While the steps above may seem lengthy and cumbersome, debt management plans exist because some consumers are simply unable to get out of debt on their own. Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), said that an array of circumstances can lead to situations where families need outside help. Job loss, chronic overspending, reduction in work hours, loss of income and unexpected major expenses are often the biggest culprits when consumers spiral into debt they cannot control.
When you take a balance transfer, you'll move the balance on an existing credit card that's at a high interest rate over to the card with the 0% promotional rate. From that time on, you'll pay no interest for 12 to 18 months, or whatever the time limit on the promotional rate is. Every dollar you pay toward your debt goes to reducing the principal. You'll repay debt much more quickly when you have no interest to pay.
When you owe a lot of money to a lot of creditors and feel like you'll never be able to pay it all off, the first step on the path to financial freedom is to say "I need help with my debt." Being in debt feels horrible and for many people it's an embarrassment. But once you raise your hand and admit "I need help with my debt," you'll find there are plenty of resources for people in your position — and plenty of people who need the same kind of help.
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.
Warning: Debt settlement may well leave you deeper in debt than you were when you started. Most debt settlement companies will ask you to stop paying your debts in order to get creditors to negotiate and to collect the funds required for a settlement. This can have a negative effect on your credit score and may result in the creditor or debt collector filing a lawsuit while you are collecting settlement funds. And if you stop making payments on a credit card, late fees and interest will be added to the debt each month. If you exceed your credit limit, additional fees and charges may apply. This can cause your original debt to increase.
Not all forms of credit are actively bad, and many folks are able to use debt as a responsible means of augmenting their purchasing power. When you're dealing with a million competing priorities, however, it can be tough to keep your finances straight. If your expenses are rising faster than your income, you can only keep up this dance for so long.
Watch out for common red flags. While good credit counseling agencies are transparent about their fees and services, unscrupulous ones can be evasive and pushy. Red flags include demands for payment before services start, failure to provide a contract, insisting on access to your bank account and promises of debt repair that sound too good to be true.
Settling your debts used to be a less than reputable practice but has recently gained prominence. It is basically where you hire a debt relief company to negotiate with the creditors on your behalf. The goal is to get them to agree to settlements where you make lump sum payments for a portion of your debts (this should much less than your total balances). In return the creditor agrees to forgive the rest of the debts.
There's also a substantial risk associated with taking out a loan on your home, because the house secures the loan. When you owe unsecured debt, such as credit card debt, personal loan debt, or medical debt, there's nothing guaranteeing the loan except your promise to repay it. While lenders could sue you for unpaid debt and perhaps get an order to garnish wages or put a lien on your house, it's very unlikely your home could ever be put at risk of a forced sale because of unpaid unsecured debt. But when you've borrowed against your home, the house is collateral, and if you don't pay, the lender will probably foreclose and take the house. Converting unsecured debt to debt secured by your home isn't typically advisable for that reason.
Find information on credit counseling agencies in Texas near you. Numerous non-profit organizations operate in the state and can provide mortgage, debt, and various other forms of assistance to consumers and homeowners. The agencies deal with issues ranging from credit repair to debt management plans, bankruptcy filing, and other financial matters in Texas, and most services are free of charge. More information is below, including how to get help by county.
Military credit and debt counseling is offered to active service members as part of the Military OneSource Program. The federal government created this program in partnership with non-profits such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Any member of the military, whether active duty or a reserve, may qualify for free advice and counseling. Clients can have a number of financial issues addressed, including excessive credit card or medical debts, sign up for budgeting workshops, credit repair and more. Read Military OneSource Program.
A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.