to 200 in a few months. I want to see $2000 in there so I can afford things like car maintenance and medical co-pays!
Credit counseling is done largely over-the-phone or online, but can be done in-person at a home or office. Counselors conduct 30–40 minute interviews to gather information about your financial situation. They will ask questions about income, expenses, budgets and assets. It is best to have this information documented and available when you begin the process.
“There are hundreds of companies that claim to offer consumers ways to erase bad credit, create a new credit identity, or even remove bankruptcies, judgments or liens from credit files. Many of these services are outright scams and should be avoided,” says Mike Long, executive vice president and chief credit officer at UW Credit Union in Wisconsin.
The typical debt settlement program lasts between 24 and 48 months. One important thing to know is that entering a debt settlement program can have immediate and lasting impacts on your credit score. You’ll stop paying your creditors and your accounts become delinquent. This can lead to calls from collection agencies. National Debt Relief advises you to give its contact information to your creditors and collections agencies when you join.
If you choose laddering, put as much money as you can each month toward the card with the highest interest rate, while still paying the minimums on the other cards. Once that debt is paid off, move on to the card with the second highest rate and so on. But this is very important: Do not close the account once the balance is paid off. That will damage your credit. Just let the account sit at a balance of $0.
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.
No guarantees. Lenders usually want to work with you, but they can choose not to. This is especially true with debt settlement. You may contribute to the fund used to make a settlement offer for 6-8 months and then find out the lender won’t accept the offer. If you choose this route, be sure to get a written agreement from the lender that they will work with you.
They make you think they are helping and word it as such. its only after I had “qualified for a loan” with another company to pay off my debt that I was informed of the fees and debts still in collection and no settlement was ever made. I have been paying for over a year and half of each payment went to fees for the “services” they provide.All these services they offer you can do yourself with just 30 minutes of your own time.
A DMP is a payment plan that helps you repay your debts. Under the plan, you deposit funds with us each month, which we disburse to your creditors. We also handle calls from your creditors to ensure everything is going smoothly. The vast majority of our payment processing is electronic, so funds are transferred directly to the creditors without delay. Creditors may also offer to reduce or waive fees, finances charges, or interest rates to help lower your DMP payments and ensure your success on the plan. Learn More
Take on a part-time job. Working 10 more hours a week for a year at $12 per hour can generate $6,000 before taxes. You might work at a local retailer or at home, perhaps tutoring students, teaching music, doing freelance writing or editing, or consulting. Check out new-gig-economy jobs like Uber if you have a car, Rover and Wag if you're animal lover, or Care.com if you want to babysit or tutor. Post any services you may offer, like handyman or lawn care, on neighborhood email listservs and the Nextdoor app.
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.