Take steps to rebuild your credit and improve your credit score, which in turn, could give you access to more credit in the future. For starters, focus on implementing a plan for paying off debt, and work to keep your balances low on credit cards. Keep in mind that improving your credit score requires small, responsible actions over time, so be patient and set long-term objectives. For more tips on how to improve your FICO score, take a look here.
Student loans:The federal government and private lenders issue loans to cover education costs. Federal student loans generally have a low interest rate and important borrower protections. Working in a qualifying public-service job entitles you to loan forgiveness after 120 on-time payments. Income-based payment plans also cap payments and allow a portion of your loan to be forgiven. While private student loans don't come with all these protections, rates may still be relatively low. And if your income is below $80,000 as a single or $165,000 if married filing jointly, you can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest from your taxes. Because of these perks, you may not want to pay off student debt early.
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.
Happily, consumer protection laws now require credit card issuers to disclose the precise length of time that the "minimum payment plan" takes to work for each customer. When you get your next credit card bill, look for the box that says something like "If you make only the minimum payment on this balance, you will pay a total of 'X' dollars and take 'Y' years to pay off your balance."
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Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.
Look for a licensed, accredited, non-profit agency, and be sure to verify that they are currently licensed in your state (unless you're in a state that doesn't require licensing), have current accreditation and that they do indeed have non-profit status. Understand, however, that while these measures can help establish a firm's legitimacy, they are no guarantee, and you still need to research the agency. Note also that a non-profit company does not mean that they do not charge for their services, it only means that the company will distribute all profits to the corporate officers at the fiscal year end, thereby zeroing their profit.
I’m about 70k in debt (which includes a car loan and student loans). I was very naive in thinking that earning a Bachelor’s degree would award me with a high paying job and I would be able to take care of this mountain of debt no problem. Of course, that’s not reality, and I make 25k a year. I’ve been working at this job for about a year and a half now, and I have FINALLY found a better paying job after a year of active searching. Although it’s not much, I’ll be moving up to 29k a year. While I pay off my 10k car loan at 250 a month, I’ve been completely avoiding my student loan debt, I don’t even look at it. Right now my loans are in deferment but I owe my first payment in August. I’m really starting to panick. I appreciated your article and found a lot of useful advice in it. I think my first step to paying off my loans will be to work as hard as possible at my new job so maybe after another year or so I can increase my salary more substantially…. Other than that I’m really at a loss for what to do. Any specific advice regarding such a high amount of student loans? (That honestly, I’m almost too embarassed to admit to in this post)
Yes, but this is a real commitment of time and resources. Here is how it works. List all your debts (except your mortgage) from smallest to largest. Pay the minimum due on all debts, but the smallest. Attack the smallest debt with as much money as you have available — $100 a month, for example – until it is paid off. When that is paid off, take the $100 a month, plus whatever the minimum you were paying on the second smallest debt, combine them and go after the second debt. Keep repeating until you have gone through each debt. The idea is to gain momentum in your bill paying by having success.
First, if you want to avoid late marks on your credit report, you will need to make at least one month, possibly two months, of “double payments”: one payment to the debt management service and your regular payments directly to your creditors. Since most people cannot afford this, you must be prepared for the possibility of getting a late mark on your credit report.
Note: I can’t take the space here to list a million business ideas, but I have always found inspiration in the Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing companies in America. My first college internship was with Inc.—my job was to interview the CEOs of these companies to ask about the secrets of their success. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I still think of that list as “5000 ways to make money.”
We find that because our financial counseling is free, confidential, and carries no obligation, the best course of action if you may be interested in a Debt Management Plan is to call and speak directly to one of our certified coaches. In addition to the valuable budgeting assistance, we will help you assess whether a DMP is the right path for you.
Over time, bankruptcy might come back to bite you in unexpected ways. If your employer requires you to carry a security clearance, there's a chance that it could be rescinded. If you're applying for a mortgage or rental property, your brush with insolvency could disqualify you from consideration. Depending on your area of expertise, you might even find it difficult to find or keep a job.
You should take the time to shop around. FICO says there is little to no impact on your credit score for rate shopping as many providers as you’d like in a single shopping period (which can be between 14-30 days, depending upon the version of FICO). So set aside a day and apply to as many as you feel comfortable with to get a sense of who is ready to give you the best terms.
This year, my husband and I made a few changes… we put ourselves on a strict budget and gave ourselves a cash allowance so we wouldn’t even be tempted to use the debit cards “just to grab lunch,” squirreled our credit cards away so we wouldn’t use them, and went through TONS of stuff that we weren’t using anymore and are planning a neighborhood yard sale for the spring.
Once you've got a list of counseling agencies you might do business with, check each one out with your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency. They can tell you if consumers have filed complaints about any one of them. (If there are no complaints about them, don't consider it a guarantee that they're legitimate.) The United States Trustee Program also keeps a list of credit counseling agencies approved to provide pre-bankruptcy counseling. After you've done your background investigation, you will want to interview the final "candidates."