It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
Credit limitation: Like a balance transfer, a personal debt consolidation loan is usually only a viable solution for consumers who have a good credit score. The higher you score, the lower the interest rate you can qualify for on the loan. APR of 5% is ideal, but anything below 10% may be enough to provide the relief you need. If you can’t qualify for a rate below 10%, look for other options.
As a debt junkie for almost ten years, I ran up credit card after credit card living like my salary was about four times its actual size. Stupid things I bought on credit included flying lessons, weekends in Las Vegas, and a brand new pickup truck. Hey, I never said I wasn’t having fun. (Remember, I’m on the other side of 25 now, so I started college pre-recession… during the dot-com boom. Back then, I actually thought I could graduate with a sociology major and find a $75k a year job—because I knew people who did!)
There are two ways to file for bankruptcy – a chapter 7 and a chapter 13. The difference is that a chapter 7 bankruptcy is called a liquidation bankruptcy as its goal is to liquidate your assets to repay your creditors. However, much of your assets such as your house, automobile, furniture and personal items are excluded in a chapter 7 bankruptcy so in practice you might not have any assets that could be liquidated.
Fortunately, there are several methods to reduce debt – and maybe even eliminate it – in a consistent and logical manner. This can be done on your own, if you have discipline, but it’s often beneficial to partner with financial professionals, who can negotiate lower rates with lenders, refinance homes or create budgets that keep you on the right course.
Bankruptcy is a last-ditch attempt to settle debts. It is a legal proceeding through which you liquidate all assets in order to wipe out debt (Chapter 7) or persuade creditors to approve a repayment plan over a 3-to-5 year time frame to eliminate debt. There are severe consequences for both, including a drop of as much as 200 points in your credit score and the bankruptcy action remaining on your credit report for 7-to-10 years. A debt management program is not a legal proceeding. A notation that you are in a DMP could appear on your credit report, but there should be little impact on your credit score until you complete the program. At that time, you could expect your credit score to improve, sometimes dramatically.
There are several steps you can take yourself to repair your credit scores, even if they are very low. Having a higher credit rating can lower the amount of interest you need to pay on your debts, it allows you to get approved to borrow money and improves the ability to take out more loans, such as an auto or mortgage. There are also other benefits. For example, a better credit score can even help you land a job. Find how to repair credit scores.
Financial education. You'll have access to a wide variety of educational resources for help getting out of debt. These include newsletters, articles and tools on our website that can help you manage credit card debt, budget your finances more effectively, learn about how to stay out of debt, and get answers to questions like "How can I improve my credit score?" and "What is debt consolidation?"
If you’re not eligible for any of the above, call up your credit card companies and ask for a reduced interest rate. Be honest, tell them you’re struggling with the payments, but you have a plan to pay off your debts but could use some help in the way of a lower interest rate. Not all of them will agree, but you might get lucky, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If the monthly payment on your debt isn't enough to pay off the interest that accrued during the month, you will literally be in debt forever. All the money you pay would go toward interest, and your principal balance would never go down. That's why it's important to make sure your payments reduce your principal each month as much as possible if you hope to become debt free.
Not sure where to find this information? Check your credit report for a complete listing of creditors. You can obtain a copy for free from annualcreditreport.com from each of three major credit reporting agencies. You're entitled to one report a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- so you can space out your requests and get a report once every four months. Sign into online accounts for each creditor if you have them, look back at your most recent statement, or give your creditors a call to get the info you need.
Put extra money toward the credit card or debt with the smallest balance. You'll be able to pay it off quickly, reducing the total number of accounts you have to deal with, and giving yourself the mental boost of successfully eliminating part of your debt (though you'll pay more interest in the long run than if you were to pay off debt with the highest interest rate first.)
High-interest credit card debt: Credit card debt is revolving debt; you charge as much as you want up to your credit limits and make monthly payments. The average interest rate on credit cards was close to 17% as of July 2018. Because credit card debt provides no benefit and rates are substantially higher than investments typically produce, aggressive early payoff is smart.
If you've already fallen behind on your monthly payments or can no longer afford your minimum payments, we want to talk to you. If can't see any way to improve your financial situation without taking a drastic step like declaring bankruptcy, we may be able to help. What's more, we have years of experience with clients who face exacerbating circumstances like divorce, death in the family, unemployment, long-term medical issues and other problems.
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.
Debt forgiveness is another potential strategy for anyone ready to admit "I need help with my debt." This involves paying your creditors a lump sum payment that is less than what you owe and ask them to wipe out your debt. While this is sometimes effective, it can also backfire and add even more debt to your totals. While ACCC does not get involved in debt forgiveness plans, we can help you understand the benefits or potential risks this approach may pose.
InCharge does not report your participation in a debt management program or plan to the credit bureaus, however your creditors might. Your credit score may decrease when your credit cards are closed and then increase as you make consistent on-time payments over the course of the program. Every person’s credit situation is different. In order to better understand how a debt management program may affect your credit score, learn more about how credit scores are calculated.