However, not all credit counseling agencies are created equal. While some are accredited nonprofits, others are for-profit ventures that charge high fees and use questionable tactics, such as asking clients to dispute legitimate debts on credit reports or pay to become an authorized user on a stranger's credit card. Unscrupulous agencies may drain the wallets of already cash-strapped families and fail to address the underlying issues like budgeting, which are needed to ensure long-lasting financial success.
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.

My husband and I have always had separate bank account and financially we did what we wanted and never talked to the other about our spending. I feel like I make decent money and I am at my wits end because I get paid and everything goes to bills or to minimum payments. I stopped about 1.5 years ago putting more money on my credit card payments because I needed the money for bills. Today I just calculated my debt to income ratio (putting my husbands debt and income with mine) I was shocked! even after taking our mortgage out oft he equation we owe $40,972. When I was looking at just my credit cards or my car payment it didn’t seem like an awful lot of credit. But now, I feel like the wind is knocked out of me. I am not even 30 years old and I owe almost as much as I may. I feel really really scared. but I am thankful for this article but it is just what I need to motivate me! things are going to change! things NEED to change.
As the debt relief company is negotiating with your creditors, you stop paying the bills involved (e.g. monthly credit card bills). Instead, you will be making smaller payments to a separate trust account to pool in your resources. Ultimately you will need to come up to the pre-planned amount that you agreed to with the debt relief expert handling your case.
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.
Pardon me for being rude, but – are you insane, bad at math, or only joking? In what way do you believe “the tax code is better being self employed”? Unless you make over $127,200 the taxes are much HIGHER on self-employed individuals. I say this as a former employee, now an independent contractor and small business owner being taxed literally to death for the last 13+ years. Self employed people making under the Social Security cap pay an additional 7.65% tax. And yes, you can “give yourself a raise” but YOU are the one paying yourself, so…
Reputable credit counseling organizations have staff counselors who are certified and trained. These counselors can discuss client financial situations to help them develop a personalized plan for their economic issues. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions. A reputable credit counseling agency should offer free information about itself and the services it provides without requiring potential clients to release any details about their situation.
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.
Next, your credit counselor will compile your data and ask you to commit to a debt management plan if they believe it’s the best option. If you choose to move forward, you will begin making a single monthly payment to the credit counseling agency who will disburse the funds on your behalf. Your credit counselor may also suggest alternatives to debt management plans if they believe a better option is available.

A process of negotiation will occur between your debt consolidation agency and your lenders. Many reputable debt agencies will have considerable negotiating power with your lenders and will be able to help you in both the short and long term. There is no guarantee, however, that the negotiation will be successful. Lenders do not have to accept reduced repayments or altered terms.
Another obstacle that trip up so many is thinking you'll make progress on debt repayment by making your minimum payments. Yes, it minimizes inconvenience and will seem easier than other strategies, but it's costly. Imagine, for example, you owe $20,000 on your credit card(s) and that you're being charged a 25% interest rate. If your minimum payments are 3% of your balance, you'll be starting out paying a whopping $600 per month, meaning you'll have to come up with $150 per week. If you can't, your balance will be growing, digging you deeper in debt. In that situation, it can take more than 30 years to pay the debt off, with your total payments exceeding $63,000 -- all for a $20,000 balance owed.
Bankruptcy is not the credit catastrophe it once was. Certainly filing bankruptcy does not improve your credit and your credit score will suffer if you file. However, you can rebuild your credit within a few years by charging small amounts on a credit card and paying the bill on time every month. Taking out a personal or auto loan (not payday loans) can help improve your score quickly as well if you pay your bill on time every month. After a few years of doing this, your credit score should be in the 700 range. Post bankruptcy, you can thrive and not merely survive if you are diligent about getting back on the road to financial recovery.
Yes, they are different. Debt management plans are designed to pay off the entire amount you owe in 3 to 5 years. If we can lower your interest rates, the total amount you pay to your credit card company is typically less than if you paid on your own. Debt settlement typically involves requesting credit card companies to forgive a portion of your debt in exchange for a lump sum payment.
Most nonprofit agencies are members of either the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America. Both of these groups have certification requirements to ensure a standard level of education and quality among counselors. They also require accreditation, in which an outside body checks that standards of practice are being met.
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.

Tip: Before you do business with any debt settlement company, contact your state Attorney General and local consumer protection agency . They can tell you if any consumer complaints are on file about the firm you're considering doing business with. Some states require debt settlement companies to be licensed. You can check with your state regulator or ask your state Attorney General if the company is required to be licensed to work in your state and, if so, whether it is. You can also view the Federal Trade Commission's page on "Coping with Debt " for more information.
Disclaimer: Reviews on FitSmallBusiness.com are the product of independent research by our writers, researchers, and editorial team. User reviews and comments are contributions from independent users not affiliated with FitSmallBusiness.com's editorial team. Banks, issuers, credit card companies, and other product & service providers are not responsible for any content posted on FitSmallBusiness.com. As such, they do not endorse or guarantee any posted comments or reviews.
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.
The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.
As you begin to work this system, keep in mind that it’s not easy. Just like losing weight, losing your debt takes work, but if you genuinely want to slough of that stressful debt, your perseverance can make it happen. And don’t fret if you need to make adjustments along the way. This isn’t about a quick fix, it’s about changing your habits and behaviors so you can achieve your financial goals.
I have documentation that states when my refund of $2439.40 will come to my bank which is 9/13/2018. As of today I have not received my refund and the company is holding it so that I am charged more fees. Please help, I have already paid late fees and penalties because of this. I am speaking with an attorney now so that I can recover damages caused by the not returning my funds in the mannar promised.
The Chase Slate card, on the other hand, doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee for the first 60 days. Further, the card offers a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for the first 15 months. If you have a credit card balance you could feasibly pay off during that time frame, transferring the balance to a 0% introductory APR card like this one could save you money on interest while simultaneously helping you pay down debt faster.
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) offers consumer credit solutions ranging from debt counseling and debt consolidation relief, to pre-bankruptcy counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education. If you are seeking debt consolidation options, ACCC offers a simple and effective consolidation program that's more prudent and beneficial than a debt settlement solution or taking out loans for debt consolidation. For personalized credit counseling advice and to learn about the best way to consolidate debt, contact an ACCC credit advisor today.
I have been debating about Freedom Debt Relief, they seem like very good people but my question comes from that I am worried about my Credit Score. Here goes I have about 7-8,000 in credit card debt eventhough its not that much I have been laid off and have been looking for work for the past year trying to have been using my savings to pay off my credit. I am finding myself not struggling to do this longer but am in a delima that I have to get a place in the future and will not qualify to Rent. How long does it stay on your credit do agencies like Lexington Law Firm are good option in rebuilding it faster?

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.
Personal loans:Personal loans are for a fixed amount of money from banks, credit unions, and online sources. Average personal loan rates range from 10% to 28%, depending on credit. When rates are very high, early and aggressive debt payoff is important. If rates are reasonable, you may wish to prioritize other money goals before putting extra money toward repaying early. 

Under the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), you may qualify for a reduced interest rate on mortgage payments or credit card debt, protection from eviction, or a delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or divorce proceedings. To find out if you qualify, contact your local Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.

Once you have enrolled in a debt management plan, and if you let your debt management plan pay all of your creditors each month, you may never have to worry about your debt again. Your payment is auto-debited from your bank account, and your debt will be gone in just a couple of years. Of course, it is smart to allocate more money to your payments whenever you are able, but that is just a matter of logging onto your debt management company account page and increasing your payment.
Other times, we just become sick of living paycheck to paycheck, and decide we want a better life — and that’s OK, too. You shouldn’t have to confront disaster to decide you don’t want to struggle anymore, and that you want a simpler existence. For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.
Seek the help of a psychologist or another mental health expert if your concerns about debt are negatively impacting your day-to-day life. A licensed health expert can help you confront your anxieties head on and offer strategies for dealing with them effectively. Also, reach out to your personal network and let those close to you know that you could use their support. It helps to know that you’re not in it alone.
Mortgage debt: Banks, credit unions, and online lenders provide secured loans to buy properties, which act as collateral. Mortgage debt is low-interest debt that comes with the ability to deduct interest on mortgages up to $1 million if you purchase your home before December 2018 or up to $750,000 if you purchased your home after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed.  
There are four debt consolidation programs that can eliminate credit card debt: debt management programs; debt consolidation loans; debt settlement; and bankruptcy. The first two are aimed at consumers who have enough income to handle their debt, but need help organizing and dealing with it. The other two apply to consumers in desperate situations where the debt has reached drastic levels.

Disclaimer: Reviews on FitSmallBusiness.com are the product of independent research by our writers, researchers, and editorial team. User reviews and comments are contributions from independent users not affiliated with FitSmallBusiness.com's editorial team. Banks, issuers, credit card companies, and other product & service providers are not responsible for any content posted on FitSmallBusiness.com. As such, they do not endorse or guarantee any posted comments or reviews.


McClary says the best time to go to creditors for help is before the situation is out of control. Don’t wait until an account is about to be closed because you’ve had several months of late or missed payments. Tell the creditor you’d like to pay down your balance faster and want to know what services are available to help you manage your debt better.
Debt settlement is a process by which you can greatly reduce or maybe even eliminate the total amount of debt you are currently paying or committed to pay in the future. Solutions are available for various types of accounts, including credit card, medical, and even personal loans. Learn about debt settlement companies as well as the process that is available.
I think I made a HUGE mistake with this company. I signed both my mother, who had a stroke and I take care of, and myself with NDR. Our creditors were getting paid monthly and on time. Now we are stacking up late fees and overlimit fees on a monthly basis. I feel none of our creditors are going to get anything for at least six months or more. Our phones ring non-stop from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also NDR is charging fees each month against our deposits. Credit wasn't the greatest due to the large amount of credit cards, but at least they got money every month. Credit score is totally in the toilet now.

If you are looking for an alternative to a debt consolidation loan, then Tally may be an option for you (a credit score of 660 will be needed to qualify). Tally helps save consumers money and stress by managing their credit cards and paying down balances faster with a line of credit. Simply link up all of your credit cards in either the iOS or Android app and Tally will do the hard work for you.
You can find a state-by-state list of government-approved organizations at the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that supervises bankruptcy cases and trustees. Also, before you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you must satisfy a "means test." This test requires you to confirm that your income does not exceed a certain amount. The amount varies by state and is publicized by the U.S. Trustee Program.
While National Debt Relief claims that people who finish its debt relief program save on average 30% off their original debt, it’s important to consider the interest and fees you’ll accrue during the time you’re enrolled in the program. Furthermore, If you don’t finish the program, or if National Debt Relief is unsuccessful at negotiating the terms, you can end up stuck with a higher balance than you started off with.
If you're interested in starting a debt management plan, you'll first need to find a credit counselor. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you never agree to any debt management plan until a reputable credit counselor has thoroughly reviewed your financial situation with you. The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a state-by-state list of approved credit counseling agencies, so you can search for someone near you.
Declaring bankruptcy is one of the most harmful circumstances for your credit, and it should only be a last resort. Depending on the type of bankruptcy you declare, the negative information will remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years. You may either have all your debts eliminated or have to agree to a plan to repay at least part of your debt.
In addition to using the free services from a non-profit, or working with the lender, there are steps that you can take yourself that can help you reduce your debt. It often combines budgeting as well as working out a solution with the lender. Some of those assistance programs range from payment plans to interest rate reductions or forbearance. It is also important for families to know the difference between bad debt and good debt, so when someone should borrow money or not. The fact is that families, no matter their income, need all the assistance they can get in order to become debt free and pay outstanding bills.
Personal loans. Personal loans are another solution to refinance debt. You can take out a personal loan to repay credit card debt, medical debt, payday loans, or other types of high-interest debt. Many personal lenders do forbid you from using the proceeds of your loan to repay student debt, but otherwise you have almost endless flexibility in what you can use the borrowed money for. 
However, carrying a large amount of debt that is difficult to repay also negatively impacts your credit score. For example, debt from student loans can accumulate and increase over many years of nonpayment. So, you have two choices in such desperate situations: pay off your debt from student loans slowly, missing minimum payments and taking damage to your credit score or hire a debt relief company, settling the debt from your student loans faster while taking a hit to your credit score.
Report any problems you have with a debt collection company to your State Attorney General's Office, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your state Attorney General’s office can help you find out your rights under your state’s law.
This can be especially helpful for someone with serious debt (generally $7,500 or more), who is struggling to make minimum payments and who have suffered a financial hardship, such as job loss, medical expense and divorce. Regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, debt settlement companies work on a consumer’s behalf to lower the principal balances owed. It usually takes two to five years and is best for those who would otherwise need to consider bankruptcy. Check the American Fair Credit Council for reputable providers.
The first way is to earn some extra cash. If you are in a commission-based job then this means that you need to make more sales, which will probably involve having to work more hours. If you are in a salary job and you are limited in the hours that you can work, then you might need to pick up a second job. When my wife and were toward the end of paying off our consumer debt, I was able to get a second job delivering pizzas which gave us the extra income we needed to hit our deadline of 18 months.
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Great article. We are in the process of paying down debt, and the freedom we feel in watching that number decrease is a beautiful thing! Doing something RIGHT AWAY is key because, as your chart above shows, the greater the amount of money going into paying debt, the less you have to spend (even on the things you truly need!), so the debt pile increases and you never get out from under it. Everyone can do something NOW to see a shift in that picture. It all starts with an earnest desire to confront and change. Thanks for sharing.
Borrowers also have protections from predatory lenders. Much of these is legal in nature. Many states and the federal government have created laws and rules that payday lenders need to follow. The regulations can cap interest rates, limit the number of times funds can be issued, and offer additional assistance. Read more on the payday laws in your state.
Savings: National Debt Relief claims its clients realize an approximate savings of 30% when including its fees. This savings applies only to clients who stay with the program until all of their debt is settled. While National says the majority of people who enroll in the program complete it, some customers drop out for various reasons, including the inability to save enough money to settle debts.
NerdWallet recommends the 50/30/20 budget: Keep essential expenses, like housing, to 50% of your income. Then allocate 30% for wants, and use 20% for savings and debt pay-down. Since you’re focused on paying off your debt, you may decide to use money from your wants category to make extra debt payments. That will wipe out debt faster and help you save on interest.
The content on this page provides general consumer information. It is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. The CFPB updates this information periodically. This information may include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs.
The big advantage of the debt snowball is scoring quick wins. Science backs up the idea that this is the best approach, because you'll stay more motivated as you see debt balances paid off. But there's an obvious downside: Your smallest debt may not have the highest interest rate. If you're waiting longer to pay off high-interest debt while focusing on lower-rate debts, you'll pay more interest over time.  
Let’s be real: Kids grow out of clothes at the speed of light. It’s not worth it to go into debt for your two-year-old’s wardrobe. Check out consignment stores that sell pre-loved outfits in good condition. If you’d rather shop online, no problem. Sites like thredUP and Swap.com are great resources to get adult and children’s clothing at a fraction of the cost.
Absolutely. InCharge is proud to offer an online credit counseling option where you enter your information and receive a personalized debt relief solution without ever having to speak to a person. If a debt management program is recommended, you can add or delete credit accounts, choose a payment due date and set-up automated payments, all without having to call in to a counselor.
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credit counseling agency for a consultation doesn’t impact your credit at all since the fact that you’ve sought help is not reported to the credit reporting agency. If you enroll you in a Debt Management Plan, where you make one monthly payment to the counseling agency and it disburses payments to your creditors, however, it can affect your credit in several ways.
Once a credit counselor has reviewed your situation and you both agree that a debt management plan is the next best step, the counselor will negotiate with your creditors to see if they'll agree to reduce interest rates or monthly payments, waive fees or reduce the amount you owe. When your credit counselor reaches an agreement with all creditors, you'll begin making monthly deposits with the credit counseling organization, and it will use the money to pay your unsecured debts.

Make sure the company requires complete information from current statements before giving you a quote. The debt counselor will need you to provide all your current credit card and loan statements before they can tell you how much your monthly payments will be or how long it will take to complete the program. Beware of anyone who gives you a quote without thoroughly researching the following first:


One thing to consider: If you’re eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process can be over fairly quickly and with reasonable certainty that your unsecured debts will be forgiven. Debt management, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. The process can take years, and many people who start debt management plans ultimately drop out and may have to consider bankruptcy anyway.
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