Pay off any past due debts first so that you’re current on all accounts, which prevents late fees or continuing damage to your credit. When deciding how to prioritize debt, you can also consider which ones present a greater “risk” or cost to you than others. If you suddenly were unable to make your loan payments on a car, for example, your vehicle might be repossessed. This could have far-reaching effects if you became unable to get to work on time, or at all. So, while they aren’t always the most expensive debt, paying off a car loan can provide greater security.


Tip: If you are having trouble making payments on your debts, a credit counselor may be able to help you with advice or by organizing a “debt management plan” for all your debts. Typically, under a debt management plan you make a single payment to the credit counseling organization each month or pay period and the credit counseling organization makes monthly payments to each of your creditors. Under debt management plans, credit counselors usually do not negotiate any reduction in the amounts you owe–instead, they can lower your overall monthly payment. They do so by negotiating extensions of the periods over which you can repay a loan and by asking creditors to lower the interest rates  and waive certain fees.
Yes and no. If you begin with the biggest debt, you won’t see traction for a long time. You might think you’re not making fast enough progress and then lose steam and quit before you even get close to finishing. It’s important to pay your debts in a way that keeps you motivated until you’ve wiped them out. Getting quick wins in the beginning will light a fire under you to pay off your remaining debts! Listen—knock out that smallest debt first, and you will find the motivation to go the distance. 
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.
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)
Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest. 
We are a nation that pays far too much attention to education for the young, but not financial education, just all the subjects one needs to have a well-rounded understanding of the world and our place in it. Why not give our children the financial tools for them to succeed while their minds are most formative, so they can be prepared to be entrepreneurs at an earlier age? This may be the one thing we are missing which could change our entire future as a nation.
Credit score takes a beating. This definitely will happen with either debt settlement or bankruptcy. Even if you eventually reach a debt settlement with a lender, there will be a note on your credit report for seven years that says you missed payments and settled for less than what was owed. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on a credit report for 10 years and Chapter 13 bankruptcy is there for seven years. This will make it difficult to get a loan for a home or car at an affordable rate.

If you’re looking specifically for a nonprofit credit counseling agency to work with, explore NFCC member agencies, all of which are nonprofit. NFCC member agencies are required to meet eligibility criteria that ensure they are accredited by a third party, upfront about included fees and provide consumers with counseling and financial guidance that can help them improve their finances over time.
Freedom Debt Relief charges customers an average of 20 percent of their total enrolled debt. If you owe enroll $20,000 in debt, Freedom Debt Relief could cut your debt in half. Add on the 20 percent average fees and you could save between $5,000 and $6,000 (25-30 percent average savings AFTER fees). So with a $20,000 debt, you end up paying only $14,000 or $15,000 of your original debt.
If your financial problems stem from too much debt or your inability to repay your debts, a credit counseling agency may recommend that you enroll in a debt management plan (DMP). A DMP alone is not credit counseling, and DMPs are not for everyone. Don’t sign up for one of these plans unless and until a certified credit counselor has spent time thoroughly reviewing your financial situation, and has offered you customized advice on managing your money. Even if a DMP is appropriate for you, a reputable credit counseling organization still can help you create a budget and teach you money management skills.
Offer a variety of deferment options: Discover offers four different deferment options for borrowers. If you decide to go back to school, you may be eligible for in-school deferment as long as you are enrolled for at least half-time. In addition to in-school deferment, Discover offers deferment to borrowers on active military duty (up to 3 years), in eligible public service careers (up to 3 years) and those in a health professions residency program (up to 5 years).
This won’t be an option for everyone but if you’re paid hourly, speak to your boss and see if you can pick up a few extra hours. Or if you’re job has shifted, check if the less desirable shifts pay a bit more per hour. Working nights isn’t fun, but it could make you some extra money without doing any more work. Maybe less if there’s no one watching!
If a consumer’s financial problems resulted from too much debt or inability to repay their debts, a credit counseling agency might recommend enrollment in a debt management plan (DMP). A certified credit counselor will review a consumer's overall financial situation and offer customized money management advice. This advice may include a DMP designed for the client's unique circumstances. 
Settlement has big risks, though, including steep fees (15% to 20% of what the company is able to save you is typical). You may also sustain damage to your credit score and receive harassing calls from creditors while you’re saving up for the program. You’ll also have to pay taxes on forgiven debt. Most debt settlement companies are for-profit companies, while most debt management companies are nonprofits.
The most important message is to DO SOMETHING. I would encourage folks to do the reverse of taking on the larger balances first and paying more on them. Pick a smaller balance, high interest card and pay it off. This gives motivation to get the next one up the ladder in your payoff plans. For the sake of your credit score, remember length of history and pay history go together to determine your score so closing that account may actually lower your score over time. If you cannot trust yourself not to use it, close it anyway.
In the United States, credit counseling agencies are loosely regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, which can sue companies that have deceived consumers about the cost, nature, or benefits of their services.[1] Different states may regulate DMPs individually and attorneys general are empowered to protect state citizens from fraud.[5]
If your finances have taken a turn for the worse and you find yourself drowning in debt, a debt management program may help you keep your head above water. These programs, also known as debt management plans or DMPs, are a form of debt relief in which a counseling agency works with your creditors to reduce your monthly payment to a level more suitable to your current situation.[1] A DMP may be able to help you negotiate lower interest rates, get late fees waived, work out a payment schedule that's acceptable to you and your creditors, and consolidate your monthly payments into one. However, keep in mind that all DMPs charge fees, and some can be excessively expensive or even fraudulent.
As you read through each item, you'll probably think "This will only save me $5 or $10 a month." If you can cut back on 10 different things and save even $100 a month, that's an extra $100 you can put towards your debt. Not all of these will apply to you and that's ok. Adopt as many as you can, even if it means making a small sacrifice. The more of these you can adopt, the more money you'll have to accomplish your goal.

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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.
Try to manage your debt yourself. Even without the help of a credit agency, you can make a household budget, reduce unnecessary expenses, and prioritize your debts. You can also call your creditors to request them to waive late fees, reduce interest rates, and/or work with you on a payment schedule. You can also ask about debt re-aging, also known as rollback or curing. This process can report past-due accounts as current, which can help you avoid delinquent status.[3] Many times creditors will be happy to work with you if you make a good-faith effort to pay them.

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.


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.

Experian, one of the three major credit bureau companies in the U.S., said the impact on your score should be minimal if you and the agency making payments for you, are on-time every month. If lenders look at your full credit report while you are in a DMP, they will see that you are repaying the debt at a reduced rate and it may affect their final decision on whether to grant you a loan.
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